Liddick: Islamist extremism and the Second Amendment (column)
June 20, 2016
Okay, everyone — Breathe. Step back.
After Orlando, after San Bernardino, after Boston, on the stage set by Paris, Brussels and God-Knows-how-many other places over the past few years, we know we have … issues. And that they won't be solved by screaming over each other.
Let's identify the problems that intersected at Pulse nightclub in Orlando last week. First, the one our president refuses to name: Islamist extremism. Yes, it exists, unless one thinks burning people alive in cages, beheading journalists and throwing homosexuals from tall buildings is simply a cultural quirk — in which case there's no hope left. But the vast majority of Muslims in the world don't act or, as far as I can tell, think like that, so the solution is not to "ban all Muslims" or similar nonsense. It's to separate the sociopaths from the normal 99 percent.
Second, there's the obsession over the terrorists' tools, specifically, semiautomatic weapons. This is harder to solve because there are constitutional guarantees and because liberals' aversion to firearms is difficult to understand. No one ever caught a Glock or Ruger purloining the car keys, so it could sneak out for a bit of mayhem, so why blame the inanimate object? Better to focus on the sociopaths who use them for carnage.
Finally, there is the collapse of national identity and rise of multiculturalism, which makes us second-guess gut reactions to the peculiar. Nowadays, I'm pretty certain I could do a jig on the Stars and Stripes in Times Square, shouting "death to America" while wrapped in the black flag of the Islamic State without much opposition because no one wants to be considered a "racist." And, when one's neighbors stockpile ammunition and weapons, keep to themselves, have late-night visits by groups of strangers and are given to the occasional rant, they're just … different. That's good, right?
Part of preventing the next Orlando requires identifying dangerous Islamists and denying them weapons that allow them to kill large numbers quickly. Doing both in a way that suits American practice, tradition and law requires serious thinking about cherished political positions.
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Those who argue that we shouldn't concentrate on all Muslims, only on a few bad actors, should explain how bad apples should be separated. Perhaps through close surveillance of suspected terrorist wannabes and of the networks behind them? This requires cooperation from the Muslim community, many appropriately-trained agents, and yes, profiling: Islamists generally have certain styles of dress, grooming, speech and preferences in associates and religious leaders. These characteristics should be exploited, and political correctness be damned.
Also, why doesn't the same "few bad actors" logic apply to gun owners and their firearms? It's the same small, specific set of nasty folks to worry about, so why is it acceptable to castigate one group when doing it to the other is anathema?
Across the aisle, those who argue no restriction should be placed on acquisition and ownership of firearms should note how closely their "not one inch" position parallels that of the open-borders crowd: "not no restrictions, not nohow." It's also impractical and contrary to fact: Very few private citizens legally own and operate a .50-caliber machine gun, and only a handful have a fully-automatic Thompson M1928A1.
Since the crux of the matter is separating crazies from firearms, said crazies need to be identified through stronger profiling, better interagency communication, more behavioral intelligence and, above all, a secure border. These will require more spending as the various agencies bulk up. There will be suspicions to address, especially about profiling, surveillance and intelligence: Our government has behaved badly in the past, and there is no reason to believe they will not do so again, so findings must be immediately and publicly accessible and quickly corrected should they prove erroneous.
The universal background checks for transfer of weapons must involve reason: I should be able to loan a friend my shotgun for a weekend of goose hunting without bothering a registered firearms dealer, and I should be able to give my granddaughter her great-grandfather's .22 rifle without state interference. The three-day limit on checks should remain to ameliorate the concern of negating a sale through filibuster; databases should be shared and modernized, so that limit is never exceeded.
In sum, greater care about who enters the country and who remains here and greater prudence and transparency in selling firearms. Both are doable. But is such balance possible?
(Finally, corrections: A Laureate International Universities spokesperson contacted me to say that Bill Clinton was LIU's honorary chairman from 2010 to 2015, and that "Laureate did not receive $55 million from the State Department." Interested parties should conduct their own research; don't neglect the "International Youth Foundation," chaired by Doug Becker, who also chairs Laureate.)
Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily.
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