California Shooting Pits Anti-Terrorism Against Gun Rights

The murders a few days ago in San Bernadino, California, by a couple with long-guns and a death wish is different from previous mass shootings in the US. Evidence exists that shows Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik had a bomb-making factory in their home, they had unconscionable amounts of ammunition, and they may well have had ties to jihadi agitators. This seems to make them poster children for those who want to round up Muslims and deport them or put them in camps. At the same time, their guns were purchased legally, suggesting that the NRA and other Second Amendment radicals wind up defending the rights of terrorists to purchase guns in America. In chess, this is known as a “fork.”

To be entirely honest, this journal is rather stunned that it has taken so long after the Al Qaeda murders of September 11, 2001, for the bad guys to figure out just how soft a target America can be. There is nothing stopping a person with ID from buying a gun just about anywhere in the country, putting ammunition purchased even more easily, and using the gun right away on places like shopping malls, churches, and schools. Flying planes into buildings makes for powerful TV, but if one truly wants to shut the country down, making people fearful of a visit to the mall is the key.

While Ms. Malik appears to have been a Pakistani citizen in the US on a fiance visa, her betrothed, Mr. Farook, was born in the United States. Thus, all of the fear and loathing that the right has been throwing at refugees and immigrants seems misplaced. This was a home-grown killer, and this seems to have created some confusion among the rightists who would be president and Congressional leaders.

For instance, Carly Fiorina (the alleged successful business woman who returned to Hewlett Packard shareholders 50 cents on the dollar) defended the idea that people on the no-fly list of suspected terrorists should be allowed to purchase and possess firearms. Meanwhile, Paul Ryan (R-WI) opined that the real problem was mental illness (jihadis are not schizophrenics) and that the no-fly list approach denies people their due process and that some are on the list mistakenly. Yet, over the years, he has been oddly silent about the mistakes and lack of due process regarding the no-fly list.

This is a grand opening for those on the left to take the national security route in arguing for greater regulation of firearms. The reasoning is pretty simple. Terrorist attacks are a threat to national security. The government’s first duty is to protect its citizens. Therefore, the government as a duty to ensure that terrorists cannot purchase firearms at a gun show or through a licensed dealer. To discourage terrorist attacks, ammunition can be tagged, various types of weapon can be banned, hefty “anti-terrorist” taxes can be levied on gun sales. And anyone who opposes these gets slapped with a terrorist-sympathizer label. It’s ugly, but it can prove an effective way to counter the nonsense from gun-right absolutists.

There will be much more information that comes out in the next few days and weeks, but the parameters of the political debate are already setting. This time, the NRA and its fellow travelers will not have to defend the actions of a lone wolf, crazed gunman who is also a white male. This time, they will have to argue in defense of two people who were intent on bringing jihad to America. Of course, this presumes that those who oppose them have the sense to see the opportunity. The jury is out on that.