Note: This story originally appeared on December 3, 2015.
Yesterday was a brutal day for America. Two mass shootings — one in California, the other in Georgia — took the lives of fifteen people and injured another twenty.
Like most other Americans, I am saddened, angered, and shocked by the events that transpired yesterday. I am also weary. The two shootings yesterday brought the grand total of mass shootings in 2015 — shootings that result in at least four dead or injured people — to three hundred and fifty five, more than one per day for the entire year.
I want to be optimistic about 2016. I want to be able to say that 2015 was an anomaly, an outlier, an exception that will go on to prove the rule.
But I can’t. Because the gun lobby has all of Congress in its (very deep) pockets, it is entirely too easy for the violent, the paranoid, the fanatical, and the just-plain-crazy to get their hands on guns. And it is entirely too easy for the violent, the paranoid, the fanatical, and the just-plain-crazy to walk into heavily populated public places and start shooting.
And I fear that this will get worse as there is now a new element to the mass shootings. Unlike Robert Lewis Dear, the perpetrator of mass shooting #353 at a Colorado Planned Parenthood last week, the perpetrators of the San Bernandino shooting spree were not angry socially isolated white men with histories of violent anti-social behavior.
No, Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were, by all accounts, quiet, gainfully employed, and the parents to a baby girl. Although Farook described himself as religious, no one who knew him ever heard him talk about his religion and, as of this writing, the authorities have not uncovered any signs that Farook and Malik had become radicalized.
In short, they were the perfect people for a terror cell to use in the commission of an act of domestic terrorism.
Let me be clear, authorities are still trying to suss out the motives for the San Bernandino shooting and, as of this writing, no evidence that Farook and Malik were radicalized Muslims or that they had any contact with terrorist groups. Farook and Malik may had some other reason for doing what they did.
However, the San Bernandino attack leaves a perfect blueprint for ISIS or any other known terror group on how to perpetrate a domestic terrorist attack. And, let’s be real here, America will be dealing with domestic terror attacks from now on. Now that airline security has been tightened to an unprecedented degree, terror groups have to be much more creative in how they go about striking soft targets.
So, if you’re the leader of a terror group and you are determined to wreak havoc on innocent civilians in America, what do you do?
You stealthily radicalize a religious person who is smart enough not to draw any attention to his religious beliefs, making sure that the person in question does not have a criminal record or any history of behavior that would raise red flags. Bonus points if your recruit is an American citizen, either by birth or naturalization. Maybe you even encourage this person to marry a like-minded person who is willing to serve as an accomplice. Then you finance the purchases of several high-powered assault weapons, teach the guy to shoot straight, then plunk him down into a public place where no one reasonably expects to get shot, like a workplace holiday party.
What makes this scenario so scary is the very ease at which it can be put into play. Computers have turned complex trans-global communication into something that can be accomplished with an internet connection and a few keystrokes, negating the need for face-to-face radicalization. American citizens can’t be deported and can easily access firearms if they do not have criminal records or certain mental health problems.A licensed driver who uses a motor vehicle (like an SUV) to perpetrate a shooting won’t be stopped unless he fails to adhere to traffic laws. Even the inevitable rise in Islamophobia and anti-South Asian prejudice in the wake of a terror assault won’t necessarily slow operations; white Westerners like Jihad Jane and John “American Taliban” Walker Lindh drink the Islamist Kool-Aid on a regular basis.
The only way to prevent a group like ISIS from seizing upon this type of opportunity is to ban assault weapons altogether. A handgun is more than adequate for personal protection and no good hunter ever needed an Uzi to take down a deer. Allowing people to access high powered assault weapons will only lead to more terror-driven shootings and more senseless blood shed.