The nation hasn’t exactly joined hands in a united response to the Orlando massacre. But since this terrible mass shooting happened in one of the most weapons-friendly places in the country, maybe we can at least all agree that having wildly permissive gun laws does not make a city safer.
OK, probably not.
On Wednesday, Donald Trump took time out from vilifying Muslims and put some of the blame on gun control. If the patrons of Pulse, the gay bar in Orlando, had been carrying concealed weapons, he said, they could have taken control of the situation. The gunman would have been “just open target practice.”
(This was at the same speech where he congratulated himself for his stupendous relationship with the gay community, suggesting he didn’t “get enough credit” for having a club in Palm Beach that was “open to everybody.” This is a little off our topic today, but I have to once again point out that Trump’s club is open to everybody with $100,000 to cover the membership fee.)
But about guns. Let’s follow Trump’s thought. It’s easy to buy a gun in Florida and supereasy to get a permit to carry around a concealed weapon. Even the Florida Legislature, however, doesn’t allow people to carry guns into bars. Trump did not specifically say that we need to uphold Americans’ freedom to drink while armed. But there doesn’t seem to be any other way to interpret his argument.
Also, there actually was an off-duty police officer working in the club who tried to shoot the gunman but failed. This is important, because the myth of the cool and steady shooter is one of the most cherished beliefs of the National Rifle Association and its supporters. Trump himself has bragged that if he’d been in Paris on the night of the attacks there, he would have shot the terrorists. (“I may have been killed, but I would have drawn.”)
This is an excellent example of delusional gun thinking. Although Trump frequently reminds us he has a permit to carry a gun, there’s no indication he’s ever done so. And there’s certainly no evidence whatsoever that he has any skill in hitting things.
It’s very, very difficult to draw, aim and shoot accurately when you’re under severe stress. It’s one of the reasons that police officers so often spray fleeing suspects with bullets. They can’t hit a moving target, even though they get far more weapons training than your normal armed civilian.
In Florida, people who want to carry a gun merely have to be able to demonstrate they can “safely handle and discharge the firearm.” Nowhere does it say anything about accuracy.
A few weeks ago in Houston, a 25-year-old Afghanistan War veteran named Dionisio Garza walked up to a stranger sitting in a car at a carwash and shot him in the neck while railing about “homosexuals, Jews and Wal-Mart,” according to local reports. He fired off 212 rounds, mostly from an assault rifle, hitting a police helicopter and a nearby gas station, which burst into flames. The police said a neighbor who heard the shooting came running with a gun, but was shot himself.
People who hear this story may draw different morals. The way we’ve been going, it’ll be a miracle if some member of the Texas Legislature doesn’t submit a bill requiring employees of carwashes to be armed at all times. However, others might note that the weapon in this case was an AR-15, the same type of military-style rifle that was used in the Orlando shooting, the Newtown school shooting and the terrorist attack in San Bernardino. It would seem as if the best way to cut down on mass shootings would be by eliminating weapons that allow crazy people to rapidly fire off endless rounds of bullets.
The possibility of banning assault weapons like the AR-15 is most definitely not on the table in Congress, although Hillary Clinton supports it, and has brought it up a lot since Orlando. No, the current debate in Washington is over whether people on the government’s terror watch list should be kept from purchasing arms.
The fact that even people who aren’t allowed to get on a plane can buy a gun in this country is obviously insane. Yet most of the Republicans in the House and the Senate regard changing the status quo as an enormous lift. “I think you’re going too far here,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told the backers during one of the bill’s pathetic trips to nowhere.
Since the Orlando shooter had actually spent some time on the terror watch list, the pressure seems to be growing. Trump says he’ll meet with the NRA to talk over the matter. Perhaps, after all this time, we’ll get some pathetically minor action. Then only apolitical maniacs would have the opportunity to buy guns that can take out a roomful of people in no time flat.