My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here you go:
The United States has suffered its most deadly Islamic terrorist attack since Sept. 11, 2001. Many details are not yet known, but what we do know is horrific. We grieve for the dead and pray for the wounded. America mourns.
At about 2 a.m. Saturday, a man called 911 in Orlando, Florida, to pledge his allegiance to the Islamic State. After hanging up, that man began shooting people inside the packed Pulse club, a well-known gay bar. At the time of this writing, 50 people are dead and 53 are reported wounded, but more may die as a result of their wounds. About three hours after the gunman began firing, he was shot and killed by police.
The killer was an American Muslim man from Fort Pierce, Florida, whose parents are from Afghanistan. He legally purchased a rifle and a handgun several days before the attack. Reports are the FBI investigated the killer twice in the past few years, but did not find enough evidence to charge him with anything.
Being a presidential election year, many interest groups have immediately assumed an attack posture to use the attack in Orlando to their advantage. Some have already started using it to raise funds for their various causes.
The anti-Second Amendment folks are already using this act of Islamic terror to advocate for gun control. Hillary Clinton, the assumptive Democratic candidate for president, said in a statement that the attack “reminds us once more that weapons of war have no place on our streets.” Of course, almost every weapon is used in war including shotguns, knives and bolt-action rifles, so the distinction is an arbitrary one.
Gay rights advocates are saying that since the attack was in a gay bar, it represents another instance of hate against the LGBT community. They are correct in that the attack is a manifestation of a particularly virulent hatred by the Islamists. The Islamic State considers gay people to be abhorrent and has been cruelly killing them by burning, drowning, throwing them off of buildings, etc. for years. The importation of their hateful ideology to American soil is going to have horrible consequences for many communities.
Speaking of importation, immigration and refugee interest groups are using the attack to advance their causes. Advocates for less-restrictive immigration and refugee policies are trumpeting the fact the killer was a natural born American citizen. Advocates for more-restrictive immigration and refugee policies are pointing out the killer’s radical Islamic terrorist ideology was imported either by his parents or others and allowing more people who share that ideology to enter our nation will end up in more dead Americans.
Foreign policy wonks and critics of the Barack Obama administration are pointing out the Islamic State rose out of the vacuum Obama created after abandoning Iraq. Years of feckless and feeble foreign policy by the Obama administration, including during the years in which Clinton was secretary of state, have allowed the Islamic State to flourish to the point that it is now inspiring attacks on American soil.
There will be a time for all of these policy and cultural debates and they are important to have. Particularly as we are in the season when we choose our next president and the direction of our country, we must evaluate the policies that may or may not have contributed to the massacre in Orlando and make some decisions. Yes, there will be a time for all that. There is a time for everything.
But now is the time to mourn and pray. It is the time to clean up the blood and hug the families of the victims. Then, once all of the dead are properly buried, it will be time to debate our path forward as a people.