Orlando aftermath: A dialogue of the deaf on the guns that facilitate mass shootings

Trump’s outrageous claim that US Muslims have been concealing jihadists in their midst verges on hate speech

 

Almost as shocking as the deaths of 49 in the Pulse Orlando nightclub on Sunday night, the worst mass shooting in US history, is the brutal reality that it will have almost no effect on the US dialogue of the deaf over how to deal with its epidemic levels of gun violence.

There will be no sudden dawning of light, no road-to-Damascus moment. Those determined to believe that owning automatic weapons is a God-given right, that “guns are not killers, human beings are” will continue to defend the constitutional right to bear arms as vociferously as ever.

Their confidence and certainty, unshakeable by even the worst atrocity. Gun control advocates will tear their hair out in despair. A few politicians, Barack Obama included, will insist that “something has to be done”. Most will hide. And nothing will be done, as the gun industry knows – Smith & Wesson shares were up 8.8 per cent.

And so , every day 90 more will die in gun violence across the US – that’s two Orlandos every day – or, on average, 32,500 deaths a year.

After the 2012 mass shootings in Sandy Hook Elementary School, when 26 died, the National Rifle Association responded by suggesting teachers should arm themselves in classrooms.

In a similarly preposterous vein Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump tweeted yesterday that he “appreciate[s] the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism’’ and again reiterated both his demand to bar Muslims from the US and his call to build walls around Syria (that the Arabs should pay for). His outrageous claim that US Muslims have been concealing jihadists in their midst verges on hate speech.

Yet the uncomfortable truth is that killer Omar Mateen, an American of Afghan extraction, like the couple in San Bernardino who killed 14 last December, was “self-radicalised”. He was a homegrown jihadi whose link with Islamic State appears to have consisted only of a brief phone call to share responsibility with the group, a “self-branding” it was only delighted to acknowledge as it boasted about its latest success.

But the lack of stronger direct connections between Mateen and IS serves to emphasise the particular challenge to the US and other open democracies in identifying and pre-empting a new class of terrorist. In one sense Trump is right: this phenomenon is not going away.

That the target this time should have been the gay community is hardly surprising . Mateen’s reported personal homophobia chimes with IS’s savagery towards gay men in the territory it controls – it has released images of fighters killing people suspected of being gay by throwing them off tall buildings.

The Pulse and similar clubs had been seen as havens for a community that has made important gains in recent years but still faces hostility across swathes of the US. The attack will dent its growing confidence.

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