Take politics out of debate on mass killings

Even before all the bodies were removed from the massacre in Orlando, Florida, some people were at it. End gun violence! Obliterate terrorism! Stop the hate!

All are just causes. But the politicians and media outlets that display knee-jerk, self-serving reactions do us no favors.

Before all the facts were in, Donald Trump made the shooting about himself, tweeting “appreciate the congrats for being right,” then darkly suggested that President Barack Obama might “get” the attack “better than anyone understands.”

Meanwhile, how did Omar Mateen, a man with a history of domestic abuse investigated by police, according to his ex-wife, and who was interviewed twice by the FBI about possible links to terrorism, have access to an AR-15 rifle?

Before 2004, he wouldn’t have. The federal assault weapons ban of 1994 effectively prohibited manufacture and sale of this deadly rifle. But in 2004, after heavy lobbying of politicians by the NRA, the ban was allowed to expire.

Now, the FBI is under fire. When bureau agents interviewed Mateen, they found nothing to warrant action. We don’t want privacy violated by government, but maybe the threshold of what constitutes sufficient cause should be re-examined.

After Nazi atrocities of World War II, Germany outlawed public display of the swastika, the Nazi salute and other such tributes. After 9/11, San Bernadino and now Orlando, perhaps it’s time to not only crack down on those who honor Islamic killers on Facebook pages, but also diligently track them?

We’ve got a serious problem with homegrown terrorism, as well as gun-related mass killing. And the third spoke on this wheel is intolerance. These aren’t right- or left-wing problems — they’re our problems. Most Americans aren’t against gun ownership, but they do favor stringent background checks and monitoring of potential terror suspects.

So let’s stop pointing fingers after every horrific event, and take concrete action — before the next tragedy. “This is not a time to either politicize or jump to conclusions,” said Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson, “[but to] understand how this attack came about and respond accordingly.”


Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.