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Guns and terrorists

October 24th, 2002

Lots of American warbloggers and pro-gun types (there’s almost 100 per cent overlap between these groups in the blogworld) have been arguing that the Washington shootings are probably being carried out by a terrorist – either an Al Qaeda operative or a ‘volunteer’ like Hessan Hadayat, who shot two people dead at the El Al ticket counter at LAX before being killed himself by a security officer. Tim Dunlop’s coverage has lots of links on this. We can be certain that, whoever is doing this, Al Qaeda hasn’t failed to notice his success in creating terror.
The reasoning of the US writers seems to be that the implications for the gun control debate would be more favorable if this killer turned out to be a terrorist. At least as far as Australia is concerned, I think the opposite is true. We are, sadly, becoming used to periodic multiple gun murders committed by professional criminals and by ‘ordinary law-abiding gun owners’ who’ve cracked under the various pressures of life. We must now face the new threat that some local supporter of bin Laden (or some other terrorist) will decide to martyr himself and, more importantly, other Australians.
For the American warbloggers, the answer seems to be that ‘ordinary’ Americans should be armed at all times, and that ethnic and religious profiling should be used to identify and disarm those who are not ‘ordinary’. Leaving aside the awful implications of such a policy, these guys seem to have conveniently forgotten Oklahoma City, not to mention many other acts of terror committed by a groups and individuals whose ethnic and religious profiles are very similar to their own.
The likelihood that terrorists will adopt a strategy of random shootings adds to the urgency of removing as many guns as possible from circulation. This might be of limited value against ‘professional’ terrorists, but it would reduce the risk of ‘volunteers’. If we diverted the resources currently allocated to chasing drug users into a crackdown on illegal guns, a lot of progress could be made. Guns are, after all, metal objects, and much harder to conceal than drugs.
Update The main suspect arrested in the sniper case, John Muhammad, appears to fit the profile of a ‘volunteer’ . Basically, as Jack Strocchi points out in the comments thread (does he ever sleep) a black Islamic version of Timothy McVeigh.

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