J. Peder Zane

It’s shameful to blame guns, GOP ‘bigotry’ for Orlando shooting

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden place flowers for the victims of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden place flowers for the victims of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando. AFP/Getty Images

Omar Mateen was investigated by the FBI for terrorist ties three years before his rampage at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

He pledged allegiance to ISIS both before and during the attack, shouting “Allahu Akbar” as he killed 49 people and wounded 53 others.

President Obama’s immediate response, of course, was to politicize the carnage. He tried to move the conversation from his weak record on terror to wedge issues that favor Democrats – guns and LGBT rights.

His messengers in the mainstream media happily spread this divisive dishonesty, trotting out the stories and editorials they always do when such tragedy strikes. They demanded more gun restrictions, without acknowledging that proposed restrictions would not have stopped Mateen, a licensed security guard. They also failed to tell their audience that gun violence has dropped sharply since the early 1990s and that the assault rifles in their cross-hairs account for only 2 percent of gun crimes – the same percentage when Bill Clinton’s “assault weapons ban” was in place (1994-2002).

They were angry – not at Mateen but Republicans and the NRA. Once again they denounced concerns that Obama and Hillary Clinton want to confiscate guns. As usual, they also ignored the fact that in a nation with 350 million firearms, including as many as 10 million AR-15 rifles similar to the one Mateen used, repealing the Second Amendment is the only strategy that would achieve their stated aims. Otherwise their words are empty, political posturing.

More shamefully, Obama and his acolytes suggested that supposed GOP bigotry explains Mateen’s actions. A New York Times editorial claimed that the Orlando shooter “was driven by hatred toward gays and lesbians … [that is] allowed to fester [in a nation], where minorities are vilified and where people are scapegoated for political gain. Tragically, this is the state of American politics, driven too often by Republican politicians who see prejudice as something to exploit, not extinguish.”

Never mind that “40 out of 57 Muslim-majority countries or territories have laws that criminalize homosexuality,” reports Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School, or that ISIS has executed at least 30 people for homosexuality since 2014.

It is telling that the same people who refuse to say “radical Islamic terror” for fear of offending Muslims, happily and hatefully rail against the “Christian right.”

It is clear that Obama’s misleading statements following the attack are part of a calculated strategy to deceive Americans about ISIS and the war on terror. Three days after the attack, he declared, “We are making significant progress. ... This campaign at this stage is firing on all cylinders. ... ISIL is under more pressure than ever before.”

Two days later CIA Director John Brennan contradicted Obama’s claims in sworn testimony before the Senate. “Unfortunately, despite all our progress against ISIL on the battlefield and in the financial realm, our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach,” he said. “In fact, as the pressure mounts on ISIL, we judge that it will intensify its global terror campaign to maintain its dominance of the global terrorism agenda.”

After seven and half years of Obama’s policies, Brennan added: “I have never seen a time when our country faced such a wide variety of threats to our national security.”

Obama is not directly responsible for these attacks. But he is using guns and gays as a smokescreen to obscure the failure of his policies, which created the vacuum that enabled the rise of ISIS. As Brennan noted, ISIS is particularly adept at inspiring deadly lone wolf attacks.

Of the 94 people killed by jihadist violence in America since 9/11, 68 have been murdered in the last year. In addition, five of the 11 “successful” attacks – those that resulted in death or injury – as well as 22 of the 86 major attacks and plots have occurred since 2015.

This deadly escalation requires a sense of urgency. Instead, the president gives us diversions and politics.

As the leader of the free world was playing games, Donald Trump was excoriated for saying that Obama either “doesn’t get” the terror threat “or he gets it better than anybody understands.”

Trump’s cryptic comment was given chilling shape by Jeffery Goldberg, a liberal journalist who has enjoyed unrivaled press access to Obama. Goldberg said his many conversations with the president have convinced him that the president believes “Americans are sometimes collateral damage in th[e] fight between Muslim modernizers and Muslim fundamentalists.”

If true, that’s scarier than all his deceptions.

Contributing columnist J. Peder Zane can be reached at jpederzane@jpederzane.com.