By Tim Kalinowski
A few weeks back an Orlando gay nightclub was ground zero for one of the worst acts of homegrown terrorism in United States history. An American-born, self-radicalized gunman Omar Mateen, cut from the same cloth as Canadian Parliament attacker Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, killed 49 gay men and women with a military grade machine gun he had been able to legally buy a few days before, despite his being on Homeland Security’s “No Fly List.”
Prior to the attack on the Pulse Nightclub, Mateen had scoped out Disney World as the possible site for his attack, ultimately rejecting the idea in favour of Pulse, a much softer target where he could unleash his automatic rounds in a devastating swath— not only killing 50, but also wounding 53 others.
Throughout the United States both sides of the political divide unequivocally condemned the attack, the left spinning it as an act of hate, the right as an act of terror. Both are correct.
Presidential candidate Donald Trump implied President Obama somehow endorsed the attack, before blaming foreign born Islamic terrorists for it, and calling again for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. (See note above: Mateen was born and raised in the United States and legally procured the weapon he used to carry out the attack.)
There is a fundamental misconception about this incident. This was not an evil perpetuated on Americans by some foreign ideology reaching through the ether to touch the dark soul of the gunman, this was a homegrown, All-American-as-apple-pie, sadly, run-of-the-mill mass shooting.
The gunman’s excuse in this case was Islam, but likely he would have done it anyway just as so many other American-born gunmen of various races, characters and ideologies have carried out similar horrific mass killings these past 20 years. All these men needed was an excuse; some kind of self-justification to express physically with bullets the twisted natures of their souls.
Two thoughts occur to me coming out of this event: One, my vast sympathy for the victims and my absolute antipathy for all those who express bigotry, racism or predjudice toward others in any form. I have known many from the gay and lesbian community over the years, some are my friends, and they are, by and large, regular folks trying to get through their lives like everybody else.
My second thought is: Thank God we do not have easy access to machine guns and other military grade weapons on the consumer market in Canada.
Imagine if someone like Zehaf-Bibeau could have gotten his hands on some of those instead of the old lever-action, repeating rifle from his grandmother’s cabin he used? Many more at Parliament would have died.
It is true we cannot stop insane individuals from killing if they want to, but we can limit access to the tools they have at their disposal to do that. Canada has the balance right on this one. Responsible gun owners can still get access to firearms to hunt, do target shooting and for pest control on their properties, but hardly anyone in this country can get access to machine guns, or other weapons’ grade implements of death, outside of the military or the police.
Such weapons have only one purpose; to kill men in battle. As the brother of a soldier, the son, the grandson, the great-grandson, and so on, going back over 800 years in our family tree, we have always known war-time horrors have no place in a peaceful, law-abiding society. These weapons of war should never be allowed on our streets.