Opinion: Islamic State’s strategy will affect America’s gun control debate

Orlando shootingOut of the myriad of questions emerging from Sunday morning’s massacre in Orlando, two are perhaps most pressing. One concerns internal security in the United States; the other relates to the broad strategy of the Islamic State, the militant Sunni Muslim group that claimed responsibility for the bloody attack. The two topics are closely related.

Like most issues in modern-day America, the topic of internal security is heavily politicized, with public debate dominated by Democratic and Republican partisans. Predictably, each side is using Sunday’s massacre to advance its political agenda. It cannot be denied that, rightly or wrongly, gun ownership is a deeply entrenched feature in the American understanding of citizenship for a variety of social and historical reasons. It is equally undeniable that America’s liberal gun laws make it extremely easy for aspiring terrorists to acquire weapons. Recent mass shootings show that even those with documented mental illnesses or individuals who have been questioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for possible links to terrorism, like Omar Mateen, are legally able to purchase high-powered weapons. This reduces the number of people that are needed to inflict mass casualties and directly assists the work of terrorist groups. Furthermore, the ability of aspiring terrorists to legally acquire high-powered weaponry exceeds America’s law enforcement and intelligence capabilities, and thus directly threatens the security of daily life in the country.

Judging by other recent mass shootings, and the speed with which the relentless news cycle moves on to other stories, this latest massacre is unlikely to have a major impact on US gun laws. However, if the attack in Orlando proves to be part of a broader strategy by the Islamic State, then the center of the debate on gun control in America may shift in unprecedented directions.

Most commentators agree that the Islamic State is currently retreating not only in its Syrian and Iraqi strongholds, but also in Libya, where it appears to be losing its control of the strategic port of Sirte. The possibility of losing its territorial base may radically alter the group’s modus operandi and strategic goals. Historically, the Islamic State has focused on what can be described as its core terrain, which includes Iraq, Syria, the Sinai Peninsula, and to a lesser extent Jordan and Lebanon. Back in 2014, Islamic State leaders could have urged the group’s tens of thousands of followers in the West to carry out the jihad there. But they didn’t, because the grand strategy of the Islamic State is to secure a territorial base in the Middle East before taking on bigger tasks. Islamic State supporters were therefore urged to join the fight to establish a territorially secure caliphate in the Middle East instead of attacking Western targets. The latter have of course been attacked, but this has been done primarily for two reasons: first, to discourage Western countries from getting directly involved in the war against the Islamic State; second, to encourage Islamophobia in the West and further-marginalize already disaffected Western Muslim youth, driving them to join the Islamic State.

But should the militant Sunni group be territorially defeated, it might decide to change its tactic and begin unleashing its followers in the West. Or if it is sensing that it is losing control of its self-proclaimed caliphate, it may already be already changing its strategy. There is currently no evidence that Omar Mateen was in touch with the Islamic State prior to committing Sunday’s massacre. But if he did, the Orlando massacre may have been an early indication of the Islamic State’s change of direction. Perhaps, then, the US is in for a lot more of these carefully targeted and lethally executed strikes.

It may be that the blood of over 50 people spilled in Orlando will not seriously affect the gun control debate. But if these killings increase in frequency and lethality, American society will face a number of unprecedented dilemmas that combine the issues of gun rights, domestic security and citizenship.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 13 June 2016 | Permalink

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2 Responses to Opinion: Islamic State’s strategy will affect America’s gun control debate

  1. Bodrie says:

    The gun debate will undoubtedly be affected by this attack in Orlando.  But it is likely to fuel both sides equally.  On the liberal side you will surely hear them calling for a  renewal of the “assault weapons ban” of the 1990s.  And on the conservative side you will hear a call for redoubling the amount of people who carry guns concealed, and removing some of the restrictions in some states that make that difficult.  This in a effort to possibly have someone present at an event like what happened so that they might be able to stop the carnage as quickly as it starts.  It’s a double edge sword.

    Another concern is how shooters seek out “Gun Free Zones”  such as this bar is, to ensure that they will not be stopped by someone who is armed.  We need to eliminate gun free zones.  They are mass shooting magnets.

    Bodrie

  2. Elizabeth Gilarowski says:

    One effect in America’s gun control debate is how the right to bear arms affects its neighbors.
    In the north, Canada has strict gun laws but the city of Toronto has been unable to escape gun violence where fatal shootings have increased this year. The majority of weapons arrive from the United States & the city’s mayor has called for more border inspections & security. Most Canadians want their country to remain a gun-free zone as well as a welcome place for members of the LGBT community. Canada legalized same sex marriage in 2005.
    America’s domestic security cannot be achieved with its high murder rate as the response by
    Black Lives Matter demonstrates. Politics & the National Rifle Association have repeatedly prevented common sense solutions.
    The United States needs to develop a domestic strategy & an international one with countries that do not suffer from the right to bear arms.
    Daesh suffers from much more.

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