You Can’t Have it Both Ways

Let me make sure this is correct.

You are IN FAVOR of banning 23% of the world’s population from entering the United States because they happen to practice a religion that has been wildly distorted by a group of whack job extremists (a measure that would not have stopped the massacres in Orlando or San Bernardino, since the two men who planned and carried out these attacks were US-born American citizens)…

…but you are AGAINST adding a provision to gun control legislation that blocks the sale of firearms to people who have been under investigation for ties to terrorist organizations, because it’s possible someone who is on the “watch list” shouldn’t be?

I’m sorry, but you just can’t have this both ways.  You cannot purport to be tough on terrorism and maintain a legal environment for firearm sales that is a domestic terrorist’s playground.

I can concede the point that it would suck for some hypothetical group of harmless folks that could have a to time or even be restricted from buying a gun because of wrongful suspicion on the part of National Security agencies. But I’ll go ahead and admit that I am very adamant in my belief that it sucks a lot more that a couple of Americans, who pose credible enough of a terrorism threat that they are on the FBI’s radar, can saunter into a gun shop and leave with a small arsenal.

The cynic in me belies that, crazy is going to be crazy, hateful is going to be hateful, and the reality is that religious extremists, no matter what religion they choose to distort (remember Robert Lewis Dear?), will probably find a way to do harm no matter what. But it seems like leaving the way clear for folks who pose a credible threat to quickly and legally acquire enough firepower to challenge a small army is just plain stupid.

And I fully understand that the so called “Muslim ban” is ostensibly an attempt to keep “dangerous ideologies” out of the country. I can sympathize with this desire. But spending more than 5-10 seconds in thought on this should reveal such a ban to be a proposition with comparable effectiveness to collecting water with a sieve.  It has been well-established that ISIS recruitment, particularly in the West, is often carried out from afar using a sophisticated media apparatus that includes multimedia content, websites, forums, email, text messaging, and a vast social media empire (Read this NY Times Feature for an intimate portrait of this phenomenon ISIS and the Lonely Young American). Which is to say that if we are going to entertain the possibility of hugely reactionary, questionably effective responses to terrorism, it would probably make more sense to ban the Internet.

I happen to share the conviction of many that we, as a nation, have to do something to end violence born of extremism of all kinds (religious, racist, misogynist, state-supported, etc.)–to take serious steps. But personally, I would prefer we, as a nation, do something that actually makes sense–that we not settle for a measure that will accomplish little more than bolstering ethnocentric isolationism.