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Editorial: Weapons of war have no place on our streets

First Published      Last Updated Jun 13 2016 06:13 pm

What do you call a lonely, mentally ill, homophobic terrorist sympathizer whose wife left him after only a few months of marriage because he was physically abusive?

Most of the time, you don't call him anything at all.

You will probably never hear of him. You can easily avoid him if he is walking down the street, listening to an Islamic State podcast, mumbling something to himself about the horrors of men kissing each other in public.

But make it possible, if not ridiculously easy, for that same sad soul to own the so-called "civilian version" of the U.S. Army's basic assault weapon — with extra-large magazines — and you call him the latest in America's tragic litany of mass murderers.



These tools of mass destruction have no place on our streets or in our homes. They serve no purpose other than to kill as many people as possible in as little time as possible. They have made bloody days and nights so sickeningly common in America. And in no other nation on Earth.

There are many evil strands to the attack on the nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning, the one that, at last count, left 49 victims dead and dozens more hospitalized.

The attacker, a native-born American citizen, is said, by some, to have been a follower of IS propaganda and, by others, to have been angered by Western society's rapidly growing acceptance of homosexuality. He had made a few noises that drew the attention of the FBI. But he never did or said anything worrisome enough to remain on the nation's terrorist watch list, much less be charged with a crime.

He had been diagnosed as bipolar and had been abusive to his wife, in a brief marriage that ended years ago.

All of that would only be of concern to a few people. Until Omar Mateen, already licensed to carry a concealed weapon in Florida, also bought an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and was instantly transformed from just another off-kilter human to a one-man arsenal of mass destruction.

So many of the problems posed by people like Mateen present very difficult trade-offs. We must provide more aggressive treatment for the mentally ill, though that could mean unreasonably limiting people's freedom — and spending a lot of money. We must do a better job of monitoring and preventing Islamic terrorist plans. But not if it means foolishly demonizing a global religion or doing anything that ignores American standards for personal privacy.

But doing what we can to prevent the civilian sale and ownership of such weapons comes with no real downside. Except for the risk to politicians who are so afraid of the gun lobby that they dare not stand up for such common sense.

It could help a lot if elected officials from the ultra-red state of Utah would call for such restrictions. If they hurry, they might be able to roll out such a proposal before the next mass shooting occurs.

 

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