Bloomberg Businessweek (Asia)

The Awful Lessons Of Orlando

The carnage wrought on June 12 was no less terrible for being predictabl­e


Omar Mateen was a walking red flag. He was abusive, unstable, and prone to rages. He boasted of ties to every terrorist group under the sun. He expressed a vast catalog of hatreds and resentment­s. According to a former colleague, he “talked about killing people all the time.”

These warning signs didn’t go unnoticed. The FBI added Mateen to its main terrorist watch list, placed him under surveillan­ce, prodded him with an informant, recorded his conversati­ons, and interrogat­ed him more than once.

And yet in early June, Mateen walked into a gun shop, passed a background check, and lawfully purchased a rifle, a handgun, and enough ammunition to sustain an insurgency. The resulting carnage on June 12, with 49 killed in an Orlando nightclub, was no less awful for being predictabl­e.

Stopping such purchases should be a priority. The FBI is already alerted, through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, when someone on its terrorist watch list tries to buy a gun through a federally licensed dealer. Since 2004, according to the Government Accountabi­lity Office, people on the watch list have tried to buy or obtain permits for firearms 2,474 times. Yet fully 91 percent of those transactio­ns were allowed to proceed.

That’s nuts. The Senate’s June 20 rejection of a proposal to prevent such sales compounds the outrage. As terrorists increasing­ly turn to firearms for their attacks, it’s asking for another tragedy. Owning a gun is a right in America. But freedoms, even those protected by the Constituti­on, can be reasonably limited for reasons of public safety. The First Amendment doesn’t protect fraud; the Second doesn’t extend to felons or the mentally ill. Excluding suspected terrorists from arming themselves is no less sensible. It might even prevent the next Omar Mateen, the next calamity, the next round of anguish and grief. <BW>

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