After learning of the massacre in Orlando, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) traveled to the area and met with many of his constituents. The far-right lawmaker, who’s reportedly ready to abandon his promise not to seek a second term, had a quick response yesterday afternoon to an obvious question.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told reporters in Orlando who asked about guns and terrorism: “The issue isn’t the weapons they are using. The issue here is ideology.”
I’m pretty sure this is exactly backwards. There can be plenty of people with dangerous ideologies, but if they lack the tools necessary to commit mass murder, the threat to society is far less severe.
This point is not lost on the terrorists themselves. The Washington Post reported yesterday, “Terrorist groups have taken note of the widespread availability of assault rifles and other guns in the U.S. In 2011, al-Qaeda encouraged its followers to take advantage of lax guns laws, purchase assault-style weapons and use them to shoot people.”
Speaking in English, an al Qaeda spokesperson said in that 2011 video, “America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?”
By Rubio’s reasoning, all of this is irrelevant, and U.S. policymakers should pay it no mind.
What’s more, FiveThirtyEight published an interesting report yesterday: “Although terrorism still accounts for a negligible share of all gun deaths in the U.S. – since 1970, fewer than five deaths most years – from 2002 to 2014, 85 percent of people killed by terrorists in the U.S. were killed using guns, according to our analysis. Every terrorist attack in the U.S. last year in which someone other than the perpetrator was killed involved guns, according to a preliminary list provided by Erin Miller, who manages the Global Terrorism Database.”
In case this isn’t obvious, building and acquiring the materials necessary for a bomb isn’t easy. Hijacking airplanes to use them as missiles has become practically impossible. But getting a gun and killing random innocents has a low barrier to entry. To genuinely believe the issue here “isn’t the weapons they are using” is to willfully ignore every piece of relevant information.
I’d also love to get a better sense of when “the issue here is ideology” and when it’s not. When a gunman opened fire last fall in a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic, was it important to consider the shooter’s ideology? How about the massacre in Charleston, South Carolina?
In Santa Monica, California, yesterday, police stopped an Indiana man – a white man with an NRA symbol on his license plate – who was reportedly on his way to a gay pride parade with “assault rifles, high capacity magazines, ammunition and chemicals used to make explosives” in his car.
We don’t yet know what, if anything, the man intended to do yesterday, but is Marco Rubio of the opinion that the man’s weapons aren’t as relevant as his ideology?