The Politics of Protecting Americans

Muslim

It has been over a week since the Orlando tragedy, but the horror of the worst mass shooting in United States history is still fresh on the minds of all Americans. It seems that we all agree that some sort of action should be taken, but that is where our unity ends. As a result of differing beliefs and partisan politics, we find ourselves divided over the two main courses of action that have been proposed – banning Muslim immigrants or banning assault weapons.

So, when the split between the liberals and conservatives is so severe, how do we decide on a course of action? As responsible citizens, we must look at the facts.

Option 1: Ban Muslim Immigration

Let’s begin by examining the position held by many leading conservatives, including the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump. As I mentioned in my earlier article, Radical Islam is a Radical Stereotype, Trump’s speech in response to the Orlando shooting made it clear that he intended to bring Muslim immigration to a grinding halt. Muslims wouldn’t be allowed to move here, and they wouldn’t be allowed to visit, period. Trump  originally attempted to justify such drastic action back in December by claiming that various online polls, including one from the controversial Center for Security Policy, demonstrated widespread Muslim approval of jihadist terror activity against American citizens. (I would like to point out that many Muslim leaders and Muslim citizens around the world have condemned ISIS activity.)

In order to combat this “widespread Muslim hatred of Americans” and prevent further terrorist attacks, Trump, if elected, plans to place various restrictions on Muslim activity in the United States. In addition to banning any and all foreign Muslims from entering the country, Trump has also suggested that the government should place surveillance on mosques and create a database of all Muslim citizens. I would make another comparison to Hitler’s attitude and actions towards the Jewish population during World War II, but I already covered that in my Radical Islam article. Still, the similarities are easy to see.

Shocking Support

Many people agree with Trump on this. Some of his supporters opposed the Muslim presence in America entirely, while others were more concerned with the terror risk that open Muslim immigration presented. Whatever their justifications may have been, the majority of Trump’s supporters made it clear that they had no issue with his proposed ban of Muslim immigration. This ban is not the radical idea of a single man; it is a plan that is supported by millions of Americans, and we must take it seriously.

Rescuing Refugees

Since Trump’s ban is something that could very well be passed into law, the implications of such an act must be examined. In order to avoid overloading myself and my readers with information, I will be focusing specifically on Syrian immigration. Over the course of the Syrian civil war, almost 5 million Syrians have registered as refugees with the United Nations, with the vast majority escaping to Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. Of those 5 million refugees, the United States has taken in only a few thousand since 2011, when the Syrian civil war began. For a country that prides itself on being both religiously tolerant and welcoming to immigrants looking to start a new life, we are doing an incredibly poor job of helping the people we claim to support. Perhaps we only help others not when it is the right thing to do, but when it is convenient for us.

These refugees are not terrorists. They are human beings, and they are doing everything they can to escape a living hell. Tens of thousands – maybe even hundreds of thousands – of people have died in Syria since the civil war began. If we are truly horrified by mass shootings such as the one that took place in Orlando, then we should be more than willing to help these refugees escape a country where gunfire and death have become the norm.

If we as Americans believe that we are living in the greatest country in the world, can we really fault immigrants for wanting to come here for a better life? Would we not do the same if we were in their position? Of course we would. So how can we condemn these people to remain in a country where they are in constant danger, knowing that we do so solely out of fear?

One and the Same

Almost every person in the United States today is able to call themselves an American because their ancestors immigrated to this country generations ago, often to escape some sort of poverty or persecution. Today, it seems that we are taking our status as Americans for granted, unwilling to admit that we are only able to claim such a title because we are all the descendants of immigrants. Our forefathers came to America for a better life, and now we threaten to demonstrate our blatant hypocrisy by denying Muslims that same opportunity.

The proposal to ban Muslim immigration is rooted in our own fear of terrorism, and that fear is making us blind to the benefits of accepting refugees. We can offer these refugees a better life, and these refugees can offer us a better America in turn. To quote U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, “Today, they are refugees. Tomorrow, they can be students and professors, scientists and researchers, workers and caregivers.” If Donald Trump is the businessman he claims to be, he should know that this is a deal that will work out well for all parties.

But what about terrorists? Are we going to let them just walk into our country? Obviously, I don’t want to let terrorists just walk into America, but let’s face the facts. If they want to be here, they will find a way in. We are taking a risk by allowing Syrian refugees to enter the United States, I won’t deny that, but considering all of the good that we could do – all of the innocent lives that we could save – I would argue that accepting refugees is a risk we need to take. If we refuse to do so, if we renounce the beliefs of our forefathers and close our doors to those in need, then we cannot claim to be true Americans.

Option 2: Banning Assault Weapons

So, say we don’t ban Muslim immigrants from entering the country. How do we stop terrorism? Well, what have terrorists used for most of their attacks? Guns and explosives. After the 9/11 attacks, airport security in the United States increased drastically. While it may be inconvenient to deal with all of the scans and checkpoints that it takes to get onto an airplane these days, we all accept those annoyances because we believe that the protection from terrorism makes them worth it. The hijacked airplanes were tools – just like guns and explosives – that the 9/11 terrorists used to take thousands of lives. Those terrorists were Muslim, but instead of responding by banning all Muslim immigrants, we responded by increasing our airport security. We took away the tools that those terrorists used, and made future would-be hijackers powerless. If we’re going to stop further terrorist attacks, we need to extend this focus on security beyond our airports.

I’m not going to pretend that I know how we could stop bombings. Anyone who knows enough about electronics and chemistry can build a bomb out of almost anything. We can try to ban certain chemical components or monitor internet searches, but in the end, there’s not a whole lot we can do besides reporting suspicious activity and staying vigilant. Instead of focusing on what things we can’t prevent, let’s focus on the things we can fix.

A Flawed System

For airports, we increased security to prevent hijackings. In that case, we are restricting access to the tools that the 9/11 terrorists used to commit their mass murder. In the case of guns, however, we continue to do almost nothing. A background check at a gun store takes only a few minutes, and if a future terrorist can meet the criteria (not being a felon or mentally ill), then they can walk away with their brand new gun. As Doug Criss of cnn.com notes, “It is easier to get a gun than to get a puppy.” At least when someone wants a puppy they have to prove that they’re responsible.

Through most gun shows and other private gun sales, people can obtain guns without so much as a background check. I can’t begin to explain how ridiculous that is. In order to get my driver’s license, I had to provide proof of citizenship and residency, pass a vision, hearing, and driving test, and practice driving for almost a year beforehand. It was inconvenient, sure, but I’m glad that I had all those hoops to jump through. A car is not a toy; anyone driving a car is capable of killing themselves and others through even a slight mistake. To prevent such unnecessary deaths, we don’t let just anyone drive a car. You have to have a license, and those are not easy to get. Guns are also not toys, but they are almost as easy to acquire as a real toy.

We can’t continue to allow this. Guns aren’t just capable of killing, they are built for killing. They are used for killing every day. That needs to stop.

A Potential Solution

Before I am confronted by gun advocates exclaiming the importance of the Second Amendment and their right to bear arms and defend themselves, I would like to suggest a compromise. We are not going to ban all guns. Bolt-action hunting rifles and pistols are perfectly acceptable, and offer Americans the opportunity to defend themselves as well as hunt for sport and food. Assault weapons capable of killing multiple people in rapid succession, however, are entirely unnecessary.

They are not necessary for hunting. Humans have gone hunting for centuries equipped with far less. If you need an AR-15 to hunt a deer, you’re not a good hunter. I know I would probably need one, but that’s why I don’t hunt. Try a different hobby.

They are not necessary for home defense. Our police officers patrol the streets each day at risk of meeting criminals far more dangerous than the common burglar or thief, and yet they don’t see a need to carry anything more powerful than a standard pistol at all times. In a close-quarters situation, like the type you might encounter if you did find an intruder in your home, the mobility of a pistol would likely be more helpful than the power of an assault rifle in taking down the criminal. Unless the long-anticipated and highly unlikely zombie apocalypse begins tomorrow, an assault rifle will not be necessary to defend your home.

We can either ban Muslim immigrants from entering the United States, or we can ban the assault weapons that have been used in so many mass shootings around the country. In either case, there would still be those who managed to beat the system. We cannot prevent terrorism entirely. Both of our options for preventing terrorism still leave us at risk, but, in the words of John Oliver, “Any rational person knows you cannot completely eliminate risk, you can only manage it.”

Managing Risk

So which risk do we choose to manage? Do we crack down on the risk of letting Muslims enter America, or do we focus on the risk of allowing guns and ammunition to be so loosely regulated? When you look at each issue on the most basic level, the answer becomes clear. Only a small minority of Muslims are terrorists, but 100% of guns are capable of killing people. Some guns are even capable of killing dozens of people in only minutes, and they are able to do so regardless of the race or religion of the shooter.

If we ban Muslim immigration, we are preventing a number of terrorist attacks, but we are also condemning thousands to suffer and die at the hands of the war and turmoil in the Middle East. If we place more restrictions on guns, we are doing everyone a favor. Refugees can find a better life in America, legal gun owners can still buy the guns they need to hunt and protect their families, and terrorists will, at the very least, have a much harder time acquiring the tools to commit atrocities such as the Orlando shooting. (Donald, if you are reading this, I will say it again. If you really are a great businessman, you will take the best deal here.)

To conclude, I will leave each of you with a final choice. It is clear that we are going to fight the terror threat, but we must decide how we are going to do so. Are we going to fight with fear in our eyes and hatred in our hearts, blaming millions of innocent people for the actions of a twisted few? Or are we going to recognize that we cannot defeat hate with hate, and choose instead to take actions that prevent anyone – not just Muslims – from having the means to commit an act of terror? The decision is yours.

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4 Thoughts to “The Politics of Protecting Americans”

  1. Manage immigration, which means limiting migration into the country as other countries do. Ban ki Moon is playing loose with other peoples countries and resources. His influence stops at the end of his nose in the US since our Constitution is in place to protect your 1st Amendment right to talk about the 2nd Amendment. Please note that an AR-15 was not used in the Orlando massacre nor us that rifle an automatic assault rifle. Normally AR-15s are small caliber rifles, but can haveore powerful rounds used with the corresponding upper receiver. Many rifles used for hunting are semiautomatic like an AR-15. Many shotguns are semiautomatic as well. People own these rifled for hunting, sport, and self defense. Saying people do not need these weapons us silsrbto saying you can only use a manual press to distribute your opinion. No smart phone or computer and internet, no word processor and laser printer, no industrial printer, teletype, telegraph, no pony express, or letter carrier should be necessary. Obviously not since I respond to your article with almost as much ease as if we were sitting in the same room talking to one another. If you have not had weapons training and fired a rifle or pistol, I encourage you to do so. If you have, go fire an AR-15 to find out what it is all about. Respect others rights to protect themselves per our Constitution, that is part of the reason the 2nd Amendment is thee to protect your 1st Amendment rights.

    1. Thank you for contributing to the discussion! I would like to address some of your concerns. I am aware that the rifle used in the Orlando shooting was a semi-automatic Sig Sauer MCX, however, that rifle is even more alarming considering that it was initially intended to fire a .300 round similar to those fired by an AK-47. The gas-piston system of the Sig Sauer MCX used to cycle the next round is also similar to that of an AK-47. I mentioned an AR-15 because that particular weapon has become a symbol for all types of assault weapons used to commit mass shootings, mainly because of its involvement in the San Bernardino and Sandy Hook shootings.
      You make a good point in mentioning that if I believe that gun owners shouldn’t use modern rifles like the AR-15, then I shouldn’t be using a modern means of communication like the internet to promote my views. They are, after all, very similar. The key difference, however, is that the internet is intended to rapidly spread information to as many people as possible, while semi-automatic assault rifles like the AR-15 and the Sig Sauer MCX are designed to rapidly dispense bullets into any target at which they are aimed. And it just so happens that those targets have all too often been innocent people.
      Using a manual press to spread my articles would be similar to using a musket from the same era as the United States Constitution in that both would be incredibly slow. Such weapons were capable of firing at a rate of about 1 bullet per minute, which poses much less risk to the public than weapons capable of firing multiple bullets per second. I will turn in my laptop for a manual press only when the gun stores of America trade in their semi-auto assault rifles for muskets, but not until then.
      In all honesty, I truly do wish that there were some way to keep our Second Amendment rights intact while also protecting America from terrorist attacks, but the ever-increasing number of mass shootings using legally acquired guns makes it clear that that can’t happen. Some have suggested that banning Muslim immigration could solve this problem, but there have been countless mass shooters who were not Muslim. These shooters came from all walks of life, and the only thing they really have in common is their possession of guns capable of mass murder. The only way to truly stop mass shootings is to take away the one thing they all have in common: guns.
      As I said in the article, I am perfectly fine with bolt-action hunting rifles as well as pistols for personal defense, but if we continue to allow all Americans to purchase things like semi-automatic assault rifles and high capacity magazines, so many people will continue to die every day. In the Declaration of Independence, the founding fathers argued that all men were born with certain inalienable rights, rights that they possessed even before documents like the Bill of Rights granted them new ones. Those rights were life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, with life appearing first and foremost. The Second Amendment can be changed, and the rights given by it can be altered, but the inalienable right to life cannot be changed. If we are going to protect this right, for gun-owners and their opponents alike, then we have to keep the most dangerous weapons out of the hands of terrorists. Since we cannot know which people are terrorists until they decide to commit an act of terror, the only safe course of action is to keep those guns away from everyone. It is not ideal, but it is a sacrifice we have to make in order to save lives.
      As far as managing immigration goes, immigration policy should be as strict as our current gun laws, since those are doing a wonderful job of keeping America safe. What is the real threat here? Innocent people fleeing war, or the guns being used to kill so many?

  2. Why do you think that so many criminals choose “gun free zones”? You dont think arming more trained citizens would help? There was an assult weapons ban that last for years and then it was revoked because the results were so minimal that it couldnt be said that the ban helped. Why do you think it would work now? It wouldn’t it would only keep ordinary citizens from having the modern technology to protect themselves from enemies foreign and domestic.

    1. I can see that I won’t be able to change your mind any more than you can change mine, but I would still like to do you the courtesy of addressing your concerns. Arming trained citizens does not put us in danger, and does have the potential to protect us. There are plenty of responsible gun owners who are incredibly well trained and responsible with their guns, and those people are more than capable of taking down a criminal using a firearm. However, there is no training required for American citizens to own guns, and many who do have had no formal training at all. Life is not an action movie or a video game; an Average Joe walking down the street is not going to be able to immediately whip out his gun and shoot down any criminal that he sees; in fact, without training, he is more likely to injure himself or another innocent bystander. Guns have as much potential for defense as they do for offense, but using guns for defense requires far more skill and precision, and that doesn’t come without extensive training. Arming trained citizens who respect the power of their guns and will not use them for evil is perfectly fine, but we are allowing untrained Americans to purchase massive amounts of firepower with unparalleled ease, and that has to stop. I still believe that assault weapons are unnecessary and should be banned, but after taking your comment into consideration I can see that another possible solution would be to ensure that anyone wishing to purchase guns had to be properly trained to use them responsibly. In my opinion, we should take stronger action, but that would at least be a step in the right direction.

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