Cameron Carter: Omar Mateen and the bonfires of the inanities
Thursday, June 23, 2016 10:10 AM
INDIANAPOLIS – This may seem like
incredibly poor form, but I want to thank Omar Mateen for helping to
further expose the broken politics of Washington, as a renewed and
overdue debate over our civil rights took place this week. If only the
deaths of 49 innocents at an Orlando night club had not had to occur for
this illuminating discussion to unfold.
If having followed the news this week you do not recognize the above
description, it is because a great many citizens and our elected leaders
in Washington – in the Obama administration and the U.S. Senate,
particularly – have failed to comprehend the true nature of the debate
in which they are engaged. And, having failed to comprehend it, they
have engaged in a bonfire of inanities which has spread across the news
media, cable talkshow gabblers, and so-called “social” media (which once
again proves itself to be downright anti-social when controversies
The question is not whether we want to prevent the next terrorist attack
or mass shooting. Nor is it a question of whether the event in Orlando
that Mateen perpetrated was a terrorist attack or a mass shooting. The
obvious, inarguable (one would hope) answers to these questions is “of
course, we do” and “of course, it was.” The real question, as President
Obama has put it, is what kind of country do we want to be?
In Orlando’s wake and with Pavlovian predictability, Washington
partisans went to their ideological corners, trotted out staid and
mostly useless talking points, and preened for the cameras and their
constituencies. As one watched the debate, it wasn’t even really about
how to stop the next such atrocity, as the solutions on offer weren’t
really solutions at all. The result: Legislative and political gridlock
manifested in a series of defeated amendments to the Justice Department
appropriations bill, a roused commentariat, and further polarization of
the American public when we should be united on advancing both our
liberty and security.
First, President Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch purposefully
downplayed the Islamist nature of the Orlando attack. Ms. Lynch even
went so far as to attempt the literally Orwellian move of redacting any
references to Islam, or ISIS, or ISIL from the released transcripts of
Mateen’s 911 call to authorities “justifying” his killing spree. This is
the first inanity in the political drama that unfolded.
Perhaps it should be every public servant’s aim to write a little bit of
history; however, this was naked political censorship, an
intellectually dishonest attempt to re-write history by an Obama
political appointee. And, to change the narrative from one of Islamic
terrorism (that would reveal blemishes on the FBI’s efficacy and Obama’s
counter-terrorism policies) to one of bias against the LGBT community
and the scourge of guns on American streets. It is here that Senate
Democrats and their ideological fellow-travelers in the media picked up
the hoped-for new narrative.
Let’s dispense with the LGBT angle forthwith: We in Indiana have had our
fill of unjustified bias against the LGBT community from some
ideological quarters, but blood has yet to be shed. No thinking person
would contend that Mr. Mateen’s premeditated murder of 49 straight
people at your neighborhood Applebee’s would be morally sanctioned, or
any less grotesque, based upon the sexual orientation of his victims.
The Orlando dead and their grieving friends and families are dishonored
by any such argument.
So, now to the issue of gun control, which is where we encounter more
political inanities. At the center of this week’s debate, we have two
fundamental civil rights ensconced in the U.S. Constitution: The 2nd
Amendment right to keep and bear arms, and the 5th Amendment right not
to be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of
While Democrats and the left argue that the 2nd Amendment is predicated
upon “a well-regulated militia,” the long legislative history of
individual states and, most especially, federal jurisprudence have
determined that not to be the case. Sorry. Howling against this
jurisprudence, as conservatives do in the example of Roe v. Wade in the
abortion debate, does no good except to inflame controversy and drive a
wedge between people of good faith that would want to see workable and
effective regulation put into place.
Neither the 2nd Amendment nor the 5th Amendment right to due process
have yet to be subject to arbitrary abridgment nor retroactive
reinstatement, yet that is precisely what Senate Democrats proposed this
week. Under an amendment offered by Sen. Diane Feinstein of California,
anyone under suspicion of terrorist sympathies or on the federal
government’s “no-fly” list would be unable to exercise their 2nd
Amendment right. Oh, they could, but they would have to petition the
federal government to get back that right which the federal government
has taken away from them on a presupposition of guilt.
See how that works? Exactly. It doesn’t in a free society. It would be
unacceptable if applied to, say, the 1st Amendment, and it is here that
Republicans attempted to inject a little 5th Amendment due process by
having the executive branch make a probable cause argument to the
judicial branch before depriving an American citizen of their 2nd
Amendment right. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas suggested just such an
amendment during this week’s debate. Democrats objected on practicality
grounds, the principles at stake be damned.
The fate of both amendments?
They were defeated along mostly partisan lines, with just one or two
Republicans crossing over to vote for the Feinstein amendment and a
couple of Democrats crossing over to support the Cornyn amendment,
including Indiana’s own Joe Donnelly (who is one of the most reasonable
men you’ll ever meet in one of the most unreasonable cities you’ll ever
visit). Even sensible proposals for more funding for background checks
and expanded background checks for online firearms sales were defeated.
As a direct benefit of the debate, Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut got
his 15 hours of fame during his Cruz-like filibuster and Senate Minority
Leader Harry Reid got to thunder about Republicans being “bought and
paid for” by the NRA. (In the matter of purchase by political interests,
Mr. Reid knows that of which he speaks and his hollow protest
illuminates more about his personal modus operandi than anything else.
Good riddance, sir.)
The net result of this week’s gun control debate is more gridlock and
disillusionment by the American public, as well as a loss of focus on a
metastasizing threat of homegrown Islamist terrorism. The folks in
Washington entrusted to make sensible laws and keep them safe just
aren’t up to the job; in other words, the status quo ante that in part
gave rise to the current Trump/Sanders grassroots rebellion.
Here’s one suggestion to get past partisan gridlock on gun control: A
well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state
(one where citizens do not have their rights abridged and then
reinstated), all able-bodied men and women (of any sexual orientation)
should be required to perform two years of military service in exchange
for room, board, vocational training, and the opportunity to learn about
the “weapons of war” that are the supposed crux of the current
controversy. At least then they would know that of which they tweet,
expanded background checks should be easy to pass for those honorably
discharged, and the next Omar Mateen who walks into a nightclub with
murder and mayhem on their mind will find it a much harder target than
he or she supposes.
That or begin the arduous, but correct, process of repealing or revising
the 2nd Amendment. We have ample precedent for passing new amendments
to the U.S. Constitution which enshrines all of our rights and those of
our posterity (just ask former Indiana Sen. Birch Bayh, author of the
25th and 26th amendments. He’s still around and can brief you on the
Now, that would be a serious debate worthy of the kind of country our Founders envisioned.
Carter is HPI’s national correspondent.