If nothing else, the shooting massacre in Orlando, Florida on Sunday forced the country to confront an American nightmare originating from a deadly collaboration between rising threat of elusive “lone wolf” attackers and the country’s lax gun laws.
Omar Mateen, who shot down 49 people and injured 53 more in the country’s deadliest attack since 9/11 of 2001 at a gay nightclub in Orlando was born in New York to immigrants from Afghanistan.
So far, federal investigators had found no clear evidence that Mateen had been in touch with any terrorist groups before the attack.
However, the authorities were “highly confident,” as noted by Director of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) James Comey on Monday, that Mateen had been radicalized online.
According to Comey, Mateen first came to the FBI’s attention in May 2013 when one of his colleagues reported him to the authorities after he made “inflammatory” statements about supporting Hezbollah, a militant group based in Lebanon and a bitter enemy of the Islamic State (IS) to which he later pledged allegiance during Sunday’s attack.
After a 10-month preliminary investigation without any concrete evidence, which included monitoring and interview, the FBI closed the case.
Mateen again came to the agency’s attention in July, 2014 because of his acquaintance with a Florida man who died as a suicide bomber in Syria for al-Nusra Front, a group actually in conflict with IS.
Comey said the inquiry eventually continued, focusing on the suicide bomber with no further focus on Mateen.
Earlier June this year, Mateen entered a gun store and legally purchased an assault rifle and a handgun, with which he appeared to launch his mass killing without external instruction, as did the couple shooters at the shooting spree in San Bernardino, California last December who killed 14 and injured 22 more, as well as the Army veteran who killed 13 at a Texas military installation in 2009.
Speaking at a congressional hearing in May of 2016, FBI Director Comey revealed that his agency currently had opened about 1,000 cases of suspected violent extremists in the country, among which about 80 percent were believed to be inspired by IS.
Unlike traditional planning by terrorist groups, which relied heavily on communication via email or the phone as well as meeting with co-conspirators, U.S. officials had for long been warning that the threat of terrorism facing the country had evolved into “lone wolf” attacks where individuals inspired by terrorist groups overseas plan their attacks on their own, making it extremely difficult to prevent.
To add to U.S. authorities’ headaches, the country’s lax gun control laws could easily worsen the casualty of a “lone-wolf” attack.
Unfortunately, terrorist groups had already noticed the easy access to powerful firearms in the United States.
A video released by the extremist group al-Qaeda in 2011 urged followers in the United States to “go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle,” adding that no background check and in most cases no identity would be needed.
Though, the message was incorrect on the point of fully automatic assault rifle, which had been banned since 1986, all other information in the message was correct.
In the majority of the U.S. States, one does not need to undergo the background check to purchase a semi-automatic assault rifle at gun shows. In most cases, even an identification card is not required in the purchase.
Though assault-style weapons were banned in 1994, the U.S. Congress refused to renew the ban when the prohibition expired in 2004. Gun-rights advocates argued that rifles of any type were scarcely used in homicides in the country.
However, according to data compiled by Mother Jones magazine, the use of assault-style rifles had become increasingly common in high-profile mass shooting incidents.
According to the magazine, in eight high-profile public mass shootings since July, 2015, seven incidents involved the use of assault-style rifles.
Also, among the 10 most deadliest shooting incidents in the United States, seven involved the use of an assault-style rifle, said the Mother Jones’ database. Enditem