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Rapid Response: 3 key takeaways from the Orlando massacre

The radical Islamist attack is a reminder that nation is at war with a twisted ideology that promotes violence against anyone who does not submit to those extremist beliefs


Flags fly at half-staff around the Washington Monument at daybreak in Washington with the US Capitol in the background Monday, June 13, 2016.

AP Image

Orlando has now been added to a growing list of places rocked by radical Islamist terrorism. In a nightclub frequented by gay men and women, the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history was committed by a 29-year-old Muslim American of Afghan descent.

The terrorist reportedly called 911 just before the massacre to claim his allegiance to ISIS. At one point in 2013 the assailant had been investigated by the FBI for suspected ties to Islamist extremism. That investigation was eventually closed, and the would-be terrorist was taken off the watch list.

Three years later, the radicalized Islamist jihadist (and bigoted and homophobic) attacker slaughtered at least 49 innocents and wounded dozens more. Here are three observations in the hours after this unspeakable tragedy.

1. As long as there are radical jihadist recruiting resources online, tragedy remains a possibility.
This radical Islamist attack is yet another reminder that this nation is at war with a twisted ideology that promotes violence against anyone who does not submit to those extremist beliefs. It is also a reminder that the enemy walks among us.

The massacre is the latest mass shooting in this country committed by individuals who have been self-radicalized and inspired by the Internet propaganda presented by Islamist organizations like ISIS and al Qaeda.

While making comments to the press, FBI Director James Comey said that he is “highly confident that this killer was radicalized at least in part through the internet.”

The path to self-radicalization is a well-worn one. A common trait among self-radicalized jihadis is the consumption of internet videos and other propaganda produced by ISIS and others. The recruiting publications put out by ISIS and al Qaeda are readily available, and they have been found to be contributing factors in attacks at Fort Hood, San Bernardino, Boston, and now (most likely) Orlando.

We need to be more vigilant about individuals accessing those videos and documents.

2. This kind of incident demonstrates how important so-called “militarized” police equipment is.
The attack at the Pulse nightclub underscores the need for law enforcement officers to retain possession of the kind of equipment obtained through the government’s 1033 program — much of which has been vilified as resulting in the “militarization” of American police.

Using an armored vehicle, law enforcement officers were able to breach the walls of the club after it was determined that further loss of life appeared imminent. They engaged the subject, and ended the threat he presented. Pictures from the scene included a Kevlar helmet that had been struck by a bullet — the officer who wore that life-saving equipment survived.

Unfortunately, due to Executive Order 13688, many police agencies are being forced to return their armored vehicles to the Federal government.

At a time when law enforcement officers most need to have access to armored vehicles and other such equipment because of the threat posed by homegrown violent extremists like the Orlando terrorist, the administration in Washington DC is seeking to make officers and the people they protect even more vulnerable to attack.

This trend defies logic, and it must be stopped.

3. Reactively tossing away American freedoms gives the radical Islamists a “victory” we cannot allow them to have.
Following this deadly attack, the question was raised, “How can a person investigated by the FBI for possible terrorist ties legally go out and get a gun?” The answer is simultaneously simple and complex: The Constitution of the United States of America — more specifically, the First, the Second, and the Fourth Amendments to the Constitution.

The Orlando attacker used the freedoms for which many brave Americans have fought and died — he used our freedoms against us. But we must not allow this fact to embolden those who would try to take these freedoms away. The President — and the presumptive Democratic candidate for president — have already begun using the tragedy in Orlando to press their agenda to undermine the Second Amendment. It merits mention that the presumptive Republican candidate is also using the tragedy to advance his agenda on limiting immigration.

The objective of terrorism is to use violence — or the threat of violence — to cause a people to change their behavior or way of life. What cannot be permitted is for the attackers in San Bernardino and Orlando and elsewhere to cause the foundational document of our society to be undermined.

Terrorists want to change our way of life. We must not allow that to happen.

Editor’s Note (ex post facto): Following the publication yesterday of my take on the Orlando massacre, the folks at RT America had a few questions for me. Live interview conducted earlier today from Fort Wyllie.

Doug Wyllie writes police training content on a wide range of topics and trends affecting the law enforcement community. Doug was a co-founder of the Policing Matters podcast and a longtime co-host of the program.