The Department of Homeland Security has had to take a serious look at so-called right-wing violence lately. While many on the right take issue with some acts being labeled “right-wing,” the truth of the matter is that the DHS has to take a look at the issue. After all, some groups considered right-wing are violent nutjobs, even if most on the right want nothing to do with them. The left has more than their fair share of violent nutjobs as well, to be honest, but that doesn’t make the right immune to it.
However, unsurprisingly, some on the left are upset that the plan doesn’t call for gun control.
On Friday, Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan announced a new “Strategy for Combating Terrorism and Targeted Violence” that acknowledges that Americans “face a growing threat from domestic actors inspired by violent extremist ideologies, as well as attacks from those are not ideologically driven” and that “[r]acially- and ethnically-motivated violent extremism, in particular, violent white supremacism, is one of the most prevalent and abhorrent of these anti-American ideologies. There is no moral ambiguity on this issue.”
It documents several of these right-wing attackers who have used guns to carry out their attacks on other Americans, specifically noting the August 2019 El Paso Walmart mass shooting, the October 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, and the April 2019 Poway, California, synagogue attack.
DHS then notes the common thread for many of these attacks: violent individuals with a history of making threats using firearms.
Prevention is not prediction. However, evidence-based research on individuals who carry out acts of targeted violence demonstrates that regardless of whether the attacks were acts of workplace violence, domestic violence, school-based violence, or terrorism, similar themes are evident among the perpetrators. A 2018 U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) review of mass attacks in public spaces found: Most of the attackers utilized firearms, and half departed the site on their own or committed suicide.
The report proposes an array of steps to address the problem, including “developing preventative frameworks,” ensuring “broad awareness of the threat of terrorism and targeting violence” and building “resilience to malign information operations initiated by foreign states and foreign non-state actors.”
But it does not propose any steps to keep guns out of the hands of the people who are most likely to carry out these right-wing mass shootings.
There’s a reason for that.
The Department of Homeland Security hasn’t been around all that long, but they have institutional knowledge going back far beyond the department’s founding. They understand, for one thing, that violent terrorists–and anyone acting violently in an effort to advance their ideology is a terrorist–will find a way to get a gun no matter what obstacles you try to put in their path.
By focusing on the potential killers themselves, they’re not lulling themselves into a false sense of security that because one type of weapon might be removed from the equation, violence has been averted. Keep in mind that the worst domestic terrorist attack in modern history was carried out by someone using fertilizer and a moving truck.
Focusing on the tools themselves doesn’t prevent attacks. It merely forces the determined to find other, potentially more violent, means to carry out an attack.
It’s just that simple. This is true regardless of any underlying ideology. Removing the tools won’t necessarily stop someone. It’ll just force them to get more creative.
Believe me. That’s a bad thing.