Orlando's Game-Changing Lesson: See A Gun, Think Terrorism

The attack in Orlando is a game changer for how to address the guns issue. The massacre exposed a vulnerable U. S. national security flank which the FBI and other agencies can do little to secure within the current legal framework. The fact is that last Sunday a man killed 49 people and injured 53 others using an assault rifle he bought locally; and that entails an essential lesson: A gun can be equally or even more effective as a terrorist weapon than a bomb, and terrorists can legally buy such a weapon in the U.S. without even being traced.

After the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. and the majority of the world improved and strengthened security controls in airports and public venues. The Department of Homeland Security was created along with a new intelligence coordination entity. The Patriot Act was signed and the security, intelligence, defense and justice institutions of the U.S. were given greater capabilities and authority to face the "new" terrorist threat. Citizens gave away some of their rights in exchange for security. The attacks of March 11th, 2004 in Madrid and the 7/7 attacks in London were also a game changer for Europe and the world. More recently, the terrorist acts in Paris triggered a re-assessment of security and intelligence practices and lifted international alerts and cooperation to new levels. In all those cases measures were taken with one central goal: to prevent or at least dramatically reduce the possibility of a similar attack.

So what to do after Orlando?

So far, the guns debate in the United States has been about the spirit and purpose of the Second Amendment -- the right of every citizen to bear arms and the limits and interpretation of such right. Different views on this issue have been turned into political flags and the hundreds of shootings that take place in the U. S. and cost the lives of over 30 thousand people every year have been more or less central to the way each side supports its arguments. But the issue has taken on a new dimension now and the debate on how to address it should change.

After the 9/11, March 11, 7/7 and the Paris attacks, governments did not propose arming their citizens as a way to face the new terrorist threat. They modified their laws, changed their approach and took security and intelligence measures to protect their people. That is exactly what must be done after Orlando. This is not only about the Second Amendment anymore; it is about terrorism. Guns are now the terrorist's weapons of choice and it turns out that unlike any other country in the civilized world, in the U.S. it is legal and possible for a person with terrorist intentions to acquire the weapon to execute an attack without being traced, and the FBI can't do anything about it even if they have knowledge of his or her process of radicalization. How about that for a vulnerability? Would people be willing to compromise their right to own high-caliber weapons in exchange for protection against terrorism?

It is urgent that we learn this painful lesson from Orlando and act quickly to prevent another attack. From now on, we must see guns as potential terrorist weapons and we must do something about it.