Politics Won't Stop Terrorism Or Gun Violence

This country is still reeling from the single largest mass murder since 9/11. We grieve with our gay brothers and sisters who were slaughtered by an evil person who wanted to cause as much death and destruction as possible. When our way of life is attacked, we as a country should come together, but as I look on my social media feeds, after this attack, people are dividing into one of two distinct camps.

My liberal friends are outraged about this senseless act and want stricter gun control laws. They are thoughtful in their analysis and reluctant to attribute any religious motivation to this act. My conservative followers are equally outraged and passionate about their concern of radical Islamic extremists, but are reluctant to address restricting gun ownership rights and increased gun control. I don't know what the right answer to this problem is, but we as a country need to have a real conversation about both issues.

It is a sad reality that a bad guy with a gun, a bomb or a plane can end my life or the life of my fellow citizens. I don't care what race or religion they follow, but people like this are a threat that must be stopped. In today's America we now have to worry about not only criminals but terrorists, which many people seem reluctant to talk about. Let's not pretend terrorism and radical Islamic extremism played no role in the Orlando nightclub shooting. We can be sure of this because the killer called the police during the attack to attribute his motivations directly to ISIS. I'm going to take him at his word. Even if the early reports of him being a conflicted gay man turn out to be true, how many men who are conflicted about their sexuality go out and kill numerous people and claim their actions were motivated by terrorist groups?

The inability to have a comprehensive conversation about both guns and radical Islamic extremism is leaving us all less safe and more likely for these types of events to continue to happen in the future. There is a valid concern that if we are not thoughtful in our remarks on the issue of terrorism that we could unfairly demonize an entire religion. While I agree that is a concern, it does not change the fact that the conversation needs to occur. One of the ways that we can make sure the dialogue is productive is by having Muslims at the table for these discussions and to address any threats they may receive or concerns they may have.

I believe that most people of good will are not going to unfairly judge an entire religion or group of people based upon the horrible actions of a few violent extremists, but people are afraid and not having a national conversation for people to have their questions and concerns addressed is doing us all a disservice. We need to hear from our leaders about the actions they are taking to keep us safe and address the impact extremists are even having on other Muslims that are being terrorized and killed. The answer is not to just tell us we shouldn't be worried. While we shouldn't make policy based upon the fear of our citizenry, people who are ignorant about a topic will continue to be fearful. We have an opportunity to open a dialogue that can expand understanding and work toward a more peaceful country.

Although it's unfair and wrong for the government to negatively brand an entire community because of the actions of a minority, let's be honest; we've been practicing that form of profiling for centuries. How many cities have stop and frisk policies that almost exclusively target young African-American men for mostly non-violent drug crimes? But we bristle at the suggestion that we restrict people who have not been vetted from crossing our boarders or who have overstayed their visas, which can and has led to terrorists running around with no restrictions? I am not suggesting a Muslim ban because not only do I believe it would be ineffective, it's a violation of civil rights and goes against fundamental American values.

That being said, please forgive my confusion that we have individuals in this country who may have ties to terrorism and have been questioned multiple times by the FBI but there are no restrictions on their ability to get guns and security clearances. When one of these individuals does commit an act of terrorism we pretend that they are just your average criminal who snapped over his conflicted sexuality to commit mass murderer. The coward (his name doesn't deserve to be repeated) that committed this horrific act isn't just some disturbed person with serious mental health issues, a gang member or drug dealer. This terrorist and those like him are part of a larger criminal conspiracy tied together by a radicalized religious ideology that wants to kill as many of us as they can in order to fundamentally change our culture. It doesn't make me a bigot or xenophobe to say that I have concerns that people allied to terrorist groups are committing atrocities in our workplaces, military bases and night clubs. I don't hate black and brown people, after all I'm a black American, but that won't stop a terrorist from killing me if given the opportunity.

I am also concerned about gun violence. Not only when it happens in mass shootings, but I also care about the thousands of people each year who are killed by urban gun violence on a daily basis. I want comprehensive background checks for all gun sales and I am open to serious discussions about increasing restrictions on certain types of guns, but I do have a concern that African-American men will end up being disproportionately impacted in the enforcement of new and increased gun control rules. The addition of any new criminal legislation makes me wonder if in a few years we are going to try to undo these regulations like we are trying to undo stiffer sentences for black men on drug charges. It's a mistake of epic proportions to not consider the unintended consequences of increased gun regulation, or any regulation for that matter. That is not to say that, after considering the repercussions, we don't do it, but I want to make sure that these issues of disparate impact are discussed.

I was in law school when 9/11 changed America forever. We may never feel as safe in this country as we did on September 10th 2001, before we were attacked. Before that day, terrorism was something that happened in other places, less safe places. Of course it was naïve to believe that we would be untouched by those things, but as the world's lone super power we expect to feel safe in our own country and that we will have determined leaders that will take every step within the law to ensure our safety. Rightly or wrongly too many of us accept urban gun violence as a fact of life for certain communities, but find terrorism unacceptable because it could happen to any of us. Terrorism does not discriminate based upon you neighborhood, race, social economic status, religion or sexual orientation but for some communities the threat of gun violence is just as real and happens on a daily basis.

We must resist the temptation to automatically drift to our respective political corners. The safety of our fellow citizens, even our entire country, is depending on us being honest. Honest with ourselves and those who agree with us, but also those that we disagree with. The red and blue labels we have been programmed to think define us are doing nothing but causing us to be less safe. It's time to put politics aside, stop the threat of extremist terrorism and at the same time limit the availability of weapons to those that shouldn't possess them.