- REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
The shooting that erupted at a gay nightclub in Orlando over the weekend and left 49 people dead is renewing arguments about who should be able to own high-powered weapons in the US.
The gunman, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, had an AR-15 assault rifle and a handgun during the attack at Pulse early Sunday morning.
FBI officials say that Mateen had previously been investigated on suspicion of having ties to terrorism. Without a clear link established, however, he was able to legally purchase the guns used in the massacre.
When asked why Mateen was still able to obtain his weapons despite his past run-ins with federal authorities, retired Army intelligence officer and Stetson University law professor Charles Rose III said it came down to the FBI’s lack of concrete action against Mateen.
“If the FBI had identified the shooter as someone with possible terrorist links, the ability to purchase a firearm might have been taken from him,” Rose said in a conversation with Business Insider.
He said, if nothing else, the shooter “might have at least been higher on a watch list.”
Rose said “fallout” occurs when authorities have “actionable intelligence but not enough to detain [a person] based upon probable cause.”
He said the root of the problem was in the way the US handles domestic terrorism as “a criminal, rather than a military activity.” In doing so, Rose added, suspects retain their constitutional rights.
- REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
“Someone can assert their association with ISIS under the freedom-of-speech umbrella and say they’re going to do something, but until they do it, they have all protections afforded to them under the law,” he said.
Rose suggested that if a person’s association with a terrorist organization resulted in that person’s being classified as an “enemy combatant, or a partisan under the Geneva Convention,” the person would be stripped of his or her constitutional protections.
Gun-reform advocates have pushed for stronger restrictions on certain types of buyers in recent years, but conclusive legislation on the matter has been fleeting.
In January, President Barack Obama revealed new executive actions designed to narrow the “gun-show loophole” by requiring firearms dealers to issue tougher background checks on prospective buyers.
Obama’s actions also expanded the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, aimed to improve mental-health treatment, and sponsored new research into gun-safety technology.