What Conservative Media Get Wrong About The Link Between Gun Safety And Terrorism Prevention

Conservative media are attacking President Obama for saying in his Oval Office address on terror that Congress should limit the availability of assault weapons and the ability of people on terror watch lists to legally purchase firearms, claiming his “entirely out of place” reference to gun legislation was an attempt to “shift the conversation” and “attack the Second Amendment.” In fact, the discussion of guns was pertinent to terrorism in the United States because 95 percent of U.S. terrorism fatalities since 9/11 have been the result of gunfire and Al Qaeda has urged its followers to exploit America's weak gun laws to carry out attacks.

Obama Addresses The Nation On Terrorism

In Oval Office Address, Obama Calls For Action On Assault Weapons And Terrorism Suspects Being Able To Legally Purchase Firearms. In a December 6, 2015, address from the Oval Office, President Obama discussed the attack in San Bernardino, California where 14 people were shot to death as well as terrorism more generally. During his remarks, Obama urged Congress to pass legislation to limit access to assault weapons like the one used in the San Bernardino attack and also legislation to prohibit people on the no-fly list from buying guns:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Now, here at home, we have to work together to address the challenge. There are several steps that Congress should take right away.

To begin with, Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun. What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon? This is a matter of national security.

We also need to make it harder for people to buy powerful assault weapons like the ones that were used in San Bernardino. I know there are some who reject any gun safety measures. But the fact is that our intelligence and law enforcement agencies -- no matter how effective they are -- cannot identify every would-be mass shooter, whether that individual is motivated by ISIL or some other hateful ideology. What we can do -- and must do -- is make it harder for them to kill. [Barack Obama, 12/6/15, via Medium.com]

Since 9/11, Terrorism Fatalities In The U.S. Have Been Caused By Firearms 95 Percent Of The Time

The Trace: All Six “Jihadist Attacks” In The U.S. Since 9/11 Involved Firearms. According to a November 30 report from The Trace, an online magazine that reports on gun violence, firearms are the “weapons of choice” for terrorists in the United States because “all six deadly jihadist attacks on American soil involved firearms. Overall, these attacks have killed 28 people since 9/11, and 25 of those victims were shot to death” :

As jihadist terrorists continue to set their sights on Western targets, one thing has become abundantly clear: Firearms have become their weapons of choice. The assault on the Frankfurt Airport, the attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels, the Copenhagen shooting spree, the Parliament Hill rampage in Ottawa, the Sydney café standoff, the Charlie Hebdo shooting, and now the Paris attacks -- all were carried out by assailants armed with guns.

It's a pattern that extends to the United States.

[...]

When the fatal and non-fatal incidents are sorted into their own columns, another pattern emerges: All six deadly jihadist attacks on American soil involved firearms. Overall, these attacks have killed 28 people since 9/11, and 25 of those victims were shot to death. The deployment of IEDs along the route of the Boston Marathon accounts for the remaining three fatalities -- the only one of the five attacks that involved a bomb that proved deadly. Attacks involving a vehicle, a cutting instrument, or an incendiary device failed to kill anyone. Out of the eight that involved a firearm, 75 percent resulted in fatalities.

There's an explanation for that breakdown: Most weapons aren't consistently lethal. Even the bomb-making capabilities of most current terrorists aren't guaranteed to produce devices that kill numerous victims, thanks to the federal clamp down on precursor explosive chemicals and materials. As we saw in Boston -- where the attackers fashioned a pressure cooker into a bomb -- the lethality of explosives is now more contained, compared to the damage bombs caused prior to and including the 1994 Oklahoma City attack.

Guns are the exception. They are readily available, affordable, and can kill in scores. In four of the six deadly incidents of jihadist terrorism since 9/11, the attackers bought their firearms legally. In the other two cases, one perpetrator borrowed the firearm from a close friend and the other stole it from his mother.

[...]

When all lethal domestic attacks since 2002 -- regardless of motive -- are tallied up, the numbers show that all but one involved guns. In total, firearms claimed 95 percent of the lives lost to terrorism in America over the same period. On the issue of deadly domestic terror in America, religion and skin color are not common denominators. Guns are. [The Trace, 11/30/15]

Al-Qaeda Urged Terrorists To Exploit Weak U.S. Gun Laws To Obtain Firearms. In a 2011 video, American-born Al-Qaeda propagandist Adam Gadahn urged terrorists to attend gun shows in the United States to obtain powerful weaponry without a background check:

A video from 2011 has resurfaced showing American-born al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn discussing how easy it is to buy guns in the United States and urging fellow radicals to do so.

In the video, the California-raised Gadahn said militants should arm themselves for attacks on Western governments.

“America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms,” said Gadahn, “You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?” [CNN.com, 4/12/13]

Conservative Media Befuddled And Angry Over Obama's References To Gun Safety Proposals In Terrorism Address

Bill O'Reilly: Obama Is Trying To “Shift The Conversation” From Terrorism To Gun Proposals. During the December 7 broadcast of The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly reacted to Obama's address to the nation by saying Obama wants “to shift the conversation over to, not terrorism, either domestic or foreign, but gun control” :

BILL O'REILLY (HOST): There is also another word involved with the president, and that's irony, and it has to do with the gun control that he wants so desperately, and so does The New York Times and others to shift the conversation over to, not terrorism, either domestic or foreign, but gun control. More Americans are buying guns because Barack Obama is president than ever before, so he is actually the best thing that's ever happened to the gun industry, because people feel so insecure, it's like “This guy is never going to protect us, I'm going to buy as many guns and ammunition as I can buy,” and every time he opens his mouth saying we want gun control more people flood in to buy guns. That's irony. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 12/7/15]

Andrea Tantaros: Obama Used His Oval Office Address To “Attack The Second Amendment.” During the December 7 broadcast of Outnumbered, show co-host Andrea Tantaros complained that “it took President Obama just about seven minutes to turn to gun control in his speech last night” before claiming that Obama's proposals were an “attack” on the Second Amendment:

ANDREA TANTAROS (CO-HOST): It took President Obama just about seven minutes to turn to gun control in his speech last night, and he called for Congress to take some action. Watch.

[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP]

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun. What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon? This is a matter of national security.

We also need to make it harder for people to buy powerful assault weapons like the ones that were used in San Bernardino. I know there are some who reject any gun safety measures. But the fact is that our intelligence and law enforcement agencies -- no matter how effective they are -- cannot identify every would-be mass shooter.

[END VIDEO CLIP]

TANTAROS: Okay, so this, Stacey, is the president's, one of his proposed solutions is to attack the Second Amendment and we learned from Adam Housley's reporting, great reporting by the way last night, that two of the AK-47s were given to the suspects by the neighbor. So whatever the president was talking about, the assault weapons, this law would have not - his gun control proposition would have not stopped the neighbors from doing that. [Fox News, Outnumbered, 12/7/15]

Conservative Radio Host Michael Berry Criticizes Obama's Gun Proposals: “Guns Don't Kill People, Muslims Do.” Responding to Obama's Oval Office address, Michael Berry criticized Obama for linking proposals around assault weapons and people on the terror watch list being allowed to buy guns to terrorism, concluding with the inflammatory claim, “Guns don't kill people, Muslims do” :

MICHAEL BERRY (HOST): After spending the last several days talking about gun control, we knew Obama was going to tie ISIS to it. And he didn't disappoint saying, quote, “To begin with, Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun.” Well, guess what? Boston bombers, Nadal Hasan -- a U.S. army major -- and these two, were not on a no-fly list. So what is the point of your no-fly list? Which, by the way, is unconstitutional.

Then he goes on, “What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon? This is a matter of national security. We also need to make it harder for people to buy powerful assault weapons like the ones that were used in San Bernadino.” That is not a powerful assault weapon! Can we stop with that already? He goes on, “I know there are some who reject any gun safety measures, but the fact is that our intelligence and our law enforcement agencies -- no matter how effective they are -- cannot identify every would-be mass shooter. Whether that individual is motivated by ISIL,” stop saying ISIL, it's ISIS, “or some other hateful ideology, what we can do and must do is make it harder for them to kill.” Neither, none of these folks have been on no-fly lists. And by the way, they were living in the state with the strongest gun control in the country. The tightest, the strictist. So how well did that work?

Guns don't kill people, Muslims do. [iHeartRadio, The Michael Berry Show, 12/7/15]

Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes: “Dwelling On Gun Control Was Entirely Out Of Place.” Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes wrote that he “assumed Obama wouldn't allow his obsession with gun control to force its way into his address” but that he was “wrong” :

I assumed Obama wouldn't allow his obsession with gun control to force its way into his address. I was wrong. Dwelling on gun control was entirely out of place since nothing the president and his allies are proposing would have prevented the San Bernardino terrorists from acquiring their weapons.

And I suspected he'd spare us another rendition of his tale of a wave of vicious discrimination against innocent Muslims in this country. Instead he dwelled on it, though the wave is nonexistent. This matter received a “rather disproportionate” amount of time in the speech, Charles Krauthammer said on Fox News. That was an understatement. [The Weekly Standard, 12/6/15]