Warm Southern Breeze

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Gun Control Now A Matter Of National Security

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Why Gun Control Is Now a Matter of National Security

Opinion
By Steven Simon, Jonathan Stevenson
04/22/2021 06:30 PM EDT
https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/04/22/why-gun-control-is-now-a-matter-of-national-security-484323

Steven Simon, an International Relations Professor at Colby College, served on the National Security Council during the Clinton and Obama administrations, including as Senior Director for Counterterrorism.

Jonathan Stevenson, a Senior Fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies and Managing Editor of Survival, served on the National Security Council as Director for Political-Military Affairs, Middle East and North Africa, from 2011 to 2013.

For all the tragic mass shooting headlines this year, the American gun control debate seems permanently stuck. Last week, nine people were killed by AR-15 fire in Indianapolis; before that, 10 died in Boulder, and eight in Atlanta. Despite the anguish over the past month — and despite a push by President Joe Biden — Congress looks unlikely to take any immediate action.

We share Biden’s view that the level of U.S. gun violence is a “national embarrassment.” But as National Security Council veterans who have specialized in counterterrorism — with direct experience involving far-right American terrorism, burgeoning jihadism, and Northern Irish extremism in the 1990s — we also see a new threat rising, one that has the potential to change the urgency of the debate: the growing, and heavily armed, American militia movement, which made a show of force on January 6.

Armed demonstrators protest outside of the Michigan State Capitol on January 17, 2021 in Lansing. – Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Increasingly, as militias acquire and stockpile weapons, they’re turning guns from a public-health concern into a threat to national security. And it’s possible that if proponents of reform — including advocacy groups, congressional leaders and Biden — began addressing it that way, they’d have a chance of energizing the debate against the National Rifle Association and its allies. Indeed, the shock of the insurrection has increased the political burdens of an NRA in internal disarray and offered a new perspective on the need for significant gun control legislation.

As America learned on January 6, anti-government militia groups are more than willing to jump walls, break doors and disrupt the underpinnings of our democracy. These groups, with transnational ties, also enjoy easy access to high-power, high-capacity, small-caliber semiautomatic weapons—many of which can be converted to fully automatic. The concern isn’t that these weapons will somehow enable militias to challenge the U.S. military on the battlefield, which they certainly will not. It is that they make mass casualty attacks against political or cultural adversaries both easy to carry out, and easy to frame as inspirational events of the kind that mobilize insurrection.

The executive orders Biden issued earlier this month imposing restrictions on gun kits and devices that turn pistols into rifles are marginal safeguards and rather thin gruel overall. But his call for reviving the federal ban on assault weapons is more promising and an acknowledgment that serious action is required. An important additional measure would be more rigorous required background checks. At least one key Republican senator, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, has expressed openness to working with Biden on a gun bill.

Generating bipartisan consensus for an effective crackdown on firearms will always be difficult. While gun control is now unlikely to lose existing supporters, it is also unlikely to win many new ones. But reframing the issue as a national security imperative could galvanize passive backers now focused by the assault on the Capitol on maintaining political stability in the United States. A plausible objective would be to Read the rest of this entry »

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