By the time you read this, less than a day has passed since multiple attackers (at least two) hit the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, and were killed in a later shootout with law enforcement, in which one police officer was wounded. Multiple media outlets are reporting the identity of the suspects as a married couple, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik. The FBI has not ruled out terrorism as a motive in the shooting, and as of this writing, the Joint Terrorism Task Force has been called in. The terrorist group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as Daesh or ISIL, has not taken responsibility, but followers have celebrated the attack on social media.
While a lot of celebrities and Democratic presidential candidates have called for gun control –before the suspects were stopped by law enforcement – it should be noted that California has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, including a ban on certain military-style semi-automatic firearms passed in 1989 and tightened ten years later. The site of the shooting was reportedly a gun-free zone. Reports indicate the firearms the killers used were legally purchased (meaning that the killers not only passed a background check, they likely abided by California’s ten-day waiting period as well). Both the strict laws and the enforced helplessness failed to prevent this horrific act, as they have countless others, both here and in foreign countries. What new laws would do, other than punish the law-abiding for the actions of the killers, escapes this author.
The presence of a female suspect is somewhat of a surprise in some ways, but not something that is unheard of globally. Two women reportedly acted as murder-suicide bombers for Boko Haram in Cameroon earlier on the day of the attack. Other women have been involved in jihadi acts, including the notorious “White Widow,” a key figure in the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab who reportedly helped plan the Westgate mall attack in 2013 and an attack on a college that killed 148 people.
What sort of lessons can be drawn from this?
First, political correctness can kill. Some reports indicate that at least one neighbor did not report suspicious activity at the residence of this alleged killer couple. Why? He didn’t want to “racially profile.” Meanwhile, media reports indicate that improvised explosive devices were manufactured in that residence. So, to repeat the old saying, if you see something, say something. It might just save lives.
Second, and this is a repeat of the lesson from the Paris shooting this past November: When seconds matter, police will take minutes to arrive. While most states have passed “shall-issue” or “constitutional carry” laws, California still operates under a “discretionary issue” law that often leaves it up to bureaucratic whim whether or not a law-abiding citizen can get a concealed carry permit. Even with reports that the killers had body armor, California’s lawmakers certainly left their victims more helpless than not.
Third, as a corollary to the previous lesson, you will need to be responsible for your safety. Both the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have released some information on how to survive a San Bernardino/Paris/Mumbai incident. Study it, so if you are caught, you might have some chance of escape.
The shooting in San Bernardino is an unspeakable tragedy. Will it happen again? Much depends on whether the right lessons will be learned from this event.