Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Why was the Orlando attack so deadly? Hint: it wasn't because of the guns the terrorist used.

Orlando Police respond to the attack. Orlando Police Department.

Once again our cowardly and evil media has decided to blame guns for the most recent terror attack, the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando Florida. That attack killed 49 people and wounded 53 more and people are blaming the fact that Omar Mateen was able to get a AR-15 rifle (specifically a SIG Sauer MCX). Mateen was certainly able to kill a lot of people, but was the rifle the only factor in why he was able to do so? 

Of course not. There were many different factors for why this attack was more deadly then almost any mass shooting or terrorist attack in American history. His access to a modern rifle had very little to do with it. Indeed, under the circumstances had he just used his Glock 17 pistol he could have killed a similar amount of people. Even if he had used my old bolt action Lee Enfield rifle, Mateen would have killed dozens of people. 

Why? Well I am going to go through each factor that contributed to Mateen's success. There are a lot of them and his choice of weapon is only tangentially related. Indeed, had he used a suicide vest, pressure cooker bomb or even a book of matches and an accelerant, Mateen would have still succeeded in killing a lot of people. 

A note before I begin. I don't really like to discuss how successful Mateen's tactics were on the fear that people would imitate him. He pulled off a very successful terror attack and his actions would be very easy to emulate. Unfortunately, I think that cat is out of the bag because Mateen's attack was a copy of the Paris and Tunisia attacks. It's already too late so at this point it probably no longer matters. Anyways, let's get started:

1. The Pulse nightclub was a relatively soft target. Though a cop was stationed at the club and engaged with the attacker almost immediately after the attack, nobody inside the club was actually armed. Florida has strong concealed carry laws but those laws do not apply to bars or clubs where alcohol is served. Though homosexuals are not a group known for carrying weapons, Pink Pistols not withstanding, there wasn't a chance for anyone inside the club to defend themselves. There was also no armed security in the club. Had either of these things not been true the casualty list might have been smaller. 

Indeed, compare this attack with the attack on the free speech event in Garland Texas. In that attack both suspects, armed with "assault rifles" were killed almost immediately by cops using pistols. Clearly the amount of security is a huge factor in whether an attack like this is successful. Pulse just didn't have enough. Anyone with a weapon could have gotten inside and killed people. If anything, had Mateen just picked his pistol or any concealable weapon instead, he probably wouldn't have been confronted by the police outside the club, which would probably have made this attack even worse. 

2. Omar Mateen was relatively skilled with his weapon. Local reports say that only 202 rounds were fired during the attack, though that may count shots fired by police as well. Even with the higher number, Mateen was extremely accurate with his weapon. He was able to kill 49 people and wound 53 more with those 202 shots meaning that he may have had around 50% accuracty. Indeed, he was able to pull off a headshot against one of the SWAT officers that was trying to kill him. The cop only survived because of his Kevlar helmet. That's a difficult shot to make under good conditions, much less during a major siege while people are trying to kill you. 

It makes me wonder if Mateen had some form of military or paramilitary training. Shooting a gun is harder then you think and it seems like Mateen had some practice with his firearms. Though a rifle is somewhat easier to shoot then a pistol, it's not that easy. Either Mateen was well trained or he was a natural good shot. In either case the type of weapon he chose would have been largely irrelevant. 

3. Of course it helps that he picked a nightclub. Pulse was a crowded location with more then 300 people in the same small area. There were also limited exits that made it fairly hard for people to escape from the club. This left very few options for the people in the club. Many did manage to escape but others were trapped. This would have been the case no matter what weapon Mateen had used. Indeed, given these facts a book of matches and some kind of strong accelerant might have killed even more people then the 49 that died. 

4. People didn't understand that they were under attack. Pulse was a very loud nightclub and when Mateen attacked people thought his shots were part of the song that was playing. There were also flashing lights that made it harder to figure out that they were being shot at. This gave Mateen a lot more time to fire then he would have otherwise had. If he had picked a different target this wouldn't have happened. And it would have occurred no matter what weapon he used. 

5. The time that he attacked was crucial as well. He attacked near bar close when everyone was at their most drunk and least aware. Alcohol makes it a lot harder to pay attention and delays reactions. This may have prevented people from fleeing and made fighting back a lot harder. Again, this factor is completely independent of the weapon he chose. 

6. The police took a long time to storm the building. Now to be clear, I am not going to armchair general the police response. They faced a difficult choice when it came to storming the club. I assume they made the right choice, but regardless I wouldn't want to be the one in charge.

But it's clear that by not attacking right away some people died that probably wouldn't have otherwise. Contrary to popular belief, if you get shot you actually have a good chance of surviving if you get medical attention right away. Unfortunately there was a three hour delay between when Mateen first attacked and when the police stormed the building and were able to evacuate the wounded. This delay would have happened no matter what weapon Mateen had used, even if it wasn't an AR-15. 

7. Mateen also obviously planned his attack very well. He was seen there many times before the attack to the point that he was a regular. Some in the media are implying this was because he was gay himself. Regardless if that was true or not (I'm leaning towards not), he was clearly casing the building. He was looking at the security, exits and anyone that might have been a threat. This allowed to plan his attack meticulously.

It's clear that he was bound and determined to attack this club. Had he been unable to acquire a AR-15 legally he could have chosen a different weapon. Certainly with this level of planning an attack with handguns or more traditional rifles would have worked as well. Same thing with arson or an explosive device. But if he had failed to buy a weapon he could have had a straw buyer acquire one or just bought one from a criminal. There was no rush to pull off this attack, so he could have made backup plans if he wasn't able to purchase his weapons. 

With all that being said, I think it is pretty clear that Mateen would have killed dozens of people even if he didn't have his AR-15. There were a lot of factors that contributed to the death count in this attack, the type of weapon he used was largely irrelevant. 

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