Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Terror Scenarios and Guns

In today's New York Times is an interesting article on a terrorism study named "National Planning Scenarios." The federal government wrote it for federal and state planners and responders. It was mistakingly posted on a Hawaii state website and thus became public. In it are 12 possible terrorist scenarios and three national disaster scenarios. Each scenario includes an analysis of death tolls, responses, and economic impacts.

The planners' goal was not to describe each possible situation, but to provide guides so public officials can tell if they are prepared. It could also be used to allocate federal funds to state and local governments. Some possible scenarios (i.e., airliner hijackings) are not included since responses are already in place. A handy-dandy graphic on the sidebar summarizes each scenario.

I reviewed each scenario and an interesting thing struck me; not one of these twelve terrorist scenarios involved .50 caliber rifles shooting down airliners or blowing up LNG tanker ships. Yesterday, I heard a Massachusetts State Senator, Jarret Barrios, go on at great length about these dangers and his desire to ban .50 caliber rifles. (see also mASS Backwards on Barrios). Yet, his fear is not reflected in "National Planning Scenarios."

Let's look a little closer at these scenarios shall we and use a gun-banner's twisted logic. Two of them involve a van. The first--terrorists drive a van containing a nuclear weapon into a city and detonate it. The second--terrorists use a van to spray aerosol anthrax in a city. So let's ban vans. In another, terrorists use a small plane to spray blister or other agents over a stadium. So, let's ban small planes. Other scenarios--terrorists could release sarin gas into office buildings' ventilation systems. So let's ban ventilation systems. Terrorists could launch cyber attacks on America's financial infrastructure resulting in no deaths but causing a large economic impact. So let's ban computers.

There are some scenarios that involve force, Two in particular are attacks where guns could be used. One is attacking oil refineries and another is infiltrating industrial storage facilities. Other possible scenarios where guns might help is placing suicide belt bombers and truck bombers in stadiums, infecting food supplies, and others.

My point; terrorists could use many tools. In all cases, terrorists would need vans, trucks, and cars for transportation. They need computers for communication and planning. They need cell phones for communication. They need explosives or their precursors for blowing things up. They need nuclear weapons or radioactive particles for dirty bombs. And, they need guns for offensive and defensive force.

It's naive to believe that we can or should ban everything a terrorist could use. Certain items because of their inherent ability to hurt many people at once do need more control. Radioactive chemicals should be hard to get. Explosives and their precursors should have reasonable controls in place. If terrorists can't buy it here they can get what they need in another country, but at least they'd have to ship it here raising risks their materials will be found and confiscated.

But other items are too useful for all of us for governments to control or ban successfully. Vans, cell phones, computers, and guns are among these. Gun hating people wouldn't agree with guns being listed here. They see no utility for guns except for police and military. They don't think target-shooting is a valid sport and they hate hunting. They don't agree that law-abiding civilians provide an important line of defense. To refute the latter, one only needs to look at Israel. At one time, few Israelis had guns, now many carry them at all times and have used them to stop or deter terrorist attacks.

So, all these bed-wetting gun fearing fools who conflate guns and terrorism need to get a life. Recognized terror attacks in America have involved vehicles, explosives, and boxcutters used to hijack airplanes. If you count John Mohammed's and Lee Malvo's Washington, D.C. sniper attacks as acts of terror, death toll comparisons are not even close (3,000 on 9/11 versus 10).

Clearly guns are not the threat that gun banners make them out to be. Banning any gun is not a viable solution. So, develop good intelligence and go after terrorists who plan to commit mass murder. Leave law-abiding citizens alone to enjoy their firearm, computer, van, and cell phone rights.

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