By Zhao Minghao Source: Global Times Published: 2016-6-15
The Orlando shooting at a gay nightclub has once again made the world feel the horror of "lone wolf" terrorist attacks. This has been the most severe shooting tragedy in the past 50 years in the US.
The attacker is born in New York, of Afghan parents who immigrated to the US, and pledged loyalty to the Islamic State (IS) shortly before the attack. His father is allegedly a supporter of the Taliban.
Such a tragic shooting is distressing, but its occurrence is not that surprising. In November last year, the deadly terror attack in Paris claimed the life of more than 120 people and French President François Hollande called it an "act of war."
After that, people predicted that more terror attacks would happen in Europe and the US. The Americans probably did not expect that the disaster would come so soon.
IS has claimed responsibility for the Orlando attack, although it appears not to have been involved in the planning or execution but to be claiming credit after the fact.
Since last year, IS launched a number of attacks in various places, which means that the group is not simply satisfied with taking control of Syria and Iraq. IS is sending attackers to other regions beyond the Arab world or instigating potential extremists in other countries to launch assaults.
Worryingly, in Western countries, there have been a number of "lone wolf" attackers with specialized skills and the "central command" ability of IS is improving. It was reported that nearly 2,000 French have become jihadists and fought in Syria. Within the European border, more than 5,000 fighters are claimed to ready for attacks.
After the 9/11 attacks, the US significantly increased its investment in anti-terrorism. Meanwhile, the Obama administration is trying to mend the country`s ties with the Muslim world. However, the Orlando shooting shows that terrorism may be returning to the US. This can be partly attributed to the loopholes in the country`s gun control policies.
The US population makes up 5 percent of the world total, but in the past five decades, 31 percent of global mass shootings outside of war take place there. About 270-310 million guns are in private hands. In the past few years, an overwhelming number of shootings took place in schools, while the Obama administration has not achieved any progress in controlling guns.
Addressing the Orlando attack, Obama reiterated the importance of gun control. "This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon […] And we have to decide if that`s the kind of country we want to be."
More importantly, this attack has been a serious provocation toward American lifestyle and the diverse values of American society. The murderer, who now appears to have been a self-hating gay man himself, deliberately chose a LGBT club that he himself had frequented to start the shooting. In the past, the terror attacks in the US were related to US foreign policy, but now they are linked to its domestic policies. This is a dangerous trend.
Due to the Paris attack last year, the French government has banned bar and restaurant owners from setting up TV screens outside their businesses during Euro 2016 to avoid mass attacks. This shows that the daily life of ordinary Europeans and Americans has been affected. It will result in the public becoming panic and furious and urging hard-line and populist politicians to respond.
After the Orlando attack, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump praised himself for his hard-line approach toward the Muslims and urged Obama to "resign in disgrace" in the wake of the shooting. Earlier, Trump called for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the US.
Some analysts predict that the attack, which took place during the US election campaigns, will boost US public`s support for Trump. Nonetheless, equaling terrorism with Muslims is groundless and provocative and only brings more resentment and insecurity.
Enhancing international anti-terror cooperation is a top priority. Western countries must amend their policies. In the past couple of years, more than 10 attack attempts were spotted by German intelligence authorities, but two US soldiers were shot dead at Germany`s Frankfurt Airport. Many observers believe Germany may be the next Western country to be the target of a terror attack.
The author is a visiting fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.