Monday night, Bill O'Reilly appeared on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert and the usually unflappable host appeared almost completely deflated by O'Reilly's bellicosity in the aftermath of Orlando, along with the Fox News Channel pundit's backstopping of Donald Trump's post-Orlando tweets. When Colbert observed that it's ultimately impossible to destroy an ideology, O'Reilly said, point blank, that destroying ISIS would be literally impossible. Instead, we should seek to "cut the head off the snake" and reduce it down in size until it was no longer a viable faction.
Hmm. Got it. O'Reilly's hawkish remarks had little or nothing to do with the targeting of gay Americans and everything to do with an unironic post-Bush-43 attitude that ISIS can be destroyed by brute force rather than the targeted, laser-like approach we've seen with the Obama administration.
Awkwardly, O'Reilly's argument about decapitating ISIS until it's no longer a serious problem is the same argument John Kerry made about the war on terror back in 2004. The then-presidential candidate famously predicted that fighting al-Qaeda should eventually take on more of a law enforcement approach rather than a military approach.
''As a former law enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life.''
O'Reilly and the Republicans blasted Kerry at the time for downplaying the terrorist threat. Indeed, it was one of the lines that lost the election for Kerry after Karl Rove and the Bush campaign ran countless ads playing Kerry as an effete terrorist sympathizer. Today, it's Bill O'Reilly's exact position.
Funny how things change in just 12 years. One of the chief disqualifying aspects of the Kerry campaign in 2004 is now the opinion of the most popular conservative host on all of cable news.
Furthermore, it's a hell of an argument in support of new gun regulations. I'll explain.
One of the top-shelf excuses against expanding gun regulations. Pro-gun hobbyists, along with the broader gun-lobby-owned GOP, too often tell us that even if we ban assault weapons, while restricting access to other varieties of firearms via a more strenuous background check system, the evildoers will still acquire guns for carrying out mass shootings and the like. The rationale is essentially that would-be crooks will buy stolen guns off the black market and continue on about their homicidal ways, leaving law-abiding gun owners defenseless due to the newly enacted regulations. (As if that'll ever happen.)
As for the gun debate, the same theory O'Reilly and, before him, Kerry applied to the war on terror can be used to undermine the pro-gun argument about background checks and other restrictions on gun purchases, including a reinstatement of an assault weapons ban that'd remove the AR-15 -- the Sandy Hook, Aurora, San Bernardino and Orlando weapon -- from stores.
Simply put: if we endeavor to reduce the number of firearms available and apply restrictions on the ones that are, sure, there will still be gun crimes, but they'll be reduced a more manageable and less significant rate. If O'Reilly and the GOP believe this to be true about confronting ISIS, why can't it be true about confronting the proliferation of firearms in the United States? Naturally, O'Reilly and his disciples will predictably refuse to acknowledge the obvious inconsistency, of course, but logically speaking, the same theory seems to apply in both cases.
It might shock pro-gun hobbyists to learn that the idea behind a gun ban or tougher regulations was never about eliminating all guns or all gun violence, now and forever. Likewise, terrorism will never cease to exist, either. But reaching the conclusion that guns will become exponentially more difficult to attain in a more restricted consumer environment is a no-brainer. First of all, according to a recent study published by Mother Jones, between 1982 and 2012, 49 mass shootings were perpetrated using guns that were legally purchased, while illegal firearms were used in just 12 shootings. It's also worth noting that among all mass shootings in that time period, 44 involved revolvers or shotguns, while a whoppingly lopsided 99 involved semi-automatic handguns and rifles.
If, say, a ban on semi-automatic weapons was enacted it's easy to conclude that these numbers would be reduced significantly. As proof, we only need to look at the nation-by-nation numbers. The United States has some of the least restrictive gun laws and the highest rate of gun violence among "peer nations." That'd be 29.7 homicides per million people. Second place is Switzerland with just 7.7 homicides. The lowest is Australia with an admirable 1.4. The logic behind these numbers is clear. Fewer guns means fewer gun deaths. Australia, in particular, hasn't had any mass shootings since enacting its assault weapons ban.
At the same time, anyone with functioning gray-matter would have to conclude that it's much easier to buy an AR-15 from Dick's Sporting Goods than from an underground dealer -- cheaper, too, adding an economic layer that'd surely discourage more than a few potential shooters. Beyond any other argument, suggesting that we shouldn't enact certain regulations because crooks will be crooks regardless of what we do, well, that's a fantastic argument against having any laws at all.
The brutal irony here is that O'Reilly and his GOP fanboys in Congress believe suspected terrorists living in the United States, including citizens, should be allowed to stockpile as many firearms as they want. We're supposed to declare war on ISIS and enlist all of NATO in the effort, yet ISIS suspects should have unfettered access to American-made-and-sold firearms? In what universe does this make a lick of sense?
Nothing like "decapitating" the enemy, right, Bill?
Worse, it should be obvious that blocking access to the deadliest firearms available, along with their extended magazines, would decapitate the potential for active shooting situations. It won't drop the rate to zero, but any strides in that direction will surely save lives while leaving certain firearms available to law-abiding citizens who've managed to keep their noses clean.
And I'm fairly certain that O'Reilly's proposed "declared" war on ISIS will include destroying their weapons stockpiles overseas while cutting off their supply lines -- so why not here?
I assure you, they don't have a good answer to that question, and they likely never will. They're running out of passable arguments, and there's simply no way to reconcile their rhetoric about ISIS and their rhetoric about guns. Hopefully, this portends a move toward rationality on guns, and a lot less gibberish in support of these deadly retail products.