The tragic events at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida have left the nation and much of the world distraught. The actions that took place are unforgivable and downright disgusting.
What started as a night of partying and fun ended with massacre and destruction; the night that turned into a nightmare.
All 50 states are feeling the effects of the largest mass shooting in United States history. It’s natural to sit here still trying to make sense of what happened.
We the people are hurting with sadness, left with questions, and searching for the answer, any answer. What seems to be a consistently growing pattern is incredibly frustrating.
Why does this keep happening? What can we do as a nation? What can I do personally? Who has the solution? What’s the plan of action so we no longer have to live in fear?
If we can’t feel safe at churches, nightclubs, movie theaters, and schools, then where can we? I wish I had any semblance of an answer.
Rather than publicizing the attacker, as he would most likely want, the focus should be on remembering the victims and praying for their families in these tough times.
And as we move forward towards a solution, it must not be ignored who the shooter was. We should not remember him by name, but by what he did to our fellow Americans.
How he pledged his loyalty to ISIS and took it upon himself to kill 50 Americans. How he made a conscious decision to attach the United States.
That will not be forgotten. That cannot be forgotten.
It’s incredibly unfortunate to see people immediately making these tragedies into a political matter.
Perhaps it’s because we’re in an election year, one that’s created more uproar than any election in recent memory. Maybe it’s due to the fact that it’s been happening more as of late.
We can view this as an issue with gun laws, or we can see it as the issue with radical Islamic terrorism. But why does it have to be one over the other?
How about both? They’re both serious issues that need conversation. The bottom line is action needs to be taken to stop this from continuing.
You or I can’t change gun laws or stop the terrorists on our own, nor will it take a 180 at the snap of a finger.
Regardless of which side of the political spectrum you reside on, there’s a clear issue with powerful weapons ending up in the hands of dangerous people.
We could sit back and assume the problem is that they’re legally purchasing guns without a proper background check being launched against them.
The regulators undeniably have to be more mindful of who exactly these gun makers are selling weapons to. But what about when they’re not who they say they are?
What happens when they’re literally not who they say they are?
When a bad person, a monster, a terrorist, a killer, steals someone else’s identity, the potential is almost unfathomable.
The United States Department of Justice defines ‘identity theft’ as all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and used another person’s personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.
But the potential goes far greater than a financial loss. The perilous connection between identity theft and purchasing firearms has taken on new meaning in light of recent events.
While it’s always been a threat, the danger is more real now than ever before. Mass shootings are occurring too often, and identity theft has become far too rampant in our society.
There are many levels and layers to identity theft. It could be as small as an internet hack like we saw with the NFL and Roger Goodell.
On a higher level, credit cards get stolen all the time, often resulting in financial trouble, sometimes ever turmoil.
However, when firearms and illegally obtained weapons come into play, it no longer becomes a harmless prank or something a quick phone call can’t put a stop to.
People’s lives are at stake; innocent, American lives are at stake. And that’s not worth taking for granted.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics, otherwise known as the BJS, reported that in 2012, almost 17 million people, 16.6 more approximately, had their identity stolen.
The final total of financial losses accrued from the ID theft epidemic amounted to $24.7 billion.
That was $10 billion more and almost twice as much than losses attributed to all other property crimes combined in 2012. 2 out of 3 people don’t even know how their information gets stolen.
Whereas the vast majority of identity theft victims patch up these issues in 24 hours or less, 10% need over a month to solve their problems.
The point being is that it’s irrelevant how long it took to fix, as is how it happened. Once an identity is stolen, once the information is in someone’s hands, the damage can be done quickly.
The potential for harm is palpable and real, not to mention the emotional distress and anxiety one may go through when there’s the possibility of another person out there pretending to be them, with access to anything they choose.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) indicted seven people about two years ago for exactly this, using a stolen identity for their own personal firearm purchase.
The 2014 released statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Alabama, on behalf of the Department of Justice, divulged a brief summary of each conspirator and their crimes.
In some cases, multiple people worked together as co-conspirators.
One example given in the article describes when one person used their authority and access to personal information at work to carry out the plan; Quantrey Kantrell Bryant had a friend who supplied him with his company’s customer’s names as well as their credit and debit card information.
Bryant then took that illegally obtained, yet valuable, information and used it to make fraudulent purchases (with the card info) such as guns and cars.
Bryant was brought up on several charges including (1) conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud affecting federally insured financial institutions, (2) aggravated identity theft, (3) conspiracy to obtain firearms illegally, and (4) being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
Those are all punishable, respectively, by (1) max of 30 years in prison plus a $1 million fine, (2) two years in prison to be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed on the same crime, (3) max sentence of five years in jail plus a $250K fine, and (4) max sentence of ten years in prison and a $250K fine.
Guns bought in the black market
Once a gun is bought unlawfully with a stolen identity, there’s an immediate threat that those guns can then be sold once again on the black market.
It’s far from outlandish to assume that once one crime is committed, another crime linked to the first may be imminent.
In addition, it’s not unreasonable to believe that the person buying that gun doesn’t have a legal license.
The domino effect begins and moves very quickly, leaving it difficult and sometimes impossible for authorities to track down and recover all of those guns.
Shawn LaBeet, of Miami, used the stolen identity of a Kevin Wehner from Jacksonville to buy six high-powered assault weapons and three handguns.
Not only did he illegally purchase the guns, but he used one or more of them to kill four police officers. It seems that the average person doesn’t care about guns, whether legal or not, until an innocent person gets killed.
While that’s understandable, given how news stories spread like a forest fire, that’s also part of the problem.
The proper measures need to be taken before it can come down to that.
Shawn LaBeet never should have killed those four innocent police officers, but he also shouldn’t have been able to attain the weapons in general. As individuals, we need to protect our information.
And as a nation, we need to be proactive and not reactive. Until these shootings and tragedies come to an end, it will only look as if we are a step behind, a day late and a dollar short.
Why is it that conversations don’t arise until after people get killed?
Just this year, back in January, a man in Houston had a gun shipped to his home, one he said he did not purchase.
He claimed someone had stolen is identity and information and used that to buy and ship a Hungarian rifle AK63 to his home in Texas.
Choosing to remain anonymous, to no surprise, the man refuted the purchase and made note of a separate fraudulent charge linked to his bank account out in Colorado.
Though he only actually received individual parts of a rifle, not enough to assemble a working firearm, he has stuck to his guns (no pun intended) and remains set that his identity had to have been stolen for this to happen.
He had money stolen from his account, and gun parts were shipped to his home.
And on top of that, he’s not completely in the clear, as this whole ordeal is being investigated to prove his innocence and validate his claim as nothing more than a victim to identity theft.
The three examples above are only a small sample amongst an all-too-prevalent nationwide problem of unqualified gun-suitors using stolen identities to illegally purchase firearms.
A scary fact to consider is how people are sometimes able to get their hands on guns without any ID at all!
In a hidden camera investigation, CNN proved how easy it is to buy a gun without even showing a form of identification, let alone a full background check.
In private sales, or at gun shows, the only qualification “check” needed is proof that you don’t live outside of that state – that’s it.
Not showing an ID once during the investigation, the buyer was able to get their hands on three different semi-automatic handguns and one semi-automatic rifle, along with extra magazines.
There was no paper trail. And that’s how easy it is.
If guns are so accessible without showing ID or qualifying through a background check, imagine how smooth the process is if you have a stolen ID of someone who is otherwise qualified. It’s a scary thought.
Days later, the nation still keeps Orlando in thoughts and prayers. Efforts are being made all over to reach out and help the victims and their families.
We can only hope that the government and Congress are taking action to prevent another Orlando-like event from happening again.
There are many conversations that need to be had involving border control, gun laws, and more.
Whether you’re an advocate of the Second Amendment or not, the right to bear arms, it’s a fact that there are bad people in possession of dangerous weapons.
Maybe they’re passing a background check, which is a big issue, or perhaps they’re stealing other’s identities to qualify for gun purchase.
It’s an epidemic that is sweeping the nation that needs immediate addressing on every level from the top of the governmental chain down to me and you.
It has grown to the point where we should all feel our own social obligation to take the steps that prevent our identities to get stolen. We cannot be naïve and allow ourselves to fall victim.
Is it my fault if my information ends up in the hands of a criminal who will use it to buy a gun and kill innocent people?
Probably not, but I, for one, won’t sit quietly and expose myself and others to that budding and conceivable risk.