Another barbarous attack on western freedoms

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The massacre in Orlando, Florida has left more than 50 people dead and is already the worst shooting in domestic American history.

That is quite a thing to be able to say about a shooting in a nation that has had many atrocities.

It is now emerging that the gunman Omar Mateen was known to the authorities, for having made inflammatory comments and for having a loose link to a suicide bomber.

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We will have to suspend judgement on whether or not there was official incompetence. This is often assumed in such cases, but the authorities can be overwhelmed with information about large numbers of individuals, the great majority of which comes to nothing.

This is a tragic episode, having taken place in a night club, where people are out to have fun. The premises where it happened were described as a gay club in some reports, and ‘gay-friendly’ in others. Pictures of injured people who were in the club show men and women and people of a wide age range.

Increasingly in western societies, this is how many people socialise, without some of the social divisions of the past.

It is a freedom that Islamic fanatics despise.

As has been said countless times in recent decades, the great bulk of the Islamic world is moderate.

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The fanatics make up a small proportion of global Muslims. But the problem for both Muslim and non Muslim societies is that these terrorists are proportionately tiny in number but their absolute numbers are large.

They can and will inflict much damage. The taste for extremism could wane with time, and it is to be hoped that anti radicalisation programmes will have an impact.

The US, meanwhile, clearly has a gun problem. It has every right to pursue whatever gun policy it wants to pursue, and will not take advice from Europe. There are good historical reasons why the right to bear arms is cherished. But occasional massacres will happen while guns are so available.