This attack is the 22nd plot or attack since the start of 2015, and the sixth this year. The massacre in Orlando is also the 20th attack or plot aimed at large public gatherings, such as bars and restaurants, shopping malls, parks, and conventions.
Mass gatherings are the second-most common target, just after military targets, which have been targeted 21 times. Since January 2015, the U.S. has seen an uptick in plots targeting mass gatherings (nine) as well as law enforcement (four). Orlando presents the 11th attack since 9/11 and, perhaps most worryingly, the fifth attack in the past 12 months.
The shift to “soft targets” like malls and bars places additional importance on stopping terrorists before they ever get to their target. The U.S. cannot secure every soft target, nor would its citizens want a police state that would try to be everywhere. The best way to protect the U.S. and its citizens’ liberties is through proactive intelligence. The FBI and other law enforcement organizations need adequate resources and tools to find, investigate, and stop terrorists before they strike.
The U.S. also needs to do more to combat the threat of Islamist terrorist groups abroad. Of the 22 plots or attacks since the start of 2015, 19 have been committed by individuals inspired by ISIS or other terrorist groups in Syria, such as the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra. Defeating radical Islamism abroad is critical to defeating it at home.
Our hearts and prayers go out to victims of the Orlando terror attack. Rather than getting caught up in emotional and knee-jerk “solutions,” the U.S. must commit to proactively combatting terrorism at home and abroad.
This piece has been updated to state there have been four attacks against law enforcement since 2015.