Partisan spin doesn’t usually surprise me — after almost 15 years in politics, I’ve come to expect it from both sides in response to both triumphs and tragedies. But I was honestly surprised when, after the worst terrorist attack on our soil since Sept. 11, the left’s response was to blame the National Rifle Association, the Republican Party, and an imaginary class of scary-looking firearms. Remember when the country used to come together after terrorist attacks and unite against our common foes?

Partisan spin doesn’t usually surprise me — after almost 15 years in politics, I’ve come to expect it from both sides in response to both triumphs and tragedies. But I was honestly surprised when, after the worst terrorist attack on our soil since Sept. 11, the left’s response was to blame the National Rifle Association, the Republican Party, and an imaginary class of scary-looking firearms. Remember when the country used to come together after terrorist attacks and unite against our common foes?


Well this isn’t 2001 anymore. President Barack Obama remains committed to discussing our common foe as little as possible, choosing instead to join his party’s attack against the Second Amendment and the people who support it. This isn’t new for him. After San Bernadino, he infamously stated that "we have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world," ignoring the fact that, only two weeks earlier, Islamic terrorists had attacked Paris in its third mass shooting of 2015. Blaming guns for terrorist shootings is like blaming airplanes for Sept. 11. France has far more firearms restrictions than the president has publicly advocated. India’s gun laws are even more extreme than France’s, but the worst mass shooting I can recall took place in Mumbai in 2008, when 10 Muslim terrorists attacked the city for three days, killing 164 people and wounding another 300.


There is a common theme to these attacks, and it’s not AR-15s or "assault weapons," as guns that look like the AR-15 are often described. The term "assault weapon" is intentionally confusing. The gun control activists who coined it wanted it to sound like "assault rifle," which is an actual class of military arms. But the two are not the same. Assault rifles are capable of fully automatic fire, while assault weapons are only semi-automatic. ("Automatic" means the gun will fire multiple shots if you hold the trigger down, while "semi-automatic" means the gun will only shoot once per trigger pull.)


The expired federal ban that invented the term "assault weapon" defined it as any semi-automatic rifle capable of accepting a detachable magazine with two or more of the following features: a folding or telescoping stock, a pistol grip, a bayonet mount, a flash suppressor or a grenade launcher mount. None of those listed features affect the gun’s power or rate of fire; they are all either cosmetic or ergonomic in nature.


Although AR-15s are frequently called "high-powered" in the media, this is only true in the target-shooting sense. To put this in perspective, the AR-15’s standard chambering makes it too weak to hunt deer legally in many states. In fact, the lower power of AR-15-style rifles relative to most others, combined with their good ergonomics, is what makes them the best-selling rifles in the country and the perennial favorite of recreational shooters.


Where guns are illegal, terrorists nevertheless manage to get a hold of them. When a person decides to commit multiple counts of premeditated murder, followed by suicide, statutes banning the possession of certain weapons don’t act as much of a deterrent. The common theme of these attacks is not lax gun laws; it is the repeated radicalization of a small number of Muslims by ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other organizations like them that have declared a religious war on the United States and its allies. The solution to Orlando, San Bernadino, Paris, Mumbai, and scores of other attacks across the world is not banning scary-looking guns. It’s figuring out how to shut down these terror networks and their hateful propaganda.


Craig Estes, a republican, of Wichita Falls represents the 30th District in the Texas Senate. Email him at craig.estes@senate.state.tx.us.