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Joe Henderson: After Nice carnage, how can we prevent ‘lone wolf’ attacks?

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

So … another warped human has inflicted more misery upon the world. Motivated, perhaps, by tiny voices in his head that repeated a mantra of hate, Mohammed Lahouaiej Bouhle plowed his 20-ton rented truck through a crowd of holiday revelers in the picturesque French town of Nice.

He killed 84 people before he, too, was killed.

There were immediate calls both here and in other nations to step up attacks against radical Islam. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told Fox News: you “Western civilization is in a war. We should frankly test every person here who is of Muslim background, and if they believe in Shariah (law), they should be deported. Shariah is incompatible with Western civilization.”

Take a deep breath. Just because this killer’s first name was Mohammed doesn’t mean he was a foot soldier in the caliphate.

Indeed, while no one is or should rule out the possibility of a tie to organized terrorism, it’s just possible this demented soul’s actions just bubbled up from a cesspool that has little, if anything, to do with Islam – radical or otherwise.

The Telegraph of London quoted neighbors describing Bouhel as “a depressed – sometimes aggressive – man who was not particularly interested in religion.”

Another told BFM TV he was “more into women than religion.”

“He (didn’t) pray and like(d) girls and Salsa,” according to the station.

So what we could have here is the kind of attacker for which there is no defense. French police knew about Bouhel, but considered him a petty criminal and general misfit. He didn’t broadcast his intentions online. He apparently didn’t frequent locations that could have tipped police that he was a man with darker intentions.

The anger bubbling in his soul was likely no different from whatever motivated Timothy McVeigh to plan and execute the Oklahoma City bombing. Or Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber.

I looked up “lone wolf attacks” online and saw 63 such instances in the United States alone from 1993 until the recent Orlando shootings. Some of them were carried out by radical Muslims, but most of them were the hatchlings of individuals – key word there – determined to make others feel the hurt inside them.

Can we really defend against that?

The National Rifle Association would say, “You betcha!” Just load the good guys with enough guns; problem solved!

And on a side note, it is the epitome of stupidity that people entering the 1.7-square-mile event zone near the Republican convention site in downtown Cleveland can’t carry, among other things, tennis balls or canned goods.

But if they are so inclined, an AR-15 rifle designed by as a military weapon is permitted under Ohio’s open-carry law.

That’s a column for another day, though. Besides, defenders of the NRA would say this killer drove a truck, so should we ban all trucks?

Get real.

The immediate task now is cleaning up the carnage, burying the dead, observing moments of silence and supportive hashtags, all while offering a plea to the Almighty to keep the people we love most safe from people like Mohammed Lahouaiej Bouhle.

They are out there cooking right now. Some of them are radical Muslims no doubt, but not all. We can’t figure them, and we haven’t been able to stop them until it’s too late. If anyone has any bright ideas how we might do that, this would be a good time to share.

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Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also including hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.

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