Less than twenty-four hours after coordinated attacks left more than 750 Holiday shoppers dead and twice as many wounded, the White House conceded the likelihood of a terrorist operation.
President Obama also urged shopping malls throughout the nation to reopen tomorrow. “We can not, indeed we must not, allow terrorists to derail our Holiday shopping and thus set back our fragile economy.”
The President and top security officials conducted a videoconference with the mayors and chiefs of police of the cities in which the shootings occurred: Orlando, Memphis, Houston, Dallas, Phoenix and Tucson. The governors of Florida, Tennessee, Texas and Arizona attended.
A White House spokesman acknowledged that the attacks could not have been foreseen despite extensive security procedures. “Naturally, no one suspected anything was amiss. The shooter teams in each city made themselves practically invisible by walking into malls carrying AK-47 assault rifles with orange tips on their barrels.”
Federal law requires orange tips on the barrels of replica weapons to identify them as non-lethal collectors’ items.
Eyewitnesses in Dallas said that a young girl called out, “Mommy, those men have guns. I’m scared.” Her father then scolded her: “See those orange tips? Those nice men just want to have fun. Don’t you go trying to spoil someone’s Christmas.”
Members of Congress demanded that the F.B.I. bring the perpetrators to justice. They cited video cameras in all of the malls as playing a major role in the investigation. They acknowledged, however, that the shooters wore masks portraying Santa’s reindeer and elves when entering the malls.
The National Rifle Association challenged protests by groups supporting tougher gun laws. An NRA spokesman stated that sufficient federal laws already exist, and that the Second Amendment protects Americans’ rights to have toys and take them anywhere. “Let’s remember that Americans love guns. Who wouldn’t want a replica of an AK-47, not to mention the real thing?”
A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Dem.-Cal.) hinted that Mrs. Pelosi might consider initiating legislation banning replicas if she can find adequate support among fellow Democrats. “Of course, serious discussions won’t be conducted until Congress comes back from its Holiday vacation. The Minority Leader also understands that this is a hot-button political issue that could endanger Democratic seats in the House.”
A spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (Rep.-Ohio) dismissed as “anti-American” the possibility of a vote banning replicas coming to the House floor.
In a related matter, investigations continue into the October 22 police shooting that killed 13-year-old Andy Lopez in Santa Rosa, California. The boy carried an AK-47 replica known as an airsoft gun, which uses compressed air to propel plastic pellets. California law requires an orange tip on the barrel of replicas but not on airsoft guns.
Manufacturers of airsoft and related paintball guns declined comment on the Holiday shootings. They cited respect for the dead and wounded.
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