No more Turkey shoots: Time to turn terrorist ‘soft targets’ into hard targets

Robert Bridge
Robert Bridge, an American writer and journalist based in Moscow, Russia, is the author of the book on corporate power, “Midnight in the American Empire”, released in 2013.
No more Turkey shoots: Time to turn terrorist ‘soft targets’ into hard targets
Presently, terrorists enjoy the unbridled freedom, as it were, of hitting civilian ‘soft targets’ with complete impunity, as was the case at a Turkish nightclub last week when a gunman killed 39 people and injured dozens. It's time for some vigilance.

turkey shoot (noun): a. Something easily accomplished; piece of cake. 

In the latest spate of unrequited violence to rock the world, Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for a New Year's Eve attack at Istanbul's Reina nightclub, a place that was popular with locals and tourists alike. 

According to Hurriyet, the Turkish daily, a gunman entered the packed club and went on a shooting spree. He was met with no resistance, and even had enough time to change cartridges in his assault rifle six times, unloading over 180 bullets at revelers. 

Incredibly, just one security guard was on duty to protect over 700 patrons of the venue, and this during the most popular event of the year. Media reports said the guard was unarmed, yet in Turkey it is legal to carry a handgun (automatic and semi-automatic weapons are prohibited) in plain view, subject to a valid permit. Thus, the guard at the door needlessly became the first victim of the gunman, a highly trained killer, who even took the extra precaution of cleaning his weapon before fleeing the scene.

“The attacker is a determined, faithful, practical, coldblooded, expert and knows how to get results,” anti-terror expert Abdullah Ağar told Hurriyet.

This atrocity came just days after Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, was shot and killed by an off-duty Turkish police officer as Karlov addressed an art exhibition in the capital Ankara.

Perhaps the only comfort we can take away from such tragedies is the thought of what could have been done to prevent them in the first place. We could imagine, for example, such a cold-blooded murderer unwittingly walking into a modern version of 'Custard's Last Stand' as he is greeted by several armed guards - or even gun-toting civilians with special permits - when he flashes his weapon. How would this coward react once he understood that some of the sitting ducks were actually shooting back? Unfortunately, we'll never know the answer to that question, but it's a safe bet he would have beat a retreat. 

Turning soft targets into hard targets 

The question I would like to explore is not a new one: How do we turn civilian ‘soft targets’ into ‘hard targets’ without sacrificing our civil liberties in the process? Why must innocent people out on the town become target practice for any would-be killer(s)? Vigilant measures need to be enacted against these perpetrators who think nothing of gunning down unarmed civilians in cold blood. 

This is no idle question since we've certainly not seen the last of such deadly attacks so long as maniacs like ISIS continue to stalk the planet. And it should be emphasized that the question applies not just to Turkey.

Europe has also been experiencing a rash of terrorist attacks that began in earnest on January 7, 2015 with the shooting at the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that left 12 employees dead. The situation has gravely deteriorated ever since German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the flood gates to millions of undocumented migrants fleeing from Middle East hotspots.

In June, after a gunman killed 9 people at a Munich mall, Frauke Petry, the leader of Germany’s nationalist party Alternative fur Deutschland, said Germans should have the right to own guns amid migrant-related violence. 

How would this coward react once he understood that some of the sitting ducks were actually shooting back? Unfortunately, we'll never know the answer to that question, but it's a safe bet he would have beat a retreat. 

It is not uncommon, however, for governments to overreact following such tragedies, which actually serves to victimize the people twice – once by the terrorists who randonly take away lives and once by their leaders who remove hard-earned civil liberities. 

Following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, for example, which killed almost 3,000 people in New York City and Washington, D.C., US lawmakers rushed through a raft of controversial legislation, known as the PATRIOT ACT, a 3,420-page document that some critics say allowed Osama bin Laden to claim victory in the so-called ‘war on terror’ before it ever began. 

Indeed, it is a fact that most of the US congressmen never even read the document, which is amazing when we realize the document has allowed for government snooping into every corner of American life – from what books an individual checks out of the local library, to undergoing invasive TSA security checks at the airport. 

Clearly, the sort of vigilance that kills our civil liberties is not the sort of remedy we should be looking for. As Benjamin Franklin said, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." 

It is the duty of governments, some would argue, to enact measures that will prevent terrorists from killing innocent civilians while, at the same time, not crossing the line by introducing so many safeguards that they essentially create a police state. Such an arrangement would fly in the face of our fun-loving democracies, making them more resemble dictatorships wheezing under the jackboot of martial law.

Although some forms of terrorism are almost impossible for average citizens to defend against - like car bombs going off in an urban center - that is not always the case. The specter of a gunman entering a public venue and shooting up the place is something that should never be allowed to happen. And it does seem preventable.

Beefing up the number of armed and undercover security guards at such venues is the first obvious measure. Although the thought of having to attend a public party in the vicinity of armed guards may not sound very appealing, the thought of a gunman opening fire at such venues is certainly much less so.

The undeniable fact is if just one individual inside of the Reina nightclub had been armed with a handgun, many innocent people would have lived to see 2017. 

Installing metal detectors would also serve to possibly deter any would-be killer, although such technologies are certainly not flawless and come with a high price as well. Would people be willing to pay higher entrance fees at public venues to ensure a safer environment? Although the very presence of such devices detract from the overall atmosphere, it seems a small annoyance to suffer when we consider the other less attractive possibilities. 

But again, the question of security always comes down to a matter of degrees. Nobody wants to surrender an excessive amount of freedom in the quest for security - which can never be 100 percent guaranteed anyways - otherwise we have let the bad guys win.

Would-be terrorists can no longer have the luxury of killing scores of innocent people in cold blood. It's time to turn terrorist soft targets into hard targets that will always find the will and the means to defend themselves. 

@Robert_Bridge

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.