Gun Control Can't Stop Such 'Low-Tech Horror' as Truck Attack in France, Says Baylor Terrorism Scholar

Jenkins
Philip Jenkins, Ph.D.
July 15, 2016

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WACO, Texas (July 15, 2016) — Terrorism scholar Philip Jenkins of Baylor University was horrified, but not surprised, to learn that a truck mowed down people during a celebration in Nice, France, Thursday, killing more than 80 and injuring dozens.

Gun control can’t prevent such “low-tech horror,” and he predicted such attacks a week ago in a column in The American Conservative.

“If a mysterious alien ray swept every gun off the North American continent tomorrow, very ordinary and low-skilled militants could still perpetrate horrendous violence quite comparable to last month’s Orlando attacks,” wrote Jenkins, Ph.D., a Distinguished Professor of History in Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion.

Jenkins, who is traveling in Europe, cited the eight Islamist militants who wielded long-bladed knives in a deadly attack on civilians in 2014 at a Chinese train station. And in Israel — where militants find it all but impossible to obtain guns and explosives — Palestinian guerillas have used cars, tractors and bulldozers.

Before the slaughter in Nice, Jenkins had written that “the most striking thing about these lone-wolf vehicular attacks is just how relatively small the casualties have been . . . It would be easy to imagine drivers choosing denser crowds, during busy shopping seasons or major sporting events.

“Long lines of fans or shoppers or travelers represent a target-rich environment.”

Limiting access to firearms would do nothing to prevent such low-tech violence. What is needed is efficient intelligence-gathering, monitoring and surveillance, and psychological profiling, he says.

But even those methods will not zero in on every potential assailant. They also may produce lots of “false positives — aggressive blowhards who in reality will never commit a crime,” Jenkins says.

Law enforcement agencies face a huge challenge, he says, and prevention of such tragedies is "crucial to contemporary political debates.”

Jenkins is the author of “The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade” and “Laying Down the Sword: Why We Can’t Ignore the Bible’s Violent Verses.”

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Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

ABOUT THE INSTITUTE FOR STUDIES OF RELIGION

Launched in August 2004, the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) exists to initiate, support and conduct research on religion, involving scholars and projects spanning the intellectual spectrum: history, psychology, sociology, economics, anthropology, political science, epidemiology, theology and religious studies. The institute’s mandate extends to all religions, everywhere, and throughout history, and embraces the study of religious effects on prosocial behavior, family life, population health, economic development and social conflict. While always striving for appropriate scientific objectivity, ISR scholars treat religion with the respect that sacred matters require and deserve.

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