By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - As Americans reel from what some have called the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, the country may find itself unable to prevent the next tragedy from occurring, according to experts.
At issue is what is commonly referred to as “soft targets” -- relatively unprotected sites where people gather.
Bars, music and sports venues, office buildings and schools have been increasingly chosen as targets of choice for mass shooters, most recently last weekend when Omar Mateen allegedly massacred 49 people and injured more than 50 others at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
Mateen was heavily armed, using an AR-15-style assault rifle and a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun to commit mass murder.
"How do you prevent something like Orlando with someone who is ready to commit mass murder, is heavily armed, and doesn’t care if he dies?" asks Chris McGoey, a Los Angeles-based security consultant.
"That’s very difficult to prevent.
"There’s very few reasonable things that can be done in the business community that will prevent such an act, either today or tomorrow," he tells Anadolu Agency.
Successive layers of security can be added to various venues, essentially "hardening" the target to mass shootings.
Those steps may include posting a bouncer at the door, metal detectors at entrances, having armed guards on patrol, and establishing a place in a business that can be sectioned off relatively easily.
But those steps may be insufficient given the level of weaponry that mass shooters are using, and their fatalistic commitment to cause as much damage as possible without regard for their own life.
Asked if he thought businesses could get to an adequate level of readiness to neutralize the threat posed by mass shooters, McGoey says, “The short answer is no."
"To be at that state of readiness you’re talking about an armed camp everywhere, every public setting, every place, every shop, every school, every institution has to be an armed camp. We’re not going to go there. Nobody wants to be there."
At Larry’s Lounge, a gay-friendly bar in Washington DC’s Dupont Circle neighborhood, owner Ronald Robinson says that while he was shaken by the Orlando attack he will not ramp up security at the bar.
Doing so would mean "those people are winning".
"They want to make you scared," he says. "You can be scared, but you’ve still got to run your life the way you’re running it."
Complicating matters, terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and Daesh have moved away from directing specific attacks in preference of inspiring individuals to carry out independent attacks.
Daesh, for example, has urged its followers to use whatever means they have available to inflict harm.
Terror groups’ tactics when combined with America’s relatively lax gun laws "is one potent cocktail", according to Alyssa Sims, an international security researcher at the New America Foundation.
"Anyone can get wind of an idea and they have access to firearms and they can go out and strike any soft target in America. You have to shift your focus."
That shift should be toward gun control, she says, because keeping guns out of potentially dangerous people’s hands is easier than winning the war of ideas.
Sims acknowledges the unique American context to the debate given the Constitution’s Second Amendment, which guarantees citizens a right to bear arms.
"We’re in a unique position because this is something that is in our Constitution, it’s a constitutional right to bear arms and you can argue over to what extent that was intended in the original writing of it, but it’s definitely close to the United States in the way that it isn’t to a lot of other countries."
Calls for greater restrictions may receive some traction following the Orlando shooting.
Mateen was interviewed twice by the FBI for terrorism concerns and was reportedly on the bureau’s watch list. But that did not disqualify him from walking into a gun shop and legally purchasing the firearms he used in the early Sunday morning attack.
Some have questioned why that was possible in the first place.
Others have taken issue with the continued legality of assault rifles, weapons that are designed to inflict great harm on their targets in a relatively short amount of time.
Of the 10 U.S. shootings with the highest number of casualties, which includes killed and wounded, assault rifles were used in seven of them, according to data compiled by the Mother Jones online news magazine.
Despite the Orlando tragedy, it is unclear if Congress will act on an assault weapons ban or legislating restrictions to prohibit individuals on watch lists from being able to legally acquire firearms.
Still, Sims insists that "even minor restrictions would produce a large reduction in gun violence".