Last week when the horrible events in Pensacola, Florida played out, many Americans were shocked to find out that the perpetrator was a supposed ally of the U.S.. Mohammed Alshamrani, a 21-year old Saudi second lieutenant in the Royal Saudi Air Force went on a shooting rampage on the base. He opened fire inside a classroom at the naval base, killing three and wounding 10 others, including two sheriff’s deputies, before one of the deputies killed him. He was a naval flight officer student of Naval Aviation Schools Command at the base.
Alshamrani used a legal loophole — a hunting license exemption — to purchase a firearm legally. Foreigners can legally purchase a firearm in the state of Florida providing they are in possession of a valid hunting license or are a representative of a foreign government or law enforcement agency. According to FBI Special Agent Rachel Rojas, who is leading the investigation, this is how Alshamrani purchased the Glock pistol used in the shooting.
The FBI published a warning nearly six months ago on May 22, cautioning business owners that foreign nationals or violent extremists may be using this loophole to purchase firearms and ammunition. It added that “terrorist organizations, including ISIS, have encouraged Westerners to exploit perceived gaps in gun laws to conduct mass casualty shooting attacks in their home countries,” which is sadly exactly what happened in this case.
Later, reports stated that Alshamrani tweeted anti-U.S. material, just prior to the shooting, about the U.S./Israel relationship and accused the United States of being anti-Muslim. What isn’t known, however, is whether the statements were his or he copied them from somewhere else.
Immediately, social media erupted with many politicians calling for tighter vetting for foreign nationals coming to the U.S. for training. While many other social media users asked, “why were U.S. troops training terrorists in Pensacola.”
Among those who called for tighter vetting was Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who spoke at a news conference shortly after the incident and said the shooter left a long social media trail and had a “deep-seated hatred of the United States.”