The Aftermath Of The Orlando Shooting
Yesterday, the country awoke to the news that 49 daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, friends, Pride revelers, had their lives cut short by a senseless act of hate and terror. In the early hours of Sunday morning, 29-year-old Omar Mateen entered Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, with an AR-15-type semiautomatic rifle and a 9 millimeter handgun and killed 49 people and injured another 53. The attack marks the deadliest shooting in U.S. history.
Motives matter, and more details about what drove Mateen to commit this heinous act will continue to be made clear in the coming days. We know that while he represents only a tiny fraction of Muslims, he was inspired by ISIS and, according to reports from his father, driven by homophobia. We know that this was an act of hate and an act of terror.
We also know that this heartbreak, a heartbreak that has become all too familiar, is uniquely American. No other comparable nation experiences even close to the same levels of gun deaths as the United States. In no other country does it seem normal for another five, 10, 49 lives to be taken by a gun with this terrifying regularity. This routine—it isn’t normal.
In 2012, Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary school with the same type of gun Omar Mateen brought into Pulse and killed 20 children, six adults, and himself. Since then, there have been more than 1,000 mass shootings, claiming more than 1,100 lives and injuring nearly 4,000 more. And still Congress has done nothing.
As President Obama said in his address yesterday, “To actively do nothing is a decision as well.” In the wake of mass shooting after mass shooting, Congress has failed to pass any commonsense legislation—from background checks on gun sales, to assault weapons bans, to closing the terror gap—that would help prevent gun violence. Stronger gun laws may not be able to stop every shooter. But they will save lives.
We also know that ready access to guns makes it easier to commit acts of hate meant to terrorize an entire community. While yesterday’s shooting was the deadliest act of gun violence in American history, it is far from an isolated act of violence against the LGBT community. The fact that the majority of lives taken in yesterday’s attack were LGBT people of color gives devastating weight to the fact that LGBT people of color are most likely among LGBT people generally to experience violence.
Remarkable progress towards acceptance and equality has been made in recent years, from marriage equality to the introduction of The Equality Act, yesterday’s shooting serves as a stark reminder of how much work there is still left to do. Florida is one of many states without comprehensive protections for the LGBT community. That means that any gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender survivor of yesterday’s shooting could legally be fired from their jobs today simply because of who they love and who they are.
BOTTOM LINE: Congress has the ability to help achieve full LGBT acceptance and equality, to dismantle ISIS and other terrorist networks, to put an end to dangerous rhetoric and Islamophobia, and to keep weapons off of our streets. We cannot wait for the next deadliest mass shooting. We must act now.
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