Struggle for Equality is Still Alive Today!
At two o’clock in the morning on June 11th, 2016, Omar Mateen approached the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida carrying two legally obtained firearms: a Sig MCX assault rifle and a Glock 17. Inside Pulse, over three hundred people were dancing and celebrating pride month, while being entertained by transgender performers. The bar had just served last call drinks, and the celebration that had stretched into the early hours of the morning was set to wind down within the hour. Were it any other night, the club’s patrons would have likely spent that next hour or so filtering out of the club into the humid Florida night, and into the back seats of taxi cabs with friends and loved ones for the quiet ride home.
Instead, nearly a third of those three hundred people inside would either never leave alive,
or would have to be carried out by Orlando’s emergency services. What had started off the night before as a celebration of love, culture, and identity would instead be known to the world by sunrise as the single deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, the deadliest attack on the LGBT community in United States history, and the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil since Sept 11th, 2001 – all committed by one man, in the span of three hours, with legally obtained firearms.
The tragic irony in all of this was that Mateen gave, on multiple occasions, every possible indication that he was the sort of person who shouldn’t have access to firearms. In 2007, Mateen had been terminated while training to be a security guard for threatening to bring a gun to a training class. In 2011, he was divorced by his wife for physical abuse and deranged behavior. And, on three separate occasions between 2013 and 2014, he had been interviewed by the FBI for his self-proclaimed ties to terrorist organizations. Despite this, he still held an active firearms license and was able to legally purchase the weapons he used in Orlando.
Two weeks prior to the attack, President Obama was giving a town hall meeting in Indiana for PBS News when he was questioned by an audience member, asking why he wanted to “. . . take the guns away from the good guys?” The President responded by saying that he had never suggested confiscating the guns of ordinary law-abiding citizens, but that some people needed to be prohibited from purchasing firearms. The President claimed at that very moment, that there were terrorist sympathizers known to the FBI, planning attacks within the United States; and he was powerless to stop them from buying weapons. It was that same week, perhaps even while the president was speaking to that concerned audience member in Indiana, that Omar Mateen was in Port St. Lucie purchasing the weapons and ammunition that he would use to end the lives of forty-nine innocent people two weeks later in Orlando.
The shooting in Orlando resulted in public vigils, outpourings of grief, and condolences expressed from both within the United States and other nations around the world. People lined up in such numbers to donate blood to the victims, that the lines stretched around city blocks. Despite the loss, the shooting resulted in nothing by way of substantive political changes that could prohibit another mass shooting from taking place. As has become their custom, conservative politicians refused to hear any policy suggestions that might have prevented the tragedy; instead, they took time away from writing anti-LGBT legislation to offer their sincerest prayers for the victims.
Since the writing of this article, four separate bills designed to prohibit individuals on FBI terror watch lists from acquiring weapons have been voted down by Senate Republicans. Once again, the party of American political fundamentalism will do nothing to affect meaningful change; and in doing so, they will inevitably set the stage for yet another instance of mass tragedy. The regularity of mass murders via firearms in the United States, it seems, will simply have to continue unabated; because, once again, the politicians of a major political party are incapable of even having a conversation with their opponents about potential solutions to a recurring problem.