As the details come flying in, it’s become clear that the mass shooting in an Orlando nightclub was an act of terrorism. What we know about the motives of the shooter, Omar Mateen, is mixed. According to his father, he was angered by seeing two men kiss in Miami, but NBC has reported that Mateen called 911 before he began the attack to express his allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Baker al-Baghdadi and referred to the Boston Marathon attackers during the assault. President Obama, in a press conference, stated that the FBI is investigating this as an act of terrorism. Reports also say that he was briefly looked at by the FBI for statements he made indicating radical beliefs, though apparently there was insufficient evidence at the time to take further steps.
At present, fifty people are dead and fifty-three wounded after the attack on the Pulse nightclub, a venue started by Barbara Poma in honor of her gay brother. In her description on the club’s website,
“It was important to create an atmosphere that embraced the gay lifestyle with décor that would make John proud. Most importantly, (we) coined the name Pulse for John’s heartbeat—as a club that is John’s inspiration, where he is kept alive in the eyes of his friends and family.”
Once again, the Orlando shooter could have been stopped if only we took domestic violence more seriously. Mateen held a Class G firearms license, authorizing him to carry weapons as a security guard, but his ex-wife had to be rescued by her parents due to his repeated beating of her.
But a breaking report from the Los Angeles Times suggests that the Orlando assault may not be isolated. A man has been arrested in the Los Angeles area in possession of firearms and explosives. He was driving a car with Indiana plates and said he was in town for the West Hollywood gay pride parade. For the moment, there is no evidence that the two men are connected—beyond what apparently was their shared motive against gays.
I realize that a lot of the members of the gun community are on the right wing of American politics, and many hold conservative religious views. That’s the thing about freedom—each one of us has to be free to believe in and value what we choose. But what each of us may think about the state of another’s soul, presuming soul is a meaningful term, isn’t relevant to our obligations to our fellow human beings. Each person—gay or straight, liberal or conservative, atheist or believer—has rights, and it’s our duty to defend those rights.
As of this moment, there is no middle ground left. It’s time for everyone who values rights to take a stand, to join together in one voice to say that anyone who is an abuser, a bigot, or a terrorist is an enemy of civilization. No more excuses, no more squeamishness—you stand for the rights of everyone, or you aren’t a part of the civilized world.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.