A day to live in infamy. Rest in peace.
A heavily armed man carrying an AR-15 assault rifle and pistol entered the Pulse Gay Nightclub in Orlando at around 2AM on Sunday. The attacker opened fired on an unknowing crowd of 350 patrons who were attending a music event in conjunction with gay pride week celebrations. After going on a pandemonium of blind shooting, the gunman took dozens of hostages at gunpoint and lay siege inside a bathroom for three-hours until police stormed the building with armored cars and eventually killed the gunman. The nightclub is located just 15 miles northeast of the Walt Disney World Resort.
Mateen pictured on SNS/Image: Reuters
Reuters reported that 39 people died inside the club, two outside and eight others died after being rushed to the hospital. The current death toll is at 49 with 53 others injured, eclipsing the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre(32 killed 17 injured) as the deadliest mass shooting in US history. According to the FBI’s Ronald Hopper, the shooter, identified as 29 year-old New York-born Florida resident and U.S citizen Omar Mateen, has reportedly “made calls to 911 this morning in which he stated his allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State”.
Son of Afghan immigrants, Mateen was an aspiring-policeman(WTF?) who worked for the global security firm G4S during the past nine years as an armed guard for a gated retirement community in South Florida; he cleared two company background screenings. Mateen had also been interviewed twice by FBI agents in 2013 and 2014 for making comments to co-workers about his support of militant groups, but no action was taken on the basis that he showed no evidence of criminal activity. Check the number of ironies within the last couple sentences.
Survivors embrace outside Orlando Police Department/Image: independent
After media coverage of the shootings surfaced, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the massacre through a statement carried by Amaq, the organization’s news agency. The FBI cautioned however that evidence proving direct links between Mateen and the Islamic State are yet to be substantiated and therefore further investigation is required to determine whether or not radical Islamism or religious extremism were factors in the shootings.
It’s a tragic day for Florida, the United States, the gay community and the entirety of humanity. Sunday's Orlando shootings blatantly reveal three lurking issues that have plagued and divided the US from within. First and foremost, the shooting was a clear hate crime in which the targeted venue was an active part of the LGBT community. After the historic 2015 Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriages across the entirety of the United States, it seemed that the arc of history was set and that men and women were free to love and wed whoever they have identified as their significant other.
Messages sent in last moments of victims/Image: BBC
We rushed to add rainbow filters to our Facebook profiles and lauded the courage of the gay community for decades of patience and civil activity. Roughly a year later, society seems to be torn into rifts as such blatant acts of terrorism still continue to haunt and remind us that hate is yet to dissipate. According to Mateen’s father, the attack “had nothing to do with religion” and that his son had become “very angry” after seeing two men kissing in downtown Miami recently. Though unrelated, a 20 year-old man from Indiana armed with three sets of high-performance rifles was arrested on the same day as the Orlando shootings. He confessed to have been on his way to the Los Angeles gay pride parade.
Secondly, regardless of whether or not Mateen was actually involved with the IS or not, the Orlando shooting will undoubtedly cause a societal stir yet again regarding the controversial discourse of Islamic radicalism. Under no circumstances should the entirety of a religion be condemned or marginalized based on the activities of select radical members, but the continued actions of militant groups such as the IS are strengthening the polarization of civilians that are unsettled by terrorist-coordinated attacks.
Word choice is a nono Donald/Image: Twitter
It remains uncertain whether the Orlando shooting was a domestic or international act of terrorism, but to individuals like Donald Trump, this act was continued proof that his xenophobic policies were the answer to the nation’s growing fear. In but a single tweet, Trump made the tragic shooting all about him and how “right” he was on “radical Islamic terrorism.” In a statement released on Monday morning, Trump fixates on his presidential policy of singling out Islamic migrants while only mentioning the victimized LGBT people once. Regardless of right or wrong, the "Islamic-debate" shall resurface once again to split public opinions between that of isolation and integration.
Homicide rates in US and peer countries/Image: humanosphere
The final most pressing issue enlightened by this tragic shooting is how US policymakers continuously play the ignorance card in regards to gun control. Mateen used a military-inspired semi-automatic rifle in his shootings, which continue to be sold legally under the premise that “assault rifles account for a small fraction of the United States’ 30,000 annual gun deaths”, having been used in ONLY 10 mass shootings since 2011. The number of gun murders per capita in the US is nearly 30 times than that of the UK, with comparable gun homicide rates to war-torn nations like the Democratic Republic of Congo. Annually, the US has just two fewer gun homicide deaths per 100,000 people than Iraq.
Domestic guns kill more than terrorism/Image: BBC
There are roughly 300 million independent firearms possessed within the US and roughly 11,385 people died on average annually due to firearm related incidents between 2001 and 2011, with just 517 killed annually due to terror-related incidents. That’s including September 11th. CNN reports that between 2001 and 2013, there were 120 times more gun related domestic deaths (406,496) than the 3,380 deaths caused by terrorist activity. The data is quite self-explanatory yet we wonder why tragedies such as the Virginia tech shootings, the 2012 Connecticut elementary school shootings and now, the Orlando shootings continue to occur as annual incidents. Once again, a pattern red-flag has been lifted.
Obama on Orlando shootings/Image: BBC
All socio-political issues aside, Sunday was a day to live in infamy. The police have revealed the names of the victims, and as diverse as each of their stories are, so are the solemn words of respect that are gushing in from all areas of the globe. World landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, Sysney Harbor Bridge, Tel Aviv's city hall and the One World Trade Center all lit up in rainbow colors in order to mourn the victims of the Orlando tragedy. A gofundme crowd-funding campaign to raise funds to support the victims of the shootings has currently raised $3 million. Yet, no amount of words or support will bring solace to the families of the victims. Tragedies such as these beckon a more active approach on our part in making sure similar re-occurrences are prevented my viable, though non-hate-driven solutions based on implementations of proper, preventive policies. That conversation however, is for a later time as the world should come together at this moment to grieve the passing of 49 innocent souls. Again, condolences to the deceased