In the wake of the tragic shooting in Orlando that left 49 people dead and 53 people injured, there’s been a huge surge in discussion about Islamic extremists, gun control, and the attitudes of the major political establishments in the US. Caught up in all this is the LBGT community of Orlando (the Pulse nightclub, where the attack took place, is a hotspot for them), as well as the LBGT community at large.
Presidential hopeful Donald Trump was on Twitter, speaking of the need for vigilance and apparently seeking political capital out of the tragedy: https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/742034549232766976
Shortly after the attack, IS were claiming the shooter, Seddique Mateen, as one of their own. It’s said he swore allegiance to the terror group shortly before the attack.
There are many tangled webs here. Gun control is once again a point of discussion – the AR-15 semi-auto rifle can be bought without any waiting period in the US – this weapon was also used in the Sandy Hook tragedy a few years ago. Pro-gun activists would argue that cars can (and do) kill – should we therefore ban cars – but this sort of argument – as with knifes, baseball bats and household objects – overlooks that guns are designed to kill, and all-too often, they are not the deterrent they are made out to be. Regulation of the gun market is clearly inadequate, yet nothing changes – instead empty plaudits are offered after yet another shooting.
The answer is not as simple as ‘ban guns’. America is far too in love with lethal weapons being a symbol of freedom to just give them up. Indeed, there are many who resist even introducing tougher controls. There’s the popular expression that ‘guns don’t kill, people do’, but it’s a lot easier to massacre people with a rifle than with a knife.
Radical Islam is once being touted as the cause of this, and thus right-wing groups are suggesting people focus their efforts on this as a problem. There’s no doubt that it is a problem, but many of the shootings carried out in America have had nothing to do with Islam.
In this instance, it is troubling as to how quickly people like Trump have rallied, eager to push their rhetoric and exploit what happened, even before all the facts have to come to light. Mateen’s actions may have been religiously motivated – but it has also been said by his ex-wife that he was a deeply troubled man, prone to angry outbursts and even violence against her. His father mentioned that his son had become very angry at the sight of two men kissing not too long ago.
Was this therefore an act of terrorism against the US, or an act of extreme hate against the LBGT community?
Was it, if religiously motivated, both?
(another issue is, why did it take an attack like this for homosexuals to be allowed to donate blood?)
As I said earlier, this is a tangled web. There are people trying to use this attack on the LBGT community as a platform to go after Islam, whilst ignoring the ongoing reality of gun crime in the US. What will it take to effect real change?
Also, if this case does turn out to be motivated by Islamic extremism, will anything be done to confront the anti-gay bigotry that hides in religion’s shadow? It is more subtle in fundamentalist Christianity, but make no mistake, it is there.
As with all things, let time tell us the full facts.