We Will Not Live in Fear

Brigita Gubins - Year 2 Environmental
Posted on: June 19, 2016

Fear and hate only breed more fear and hate.

In the early hours of Sunday, June 12 at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, 49 people’s lives were cut short at the hands of a gunman; 53 more escaped with their lives, but sustained major injuries. The massacre in Orlando, Florida is about many things; radicalized people, hate, fear, and very much about how insanely easy it is to acquire guns in the United States.

What happened?

A man, who claimed ties with the terrorist group known as ISIS, the Islamic State, Daesh and other names, entered a nightclub shortly after 2a.m. Sunday, June 12 with a loaded assault rifle, handgun, and many rounds of ammunition. The gunman then opened fire on the dancing patrons. Over the course of the next hour, the shooter corralled individuals who were hiding in bathrooms as hostages, and proceeded to barricade himself inside with them. This led to a three hour standoff between police and the gunman. After communication between them broke down, law enforcement breached the wall of the building, allowing the remaining hostages to escape at approximately 5 a.m. (NY Times)

As has already been publicized, the gunman was 29 year old Omar Mateen, a resident of nearby Port St. Lucie, and a United States citizen. As has already been discussed at length by the media, Mateen was a member of the Islamic faith. Having said that, the massacre in Orland was a hate crime, not an act prompted by any religion. 49 families mourn because a man was taught to hate those people who were different from himself, and at some point in his life, was taught that violence would solve his problems. A deeply disturbed, violent man who was investigated by the FBI for claims of membership in various terrorist groups, with a troubling past of death threats, domestic violence, and outspoken hate was enabled by laws that allow an individual with a violent past to legally purchase a semi-automatic rifle. (Time Magazine)

The Response to the Tragedy

Less than 12 hours after the event, far too many major news sources distorted this story into another sad attempt at scapegoating Islam.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, there has been an outpouring of support and sympathy from the Muslim community in the United States, the LGBTQIA+ community, as well as from political leaders and unaffiliated communities from around the world. President Obama ordered the flags at the White House to be lowered to half mast, and some Orlando Muslims broke their fast during the holy month of Ramadan to give blood to the 53 individuals injured in the mass shooting.

Vigils were held throughout the world, including here in Waterloo, for the victims of the massacre in Orlando all last week. Many Pride events have dedicated their proceedings and celebrations to the dead, and groups in the Orlando area are working together to raise money for medical costs, funerals, and to prevent hate groups from picketing the memorials of those killed in the attack.

In the days following the tragedy, numerous media outlets worked to counter the homophobic, Islamophobic, and other hateful speech ad acts directed towards the victims. An individual associated with the hacktivist group Anonymous was able to hack the social media feeds used by ISIS extremists, and posted many links to homosexual pornography, redesigned homepages covered in rainbows, and promoted the love and acceptance the extremist groups so despise.

While Pride celebrations have become more vigilant after various cities receiving threats, the organizers have refused to cancel the events, stating that “We celebrate Pride in defiance of all the hate. We celebrate and refuse to live in fear because we know that tomorrow, someone may take that away from us.”

Guns and America

As it has escaped nobody’s notice, the United States of America has become the gun violence capitol of the world. Since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, (which is outrageous enough on its own,) there have been 980 mass shootings in the country. (Gun Violence Archive) Many, if not most, of these were carried out using legally purchased weapons. A journalist in Philadelphia, Helen Ubains with the Philadelphia Daily, was able to walk into a gun shop and purchase a semi-automatic assault rifle within 7 minutes. The shop spent 7 minutes verifying her identity and running a background check. It takes 7 minutes to boil water for pasta, it should not take 7 minutes for someone to 100% legally purchase a military-grade weapon. Ubains was equally horrified and furious at how “appallingly easy [it is] to get a gun in this country,”.

Omar Mateen was able to walk into a gun shop in Florida and purchase an assault rifle and a hand gun, 100% legally. The law in the state of Florida had no problem selling him a weapon despite his 10-month investigation by the FBI, multiple run-ins with police, and a record of domestic violence with his previous wife. But in America, if you aren’t formally convicted, you can buy all the guns your heart desires. It is common place in some states to see individuals with hand guns or rifles strapped to their backs at the local grocery store. This may only be my opinion, but on no planet is it normal for someone to carry an assault rifle on daily errands.

If open-carry laws don’t unsettle you, and the 980 mass shootings in the last 4 years don’t either, then the 15 accidental gun deaths since the beginning of this month should do it. In a dark twist of irony, some months ago an outspoken gun advocate, a young mother, was fatally shot by her toddler from the back seat of her car. She had a loaded hand gun in her purse. The kid thought it was a toy. On Saturday, June 17th, a 4 year old shot himself in the head and died because he thought the gun in the house was a toy. Lather, rinse, repeat. By the time this is published, it is more probable than not that another child will die as a result of playing with a gun.

Full disclosure: The following are opinions. Some people may disagree with them.

How can a country allow this to happen? Well, the short answer is that gun lobbyists have an iron grip on politics, and far too many American politicians have their fair share of conflicts of interest, as one way to phrase it. That’s not to say any other country’s politicians can’t be influenced by lobbyists, but the failure of counties, states, and the federal government to police gun laws is the biggest indication of the failure to put the good of the people before private interests and finances.

The violence cannot continue. The laws must change. Guns are not the answer to fear and hatred is not the answer to heartbreak-those conclusions are what led a man to kill 49 innocent people.