(The podcast version of this article can be found HERE.)
Just before Omar Mir Seddique Mateen entered the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, he made a quick phone call to 9-1-1. He told whoever responded that he had sworn allegiance to ISIS, and probably a few other choice bits that have not yet been made public. And in a recent report, it seems ISIS itself may be claiming Mateen as their own. This report was first aired around 2:45PM Eastern time on MSNBC.
In reality, this matters little now.
If ISIS now identifies themselves with Mateen, or the other way around, it's nothing more than a pithy excuse for ISIS to take credit for the worst mass shooting in US history. The reality is that this was a HATE crime, pure and simple. The evidence toward that conclusion is much greater than any possible direct ties Mateen may have had with ISIS. His own parents saw the warning signs, i.e. the rage exhibited by the shooter when a month previously he had seen two men kissing in Miami, they said. To try and dress this tragedy in the clothing of a 'sanctioned terror attack by ISIS' makes no sense. It's almost as if Mateen, in making the phone call at the last minute, was just trying to avoid his madness being called a hate crime. And this writer believes that is exactly what happened - that it was a hate crime and little else.
Each time these tragedies happen, there is the usual short-term debate on guns. Each time these tragedies happen, these debates end up going nowhere. Sandy Hook, Columbine, the Colorado theater shootings, the list is numbing. People will cite the Second Amendment, which I do support, but I don't think the Founding Fathers had high-capacity, rapid-fire, semi-auto assault weapons in mind when they wrote that bit into the Constitution.
How long before we put some sensible restrictions on a few limited items that would make it less likely a single person can mow down over a hundred people in a few short minutes? The shooter used a Colt AR-15 assault rifle on his victims. Judging from the sounds of the shots being fired, you can tell he had either the 20-round, or 30-round magazines loaded into that weapon. (EDIT: It has been revealed that the shooter actually used a Sig-Sauer MCX with a folding stock that when used, cuts the length of the weapon to 23.8 inches. This explains how he sneaked the weapon into the nightclub.) Benjamin Franklin is probably rolling in his grave, shouting up to us that the blood of all these victims, all the children at Sandy Hook, all the gay folk in Orlando, and the people simply trying to watch a movie in Colorado, deserve better justice than just another dead shooter.
There are people who will say this to you: 'They want to take your guns. They want to repeal the Second Amendment'. Neither of those things are true. First, you couldn't get rid of guns in America if you tried. No one really knows the exact number of privately-held weapons in America, but it's been estimated at a low of 250 million all the way up to a BILLION. That does not count anything in sporting goods stores or owned by the military. America is JAZZED with guns, and to many people it's a lifestyle. Guns are ingrained into the history of America, and that's the way its been for hundreds of years.
What is needed are a few sensible controls on privately-held weapons. Like these: Mandatory training before ownership, background checks, and severely reducing the number of bullets you can load into a weapon's magazine. Ten for any rifles or assault weapons, for example, not eighty, a hundred rounds, or sometimes more. This would at least bring these weapons more in line with the intention of the Second Amendment. To put this situation in the cold, harsh light of reality - how about giving the victims a chance? This idea of being able to rattle off enough ammuntion to hit a hundred people in a short time just isn't fair. Mateen, armed with only one rifle and one pistol, was able to hit one out of three of the over 300 people inside the Pulse club before they could escape. In other words, it may not necessarily be about the weapon itself, but the sheer number of bullets allowed (under current laws) to be loaded into these weapons with ridiculously-sized magazines.
The worst part is that Americans know in their hearts that this is not the end of it, not with our current policies regarding high-capacity assault weapons. They have become the mass shooter's weapon of choice. They are not for hunting deer, nor for protecting your home and property, but simply mechanical devices created to kill other human beings. That's what they were designed for, and relate little to anything intended under the Second Amendment.
Orlando will not be the last stop for a mass shooting. It is just the most recent one. It's time to at least give the victims of these shootings a fair chance, which is something they certainly don't have now. Our nation has reached a crisis of conscience.
The victims' blood cries out to us from the ground.
Maybe it's time we listened.
*Submitted by Robert Blevins, Managing Editor, Adventure Books of Seattle