If you are at all like me, you woke up Sunday morning to the horrific story out of Orlando, Florida that rocked you to the core. As we all know by now, the largest mass shooting in American history, and the largest terror attack in the U.S. since 9/11, took place this weekend.
Forty-nine innocent Americans were shot and killed — 53 more injured — all while out for an evening of fun and enjoyment.
Many Americans are left wondering how we can process the grief, frustration, fear and anger that washes over us every time there is a senseless attack on innocent people in our country.
You may be asking yourself who would do such a thing? The Orlando shootings were perpetrated by a 29-year-old American citizen who, according to his ex-wife, was possibly bipolar and had a history of steroid use. He sprayed bullets at the crowd while reportedly laughing.
According to his father, he was upset because he saw two men kissing a month earlier. Could that have been his motivation? On Saturday night, he sought out gay men. They weren’t confronting him; they were minding their own business in a private club created out of necessity by two loving patrons because of people just like him.
Whether coordinated by ISIS or not, he certainly claims to be inspired by the radical Islamic terrorist group and, in fact, called 911 during the attack to pledge his allegiance.
This man’s aggression does not appear to be unusual for him — and it seldom is when these types of acts take place. He reportedly beat his ex-wife and had been interviewed by the FBI three times for radical rhetoric. He was also linked to an American suicide bomber and reportedly had a history of unstable conduct. Yet, he legally purchased the lethal weapons he used to shoot over 100 people.
From a psychological perspective, the sad fact is we simply do not have the tools or the tests to predict who is or is not going to commit an act of violence. But, what we can do is work to prevent the senseless acts from happening by being more situationally aware. It’s not about having a big brother society and informing on our friends and neighbors; it is about paying close attention to those around us. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t be in denial. Teach your children to be aware and speak to someone in authority if they notice something.
No matter where you stand on the second amendment, no matter where you stand on the right to bear arms, can’t we find some points of agreement? Can’t we agree that we at least need stricter regulations on who we’re selling guns to? Can’t we agree that we at least need to limit the capacity, the speed at which these guns can deliver their bullets? Think about it: we have a no fly list, do we perhaps need a no buy list? We have people that we will not allow on airplanes, but yet, we will sell them guns. We have people that can be interviewed by the FBI three times but they don’t go on a watch list with gun merchants? We need to get back to common sense here. It’s time for us to decide to come together as a country and step up and protect ourselves.
Jared Loughner, the man who shot Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in the head in Tucson, posted on social media 19 days ahead of the shooting: “I have this huge goal at the the end of my life, 165 rounds in a minute!” A week earlier he declared “I’ll see you on nat’l TV”.
We see this happening again and again. Last year in San Bernardino, 14 people were killed and 21 wounded. In 2013 in Washington D.C. Navy yard, 13 people were killed and eight wounded. In 2012 Newtown, 27 killed, one wounded. In Aurora, Colorado, 12 killed 58 wounded. And those are just a few examples.
But in the wake of these tragedies, we must always remember to focus not just on the terrible hateful attack of one man, but on the heroes who protected each other, the police officers who risked their lives to save others, the dozens and dozens who answered the call to donate blood that was desperately needed, and remember that we are a country that comes together in a time of tragedy.
The attack on Pulse in Orlando was an attack on me, you and every American. No matter what your views are on gay rights, join me in standing in solidarity with our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. I hope we all now understand that these were Americans who were attacked, these were American brothers and sisters who were attacked, and I hope that you join me today in standing shoulder to shoulder with these victims, shoulder to shoulder with these victims’ families and understand that when Americans are attacked, we are all one. When you attack one American, you attack all Americans. We stand together, and we stand unified.