A few words on Orlando

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image via the Huffington Post

The language surrounding the Orlando massacre had already pivoted from “hate crime” to “terrorist action” before I even woke up to hear the news yesterday. Before the death toll began to rise. Poor, unfortunate advocates of gun control, silenced before we were even allowed to speak.

Much has been made of the shooter’s ethnic background. His parents were Muslim immigrants from Afghanistan. Therefore, apparently, by some twisted logic, the shooting at an LGBTQ safe space was an act of “Islamic terror” and not a hate crime against a beautiful community whose diversity makes us better as a nation every day.

I won’t try to argue that followers of Islam aren’t prejudiced against the gay community, because they very well may be. But aren’t the leaders that advocate for traditional marriage and undermine the human rights and dignity of that same community not the loudest and proudest Christians? I am an atheist, but I have the pleasure of knowing people of several faiths, mostly Christian ones, who are among the most loving, tolerant, and open people I’ve met. They truly believe that the message of their God or gods is one of acceptance, forgiveness, and equality.

If the shooter were a white, Christian man, he would merely be “deranged.” His actions wouldn’t be held as a reflection of the values of his faith. Christian leaders and politicians would try their damnedest to condemn his actions. And he most certainly would not have been instantly linked to terrorist organizations.

The Orlando shooter, whose name does not deserve to be printed, very well may have been a terrorist. For all I know, he was set to board a plane to join ISIS next week. But that’s not the point. The shooting was an act of terror, but not the “Islamic terror” that the orange blowhard currently running for President loves to speak about. It was an act of terror and hatred against a minority group against whom society and the world is still prejudiced.

This shooting brings up two very important issues on which U.S. needs to progress, neither of which involves Islam, ISIS, or Carrie Mathison’s intervention. The first is universal acceptance of the LGBTQ community. This won’t happen overnight, but as equal marriage is now the law of the land, it behooves those still on the fence or still steeped in hatred to look within themselves to locate the source of their discomfort. The second is this nation’s desperate need for common sense gun control.

Even though I personally would never own a gun, I have no serious objection to law-abiding citizens, regardless of race or creed, owning a firearm for hunting or sport. I don’t agree that any civilian needs a gun, but I would never infringe upon another person’s constitutional right to bear arms. Just as I would never censor a person for speaking his or her mind or practicing his or her religion openly. Neither, I should mention, would the Democratic party or its nominee for President. No one will be coming to your house to confiscate your guns. Gun control is not a ban on guns.

What gun control laws would seek to do is institute universal background checks before the purchase of guns and ammunition. They would prevent people that are currently under suspicion of terrorism from accessing guns. The same people on the no-fly list would be on the no-gun list. The majority of NRA members support these measures, by the way.

What gun control means for you: if you are a law-abiding citizen over the age of 18 who has been properly vetted, go ahead and buy a gun. Nobody is stopping you.

In most cases, the gun that your uncle keeps locked in his safe at home is not the gun responsible for mass shootings. Combat-grade assault weapons are often at fault. Civilians do not need access to the instruments of war, which are designed to maximize slaughter. A ban on assault weapons is completely reasonable.

Fifty members of our society were mercilessly gunned down in a safe space that they created for themselves. As every new outlet has claimed, it was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. This is a U.S. problem. It’s on us to be vocal about calling for change. It’s on us to vote for leaders that support gun control. It’s on us to stand up for the rights of our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community every day.

Isn’t it ironic that so much love is the target of so much hatred? Someday, I want to raise my kids in a world where, when I tell them about Orlando, they respond with the same horror with which I once responded to hearing about the Jim Crow laws, glad that their world is safer and more tolerant than the one that preceded them. To me, growing up, racial segregation was unfathomable. I’m from Massachusetts, where equal marriage has been law since 2004, so, much in the same way, intolerance toward the LGBTQ community was unfathomable. Future generations deserve to feel the same way about assault weapons and hate crimes.

I won’t be praying for Orlando, because I’m not religious and that would be an empty gesture. I will, however, be voting Democrat in November. My hope is that those fifty deaths won’t be entirely in vain, and that we can rally the support needed to change the conversation surrounding guns, terrorism, and intolerance.

Thank you.

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