While we were busy celebrating our country’s 118th Independence Day yesterday, others weren’t so lucky. Yesterday’s mass shooting at an Orlando gay club Pulse, where 50 were left dead, now stands as the worst shooting incident in U.S. history and possibly the worst anti-LGBT hate crime in recent memory.
If you need to catch up (as updates are coming in at a pretty fast pace) here’s what we know so far:
- The shooter, 29-year-old American Omar Mateen, opened fire inside the club and took hostages. Orlando police later attempted to rescue the hostages, and Mateen was confirmed killed an hour later. As mentioned, 50 were left dead, and 53 others sustained injuries.
- There are conflicting, unresolved reports about why Mateen may have done it. There are some reports that the attack may have been inspired by ISIS and that he swore allegiance to ISIS in a 911 call before the attack. Omar’s father Seddique Mir Mateen suggests that his son may have been triggered after seeing two men kissing in Miami, according to MSNBC. “We are saying we are apologizing for the whole incident. We weren’t aware of any action he is taking. We are in shock, like the whole country,” Seddique Mir said. “This had nothing to do with religion.”
- MSNBC also reports that Omar Mateen had previously been probed by the FBI twice, and that his ex-wife describes him as being unstable and violent.
- According to state records, Mateen had a license to carry firearms. The weapon he used, an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle, has history due to being shooters’ weapon of choice in recent mass shootings, including the 2012 shooting in Aurora, Colorado at a premiere of The Dark Knight Rises and the shooting in San Bernardino, California six months ago, according to the Washington Post. Apparently, in Florida you don’t even need that license or a background check to own a rifle. Quartz also reports that there is no waiting period to acquire a rifle (there is for pistols) and Florida protects gun owners from being registered in any state registry. U.S. federal law also allows suspects on terror watchlists to buy guns. Needless to say, this incident has reignited the debate on gun control (if it even died down at all).
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration prevents LGBT people (to be specific, trans women and men who have had sex with other men in the past year) from donating blood due to fears of HIV, according to Vox. The shooting necessitated a lot of blood donations, and it’s very sad that those who are most supportive of the victims are blocked from doing so because of this backward rule.
- Facebook put up the very first Safety Check alert for an incident in the U.S.
We just hope that none of this turns into blind Islamophobia (and homophobia, while we’re at it). It’s clear that this atrocity was carried out by an individual who’s both not right in the head and apparently extremist. We know you’re better than that, but just in case, we’d like to remind you to not lump everyone else in with him. We’re better off keeping the victims and their loved ones in our thoughts and prayers—and if you’re in a position to help, to please do so if you can.
Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack, AP Photo