What we don’t know about the Orlando nightclub mass shooting far outweighs what we do know.
Not that this has stopped any of us from coming to conclusions.
Most significantly, politicians are falling over themselves to either take credit or deflect attention from the notion that the shooter was motivated by allegiance to a terrorist organization. And while it is true that the shooter, Omar Mateen, 29, of Port St. Lucie, Fla., called 911 and declared his sympathies with ISIS, it has also emerged in the past 24 hours that Mateen may have had another motivation: self-loathing.
It seems that Mateen, according to his ex-wife, co-workers, acquaintances and patrons at the nightclub, was struggling with his sexuality, and had been a frequent visitor to the club, Pulse, and had set up a profile on an LGBT dating app.
Could the shooting, then, have been the result of an inner conflict for Mateen, struggling with his sexual and religious identities, and resolving them by lashing out at the world, literally?
That would seem just as likely as any notion that he had any ties of any kind or allegiances to ISIS, but hey, the guy is named Omar, his parents emigrated to the U.S. from Afghanistan, so terrorism, naturally.
What isn’t in dispute is that he used an AR-15 assault rifle that made the shooting spree that much more effective. The creator of the AR-15 has said in recent interviews that he had no idea when the weapon was being developed in the early 1960s as a counterbalance to the Soviet-era AK-47 that it would be made available to the general public.
The AR-15 is the world’s best killing machine, lightweight, easily portable, and able to deliver lethal force even in the hands of relatively untrained users.
Mateen, as it turns out, was not an untrained user: a licensed security guard, he had once hoped to become a police officer.
As someone familiar with the club, and with his own security background, he would have known that there was armed security at the entrance, and that just before closing time early Sunday morning, just before 2 a.m., the building would be packed with people, basically stationary targets for a man with an assault rifle.
There were reportedly as many as 300 people in the club, and what’s amazing is that even as you realize that he killed 49 and wounded 53 more, many, many others could have been killed and wounded considering the circumstances.
In the aftermath, we’ve heard from the dial-an-experts on the various 24-hour news channels talking to us about what can be done in the future to prevent such attacks. Little of that talk has focused on the obvious, and instead has centered around beefing up security at so-called soft targets.
I’m writing this column from a hotel room a block from the U.S. Capitol, as my wife is on The Hill lobbying congressman and senators to boost funding for suicide prevention and mental health research.
We’ve been here for several days, and in my considerable downtime, I’ve been jogging and walking around the nation’s capital, wearing out a path from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial that also has me passing the White House.
What is a soft target here? Any building that isn’t the Capitol or the White House, basically. Any building with open doors, without a phalanx of heavily armed security, without barriers in front to prevent vehicular access.
How many soft targets are then where you are? Every building that isn’t a courthouse or police station, at the least, and even those buildings, most places, are just a sliver past being what they’d consider soft targets here in D.C.
This is what we have come to here, folks. The NRA has us believing the lie that we’re only safe if we all have guns, the good guy with a gun theory that falls to pieces when you consider the armed security at the Pulse, which did nothing to stop Mateen from getting into the club with his AR-15.
If others had been armed, OK, a handgun against an AR-15, yeah, not going to work. Even multiple people armed with handguns, no match.
Maybe one of them gets lucky, but it’s just as likely that more innocents get caught in the crossfire.
Take away the AR-15, and have more people in the club armed, the toll of dead and wounded is reduced.
No guns anywhere in the situation, yes, Mateen could still use a knife, a hammer, he could train as a ninja and do some damage that way, but obviously, well …
It’s just easier to blame it on ISIS, have a moment of silence for the victims, and gird up for the next mass shooting, which is coming, maybe to a soft target near you.
Column by Chris Graham