In the wake of Orlando shooting, America needs tighter gun control

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Only a few days after the Orlando attack and the debate rages on about the motivations of the shooter, Omar Mateen, and the solutions for how to prevent this from happening in the future. Omar Mateen was a man stuck in a major identity crisis, who just happened to be Muslim. Although many people will focus on his Muslim identity, this is a mistake, as his crime didn’t come from a religious basis, but rather from deep internal conflicts. He was a disturbed individual and in our current society, deranged individuals exist and will want to harm people. The only answer to such a problem is to tighten gun control in America.

Amateur terrorist, with repressed homosexual feelings

Omar Mateen was an amateur terrorist, by the most basic standards. He had very limited knowledge of geopolitics. He supportedHezbollah, ISIS, and Al Qaeda, three sworn enemies, all at the same time. That’s equivalent to a baseball fan supporting the Yankees and Red Sox at the same time. It just doesn’t work. Additionally, despite identifying as a Muslim, Mateen was an episodic binge-drinker, andabused his former wife. In other words, he wasn’t a “model Muslim” in the eyes of most Muslims. On top of all of this, he was frequentlyspotted at gay bars around Orlando and messaged other men onGrindr, a dating application for gay men. He also reportedly asked out a fellow student from his police academy on a date.

Pulse Nightclub, scene of the attack.
Pulse Nightclub, scene of the attack.

In other words, this man was a very confused individual. His father, Seddique Mir Mateen, likely confused Omar even more. When he heard that his son may have been gay, he appeared incredulous,telling the Palm Beach Post, “If he was gay, why would he do something like this?” Unfortunately, in many Muslim families, “queer Muslims are marginalized if not invisible,” writes Bilal Qureshi, a former news editor. Omar Mateen probably expected marginalization. If he did have homosexual tendencies, which his former wife Sitora Yusufiy believes could be true, he likely felt extremely repressed. After showing our empathy for all of the victims and their families, we can also reflect on Omar’s life. It must have been extremely difficult to be both gay and Muslim in a family that refused to accept homosexuals. Outside of the family, Omar probably felt socially ostracized, because he felt that he couldn’t out himself, but also felt angry at those who lived freely.

All of these different themes are important to consider to realize that this is not about religion. For Omar, identities clashed and created internal conflicts, which led him to commit mass murder. He only pledged allegiance to ISIS in a 911 call during the last hours of his life. This man was by no means a model for even ISIS’s twisted standards. At the end of the day, this story is about a mentally ill man, who had access to powerful firearms. It comes down to gun control.

Second Amendment

The Second Amendment is a very sensitive issue in the US. Staunch supporters of the “right to bear arms” get very offended when they feel that opponents are trying to infringe upon their inalienable right. These same staunch guns rights supporters will say that Islam is in need of a reformation, a sort of refreshing to update it with the 21 century. However, in reality, it’s the Second Amendment that needs to be refreshed in order to update it with modern times.

Written in 1791, the amendment was designed to prevent a tyrant from becoming ruler for life. The Constitution writers were afraid of another king figure consolidating power and this amendment gave them the right to form “well-armed militias.” It made sense at the time.

AR-15, Mateen's weapon of choice.
AR-15, Mateen's weapon of choice.

Present-day requires updates

Fast forward to present day, and this same amendment gave Adam Lanza the right to purchase an assault rifle, which he then used to shoot up an elementary school, killing 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7.

Even focusing on terrorist attacks perpetrated by Muslims in America since 9/11, the top 3 most deadly terrorist attacks, the 2009 Fort Hoodshooting, the 2015 San Bernandino shooting, and the 2016 Orlando shooting, all involved guns. All of these guns were legally purchased.

We must then ask, why would anyone other than someone in the military and/or police need to possess an assault rifle? People should be allowed to purchase single-shot hunting rifles. By all means, buy one and if you want to hunt, please hunt. However, you don’t need a gun used by soldiers to kill a deer or pheasant.

Other guns rights supporters will use the self-defense argument. One could reasonably concede that purchasing a handgun may be acceptable for self-defense purposes, although the argument could be made that any gun creates more problems than it solves. In fact, the ratio of “justifiable homicide” aka self-defense, compared to “criminal gun homicide,” is 1 to 36. That’s a lot of unjustified homicide.

Even allowing the purchase of handguns, it is completely unnecessary to possess an assault rifle for self-defense. Guns rights supporters will say that gun possession prevents against government overreach; yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we know that no guns, no matter how many, can stop the American government if it wanted to “overreach.” It’s a bit conspiratorial to worry so much about government overreach and use it to justify lax gun purchasing laws, but even if it somehow happened, guns would stand no chance to drones and atomic bombs. In other words, the argument for owning assault rifles for self-defense is a weak one, at best.

How to prevent future mass shootings

Since gun control is the best option to prevent these attacks from reoccurring, then what are the exact specifics for such a plan. The first piece of this plan would be to ban both assault rifles and high-capacity magazines completely. There is no need for civilians to possess such potentially devastating tools, that have done much more harm than they have done good. Additionally, background checks for any weapons purchases need to be more robust. Omar Mateen had twice been investigated by the FBI for possible ties to extremism, once for inflammatory remarks made to a colleague in 2013, and another time for possible ties to an Al Nusra suicide bomber. The fact that he was still allowed to purchase a firearm, which was originally created and is still used to take human lives, is beyond baffling.

Lastly, the gun control argument cannot be complete without a call for more comprehensive mental healthcare. If Omar Mateen was reported to have said extremist rhetoric in 2013 and met with FBI agents, then logically, he should have been obliged to undergo therapy. The FBI’s approach is preventative, only to an extent. Many more massacres would have been prevented if these individuals had received adequate therapy. Even if they still went off the deep end, their therapists could have at least alerted authorities before a tragedy occurred. Then, Omar never would have been allowed to purchase such a powerful weapon.

Hopefully, the Orlando attack, both the deadliest mass shooting and deadliest hate crime against the LGBT community in US history, will actually ignite sustained debate about the issue of gun control. After each mass shooting, both politicians and civilians express shock and call for changes, only to become apathetic only a few weeks later. This time, Americans must commit themselves to actually pursuing change. Only then can people, specifically the LGBT community, begin to feel safe again in public spaces.