Orlando shooting lays bare every social ill in US

In the aftermath of the Florida nightclub attack, while a nation mourns the deadliest mass shooting in its history and the families grieve their loved ones lost to another senseless attack, the media, the political class will try to frame the tragedy in any way that best suits their agendas.

What we know so far is sparse and information is slowly being pieced together about the shooter, Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old New York native of Afghan descent. The incident, classed as a domestic terror attack involved several firearms, used on a crowd in a gay nightclub, leaving 50 people dead and more than 53 injured.

The timing of this attack could not have come at a more critical time during the presidential election. Florida is a well-known key swing state and the attack has re-opened several debates of America’s deepest faultlines; religion, security, freedom and human rights.

President Obama looked defeated giving yet another speech to the nation on the latest mass shooting to occur in the country. Hillary Clinton gave a measured response saying her thoughts were with those at this time, while we wait for more information. Bernie Sanders shared her sentiment and used it as a platform to call for gun control, while Donald Trump used it as a platform to applaud himself for calling out the threat of Islamic terrorism.

These initial reactions demonstrate just how confused the political response will be. This is not an immigration issue, Mateen was born in America. Whatever reasons that compelled him to commit such an atrocity cannot be used by those propagating that threats lie only at the border of a foreign nation. America will need to look into itself, just as the UK did for 7/7, because this hatred was home-grown.

Islam, the religion of the attacker, will undoubtedly come under fire. Many will say the religion is at fault. However, there were 330 mass shootings last year alone, of which a handful were carried out by Muslims. As such, they are neither alien to America nor unique to just one religion.

Isis have claimed responsibility for the attack, although it is yet unclear what level their involvement was, with authorities saying that they could be freeloading and claiming credit for something carried out by a Muslim, to further spread the fear of their ideology. While being investigated by the FBI on two separate occasions, Mateen appears to have had no previous convictions. Was this a sign of the spread of their poisonous dogma or was this a lone wolf who was inspired by things he had seen and heard.

The target of a gay club was no accident. Mateen’s father has suggested he was deeply homophobic while his ex-wife says she was rescued from their marriage after four months by her family because of his violent and abusive behaviour. While many will try to say that Islam promotes homophobia, the determination with which some republicans have fought the Government’s push to legalise same-sex marriage highlights that tolerance and acceptance of gay culture has yet to find a home in Middle America. So this cannot be explained through singling out one religion and failures of multiculturalism.

All the goodwill and peace that was spread during the memorial and funeral of America’s most famous Muslim son; Mohammed Ali, America’s Muslims now find themselves in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons and under suspicion of not only terrorism, but also now of homophobia.

Mateen shot down 50 innocent people with the same weapon that has been used in mass shootings from Connecticut to California; a military-inspired semi-automatic rifle.

Since 2011, the same model has been used in no less than 10 mass shootings and it is this prevalence which has been the focal point of the gun law debate in the US. Opponents of guns say that civilians should not own such weapons of war, while their supporters argue that it is a human right enshrined in the constitution and are enjoyed for various purposes by millions of law-abiding citizens.

However, if the murder of 20 school children and six teachers in Sandy Hook changed nothing, the racist murder of nine members of a black congregation in church changed nothing, then the tragic deaths of 50 people in a nightclub will sadly, also do little to change gun control laws.

The gun lobby has so much money and influence that the grip of the NRA (National Rifle Association) on Congress is extremely strong. Such is the power of its hold; that during the midterm elections in 2015, when the Republicans maintained controlled of Congress and took control of the Senate, the NRA donated $12 million to the campaigns of republican candidates. Of those candidates, 95 per cent supported its position on gun control.

[The NRA] accuses Barack Obama’s administration of a ‘relentless assault’ on the constitutional right of citizens to keep and bear arms. Actual evidence of federal tyranny is a bit meagre—in part because the NRA is so good at whipping Washington politicians into line.” – The Economist 4th April 2015

Gun control laws in the US are unlikely to change anytime soon unless legal restrictions are put in place which prevent these politicians’ from being influenced and effectively bought by the gun lobby.

Zainab Al-Deen

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