A mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in the towns of Orlando left 50 people dead early Sunday morning, according to the citys mayor Buddy Dyer.
The incident hasdrawn horrified reactions from all over the country; not only because of the unthinkably high death toll and the desolation this misfortune has caused, but because of where it happened, and what it indicates about possible motivations. Pulse is an LGBT club, creating fears that the shooting may have been one of the grisliest hate crimes in America history.
Omar Mateen has been identified by authorities as the suspected shooter. As Florida congressman Alan Grayson told the media in a presser on Sunday morning, hes a resident of Port St. Lucie in his late 20 s. In relatively short order, the shooting has been represented as an act of terrorism in the media, thanks in large component to early suggestions from the FBI. Agent Ron Harper told assembled press that we do have suggestions that the individual may have tilts towards Islamic-based terrorism, although he was careful to state that they cant tell definitively and are still investigating different possibilities.
Just as you might expect given the heightened tensions of the moment and the current political climate relating to high-profile incidents of mass violence have contributed to difficulties around how the shooting is being categorized and reported at this early period. On the one hand, some people are pushing the angle of the shooting as an expression of violent religious extremism, while others are questioning why it isnt being broadly reported as a potential hate crimea distinctly anti-LGBT atrocity.
Grayson, for his part, referred to it as a likely hate crime in his presser, and NBC News reported that Mateens father didnt believe the shooting was religiously motivated, but rather by anti-gay animus. He reportedly told the network that his son witnessed two men kissing in Miami months before the attack, and that he believes that may have spurred the killings. Its worth noting that he also apologized and said he was in shock, according to NBC News David Wyllie.
Whatever further facts ultimately come out about the Pulse shooting, its worth bearing in mind that were still in the very early stages of this awful tale. As such, its good to exercise restraint in representing it any one particular way. Theres nothing that would necessarily foreclose it from being both a hate crime and an act of religiously motivated violence, after all.
But this is a clear instance in which everyone wants an immediate rationale, and at present it doesnt seem like theres quite enough information to get a full, responsible picture of what happened and why. Whatever motivations or justifications do ultimately come out, this will go down in history as an cruelty of the highest order. As it stands now, the Orlando shooting is the deadliest mass shooting in United States history.
Obviously, the fact that the shooting took place at a popular LGBT nightclub indicates something very dire, along with the statement from Mateens father alluding to his sons anti-gay anger.
The FBI will reportedly investigate the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism, but that doesnt mean that itll ultimately be classified that way , nor that the shooting wont eventually be identified as an act of dislike based on sex orientation.
Its entirely possible, when its all said and done, that the truth that comes out will speak to both realities at once: that Mateen was both possessed by anti-LGBT hatred, and that a fundamentalist or revolutionary interpreting of his faith could have proven to be an instigating factor. And, while the public policy responses is certainly be different depending on the prevail narrative,( and that could influence the legal ramifications) its important to remember that a violent expression of faith and an expression of bigotry are not mutually exclusive.
To presume it has to be simply one or the other is a failing of our mass media, our conclusion-jumping legislators, and to some extent, our collective imaginations.