As the nation grieves yet another senseless mass public shooting, this time in Orlando, Fla., investigators are struggling to determine the motivation behind it.
At this point, there appears to be a confluence of many potential factors inside the mind of Omar Mateen when he murdered 49 people inside a gay nightclub and injured 53 others before being killed himself in a shootout with police.
Mateen, a U.S. citizen of Afghan descent, appeared to be a self-radicalized terrorist unaligned with any particular extremist Muslim sect — in fact confusing at least two terrorist groups at war with one another.
He apparently was struggling with his own sexual identity — a married father who secretly frequented gay bars and utilized pickup apps designed for homosexual men. Hiding that side of him likely was necessary for the religion he practiced; strict adherence to most fundamentalist religions, in his case Islam, offers violent death for homosexuals.
He was an individual who’d been investigated by the FBI as a potential terrorist twice in the past, and even though he was deemed not a threat he remained on the terrorist watch list.
Still, he was able to legally purchase a military-grade assault weapon that he used to inflict his carnage. A report from the Government Accountability Office released this week revealed 2,477 individuals on the terrorist watch list applied to purchase weapons between 2004 and 2015 — and 2,265 were approved. Thanks to an effective NRA and hysteria surrounding anybody attempting to “get rid of the Second Amendment,” Congress can’t even agree to ban gun sales to those not allowed to fly in airplanes.
More than likely, solutions to the proliferation of deadly mass shootings will remain as elusive as the motivation behind the Orlando killer.
Not when we won’t even consider commonsense measures such as reducing the number of military-grade weapons, high-capacity magazines and other tools designed for high body counts in short periods of time from reaching the street.
Not when we continue attempts to use legislation to legitimize discrimination against others — whether it be for religion, sexual preference or identity, national origin, economic class, etc.
Not when political discourse has been eschewed in favor of uncompromising stands of principles.
Not when we have national elected leaders and candidates for higher office spewing hatred toward the LGBT community, cutting funds for mental health needs, increasing gaps in income and wealth, and who pay heed to donors instead of constituents.
We need a re-commitment to the values this country was built on. Not the religious ones so many insist exist despite evidence to the contrary, but to the ones codified in the U.S. Constitution.
We need to channel the grief from the Orlando massacre into something constructive instead of merely waiting for the next opportunity to grieve about the next public mass shooting.
We need conversation, an honest debate about the underlying issues, a non-partisan and collaborative solution forged through compromise, and then a commitment to see it through for the long run.
That is the America we long for. We used to take it for granted.
It is within all of us to recapture the spirit of equality, fairness and justice. Our future depends on it.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry