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Op-Ed: Will Orlando Attacks Bring Congress to its Senses on Gun Control? Don't Count On It

memorial to victims of Orlando attack
Photo by Alberto Lammers

The perpetrator of this outrage might be motivated by hate, but Congress and its refusal to change the law should rightly be seen as an accessory to murder.


A man who has been questioned repeatedly by the FBI, viciously assaulted his wife, and terrified his co-workers with his talk of killing people is able to buy a gun designed for inflicting mass carnage. Apparently, we're OK with that.

We've been here before, so many times. A mass shooting, a solemn President urging the country to take action to curb guns, and then... nothing. Get ready for more deja vu.

In his statement on Sunday, President Obama once again found himself urging Americans to consider the consequences of the nation's lax gun controls saying, "We have to decide if that's the kind of country we want to be." He added that deciding to do nothing was a decision of its own.

At this stage the President is simply going through the motions. After his bitter failure to pass new gun controls following the Newtown massacre in which 20 young children and six adults were killed, he must know the chances of success this time around are even slimmer. In April 2015, Pew Research reported that for the first time, more Americans believe that protecting gun rights is more important than controlling gun ownership.

We should be worried about that, because there are lots of people like Omar Mateen who despise queers but love guns. Many commentaros were quick to talk about the horrific and well-documented homophobia of ISIS but few stopped to mention how our gun laws make it easy for anyone to heed a call to pick up arms and attack us. The perpetrator of this outrage might be motivated by hate and fundamentalism, but Congress and its refusal to change the law should rightly be seen as an accessory to murder.

More deja vu: The principal weapon used to kill and maim in the Pulse nightclub was an AR-15-type semiautomatic, the same gun used by Adam Lanza at the Sandy Hook elementary school on December 14, 2012. It's also the same type of weapon that was used at San Bernardino in California last December to kill 14 people at a holiday office party. And it was used, too, by James Eagan Holmes at a Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, to kill 12 people on July 20, 2012.

You might reasonably ask why Congress can't simply reinstate the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, which expired in 2004, and would have included guns like the AR-15. That law was demonstrablyh effective in reducing the use of assault weapons in committing crimes, but Congress let it lapse under President George W. Bush.

In every case calls to tighten gun controls have been defeated by a cabal of conservatives and the NRA, which treats any and every infringement on the right to bear arms as an attack on the US constitution. Incredibly, in the wake of the Newtown massacre, Congress even refused to expand the number of gun-buyers checked for histories of crime or severe mental illness--this despite the fact that 90 percent of Americans support such checks.

One might reasonably ask, if Congress couldn't do that after the savage deaths of young children, can we expect Congress in an election year to take action when the victims are primarily gay men in a nightclub? Precedent would suggest not. After all, shootings at schools continue with impunity. After Newtown, the NRA's extraordinary prescription for preventing more deaths at schools was to arm children. The NRA's mantra that to prevent gun crime we just need more guns has grown tired and stale. Meanwhile, massacre follows massacre.

Expect another one soon.

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