OPINION: America’s gun violence problem clear after attack on LGBT nightclub

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The country mourns the loss of 49 members of the LGBTQ community and their allies after a man’s senseless act of terror on a gay nightclub in Orlando on Sunday.

Omar Mateen, 29, walked into the Orlando nightclub Pulse and opened fire on hundreds of patrons, killing 49 and wounding more than 53, according to Elyssa Cherney and Christal Hayes in Orlando Sentinel article, “As Orlando mourns families await word on victims.”

Mateen was investigated in 2013 and 2014 for possible ties to terrorist organizations, but the FBI later determined he wasn’t a threat, Cherney and Hayes said.

The morning after the attack, I laid in bed and read the reports about what had happened during my slumber. It has taken me a few days to wrap my head around the reality of the situation, and still I have trouble making sense of what has happened to our country.

In 2016 alone, there have been 139 mass shootings in the U.S., and more than 250 people have died in those incidents, according to the Gun Violence Archive of mass shootings in 2016.

Innocent lives have been lost, and an infinite number of families and friends have been forever affected by these tragedies, yet many states still have relaxed gun laws.

Take Kansas for example.

According to FindLaw.com, Kansas gun laws don’t require:

  • Firearms dealers to get a state license.
  • Background checks for gun sales between individuals.
  • Gun owners to register their firearms or report lost or stolen guns.
  • A limited number of guns that can be purchased at one time.
  • There is no permitting requirement for concealed firearm.
  • Permit local law enforcement to deny a concealed carry permit.

Similarly, Florida, where Mateen bought the firearms used in the attack just weeks prior, is known to have “historically weak gun laws,” according the the website for the Brady Campaign to prevent gun violence.

“Law enforcement sources confirmed that Mateen was on the FBI’s radar, but not necessarily on a watch list,” Meghan Keneally said in “Orlando shooter legally bought guns despite previous flags by FBI,” from ABC News. “But even appearing on the list wouldn’t have necessarily prevented him from obtaining weapons.”

In addition to relaxed gun laws, the FBI isn’t notified when someone who they previously investigated buys a firearm. After Sunday’s massacre, however, they are looking to adopt new procedures that would alert counterterrorism officials of such a purchase, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates was quoted saying in the New York Times article, “Omar Mateen, twice scrutinized by F.B.I., shows threat of lone terrorist.”

In my opinion, it is absolutely ridiculous that a procedure like this was not created a long time ago.

Now I’d like to point out that I am an expert of neither politics nor foreign issues, but after 139 mass shootings in 2016 alone, I feel that it is the experts that need to start listening to the voice of the masses.

“We cannot accept our level of gun violence as the new normal,” President Barack Obama tweeted on June 2. “We must take action to prevent this from happening again and again.”

While many argue the problem is with radical Islamic terrorism, the fact cannot be ignored that the firearms used in the assault were bought in the U.S. and, because many states have relaxed gun laws, attacks like this could happen again.

“The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub — it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds and to advocate for their civil rights,” Obama said in the White House news release, “Remarks by the president on mass shooting in Orlando.”

Although this could have been an attack on any community, it happened to a community that has endured enough suffering prior to the attack. Although the nation stands divided on the problem we are facing, the country stands united behind the LGBTQ community.

I believe that if we have stricter gun laws and more advanced FBI procedures, then maybe, just maybe, we can stop something like this from happening again.

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Kaitlyn Cotton
Hi world! I'm Kaitlyn Cotton. I'm a junior studying English with hopes of going to law school one day. I spend my days writing, reading and working for the Collegian. I have had articles published in the Kansas City Star, the Collegian, and most importantly- my parent's refrigerator.