Hate, guns, mass shootings and yet nothing gets done
Maybe after Orlando, we will have the nerve to do something
Three assault rifles.
Loaded clips taped together.
A 5-gallon bucket with chemicals that could be used to make explosives.
As the country was waking up to the horrific news of the mass shooting at a gay bar in Orlando, Florida, 2,500 miles away police found those items inside a white Acura parked on a street in Santa Monica, California. Sitting inside was James Wesley Howell, who told authorities he wanted “to harm Gay Pride event,” referring to the parade that was scheduled later that day in West Hollywood. Police said they are still trying to determine exactly what Howell was planning to do, but one can imagine, taking his statement and what he had in his car into account.
If it wasn’t for someone making a 5 a.m. phone call to police about a suspicious-looking person in his neighborhood, something terrible might have happened. And while Santa Monica police said there does not appear to be a connection between the senseless killings committed by 29-year-old Omar Mateen in Florida and the intentions of 20-year-old Howell, there is a glaring recurring theme.
According to Gun Violence Archive, we’ve had 133 mass shootings in 164 days, including the tragedy in Orlando. In a 17-hour span starting Friday morning, someone in Chicago was shot every 53 minutes, including a 5-year-old girl in a park. On Feb. 20, we had five mass shootings, but the national media could only absorb one: the Uber driver in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Not every trigger was squeezed by a gang member fighting over territory in the ghetto.
Anti-gay sentiment was not the sole driving force.
Neither was it all about ISIS, or mental illness or video games or any of the reasons couched as the single cause to explain every single act of gun violence — no matter how varied the circumstances may be. But this is what happens when juvenile partisan politics require that we speak of a one solution to what is obviously a very complicated problem.
Three guns, explosive material and camouflage gear was found in a car on the west coast before we had finish wiping away the tears from what happened in Orlando. Federal and local authorities reportedly thought about cancelling the parade but instead increased security. Organizers of the West Hollywood celebration also thought about cancelling because of safety concerns. Attendees showed up with Florida still heavy on their hearts. Multiple people told me that their family and friends asked them, begged them not to attend after learning of Howell’s arrest. But fear is the opposite of pride and the LGBT community, my community has lived in fear long enough. Besides if we were to let the constant threat of gun violence dictate our every step none of us would leave the house.
Places of worship.
The movie theater.
Where exactly isn’t the threat of bullets flying anymore?
Daniel Gilroy, a former co-worker of Mateen’s, reportedly said the alleged gunman often used slurs against gays.
Howell, meanwhile, was arrested last fall for pointing a gun at his neighbors and according to the News and Tribune. Howell was also accused of pointing a gun at his boyfriend. That’s right — the man who said he wanted to cause harm at the gay pride parade reportedly has a boyfriend.
My heart is broken over what happened in Orlando. I’ve been to Pulse. One of my close friends told me he was thinking about going that night but decided to go elsewhere. He, obviously, was lucky. Just as West Hollywood was likely lucky in avoiding what could have been another tragedy.
The two men in question may have been connected by gun possession, but the context that brought them into the public eye differs and that matters.
We want stories of this nature to be neat and tidy, but that only makes it easier to package for constituents, politicize in tweets, or point fingers. It doesn’t do squat in terms of finding actual solutions. That was made evident after Adam Lanza walked inside Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut in 2012 and fatally shot 26 people, including 20 children, and lawmakers made emotional speeches until our attention turned elsewhere.
Nearly a year ago today in South Carolina, Dylann Roof walked into Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and killed nine people and the only substantial change that followed was the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse. The “Charleston Loophole” that enabled Roof to purchase weapons when he should not have been able to is still open.
An anti-gay terrorist walked into a nightclub and lashed out against my community and I fear “thoughts and prayers” will be the lasting response as it has been so many times before.
What good is a demand for stricter gun laws when there are not enough resources allocated to make sure the current ones are followed? What can strict laws in one state do when would-be criminals can easily travel to a neighboring state and purchase whatever they want?
If we want a solution to our gun violence problem, it begins by recognizing it isn’t a problem. It’s myriad problems that require solutions specific to each one and lawmakers courageous enough to follow through.
On Sunday morning, three assault rifles, ammunition, and a 5-gallon bucket of bomb-making materials were found in a car next to a man who told police he wanted to do harm. This only a few hours after the worse single-day mass shooting in modern U.S. history took place on the other side of the country.
Perhaps the only reason that he didn’t inflict harm was because somebody, thankfully, in that neighborhood had the courage to do something besides just think and pray. Maybe after Orlando, politicians will finally have the fortitude to do the same.