One minute, dozens of LGBT people were having an enjoyable night at a nightclub where they could feel safe. The next, 50 were killed and many more injured or running for their lives after a gunman shot at the crowd. The attack was the worst shooting in America’s 240 year history and has been described by President Obama as ‘an act of terror’ targeted at the LGBT community.
The shooting is another sad reminder of America’s continuing problem with guns. There is a reason why this type of event does not happen in Britain, or Australia or another other developed country. How many more lives have to be lost and how many more families have to grieve before concrete action can be taken to stop firearms meant for use on the battlefield getting into the hands of those out to do harm to themselves or others?
The Orlando shooting also reminds us that LGBT people still face prejudice in their everyday life. Even in America in 2016, the community still has to worry about being murdered by a homophobe in a place where they are meant to be comfortable and feel free to be themselves. Whilst the terrorist intent of the shooter is clear, it should not be overlooked that this was a premeditated attack on the LGBT community.
If America is committed to cracking down on domestic terrorism and preventing these events from happening again and again and again, then there must be more work done to combat homophobia wherever it springs up, regardless of whether the source is from Islamic extremists or from those on the right of politics who continually deny the existence of the trans community and rally against same-sex marriage. Whoever promotes these views helps perpetuate the same hatred that the LGBT community have fought for many decades. People should not have to be afraid to hold the hand of their partner in the street.
Finally, there are those who will try and use these attacks as a way of demonising all Muslims once again, as further fuel to the fire of Islamophobia in some of politics. Republican nominee for President Donald Trump wasted no time in doing that, patting himself on the back for calling for a ban on Muslims entering the US. Whilst the atrocity committed in Orlando will make people angry, it should be remembered that hatred isn’t an appropriate response to hatred. Equality can’t be achieved through taking rights away from others. People will use this attack as a way of supporting their anti-Muslim narrative, but that doesn’t mean they stand with the LGBT community in the fight for equal rights.
Once again, American lives were lost for the rights of some to carry guns wherever they go. And once again, the homophobic atmosphere that still persists in some communities has led to more bloodshed. How many more people have to die before this comes to an end?