Orlando: I’m Tired of This.

America woke up to another shooting this morning. This time 50 are dead, and 53 are injured from the Pulse Nightclub terror attack / massacre in Orlando, Florida during Pride weekend, which is as of today the worst mass shooting in the history of America. According to the Daily Beast, before this, “the deadliest single-person mass murder in American history occurred in Bath, Michigan, in 1927, when a man bombed a school, killing 44 people. The shooter is Omar Mateen, and as Orlando’s Police Chief John Mina has said, “The shooter had an assault-type weapon, a handgun and “some type of (other) device on him.” Mateen was a person of interest by the FBI in 2013 and 2014, and has an ex-wife who said he was unstable and beat her. The parents have said this has nothing to do with religion, but sadly it is being reported there is a possible connection to ISIS. He’s purchased his weapons in the state for Florida within the past few days. That’s basically the gist. Details will unfold, a story will come together, and eventually this will fade after a few days maximum in the news cycle, as do all shootings of recent years. What we DO now is what matters.

The event happened at 2am, came to a head roughly at 6am, and I woke up at 9:30am to a NYTimes phone notification and some texts. My thought timeline went from worry, to befuddlement, to anger:

  1. Check on friends in the area — all are ok.
  2. Think: “I can’t believe this is happening. How can someone have so much evil in their heart? Why does this happen here? I feel so bad for everyone involved.”
  3. Immediately after: “OH wait, yes I can believe this, we know how this happens. This is America in 2016. This is the world we’ve created for ourselves.” (Admittedly this is a dark mindset to get to so quickly, even for me and my sarcastic/cynical tendencies.)
  4. Isn’t there something anyone can do? Is there anything I can do?

I didn’t even want to think about opening Twitter/Facebook because I knew I would see a deluge of familiar posts that have good intentions, but are repetitive and somewhat empty. I’m tired of this. I’m tired of the hate. I’m tired of the gun control argument. I’m tired of the fear people succumb to with national security issues. I’m so tired of posting the same thing time after time, and I’m so tired of knowing exactly who will post, and what they wll say. I want action. I want information. I want to be pointed in the right direction. I want to be able to DO something. We all immediately go to these networks and post about the following categories because we as people need to react in some way:

  • thoughts and prayers with the victims
  • outrage, anger, and sadness about the event
  • posts of hope and unity that this will someday stop
  • political and gun control rants, calls for change
  • issues of national security
  • jumping to conclusions about anything
  • commentary about race, religion, sexual preference
  • pleas for respect and privacy until we know more

This isn’t bad — it’s natural. This type of action makes us feel better. It’s cathartic. However it’s only momentarily and only until it happens again. The definition of insanity… How many of you make gun control your #1 issue when it comes to voting for elected officials? I haven’t, but I may start.

As I’ve done after every previous mass shooting, I had a conversation with my best friend about it because I know it’ll be the right amount of sadness, anger, analysis, and humor to keep both of our spirits up in the face of a tragedy. This time I just didn’t really know what to say that hadn’t already been said a dozen times this year already. I jokingly said, “I can’t wait to hear what President Trump’s response on Twitter will be.” He mentions he was actually looking at that as we spoke (nothing yet). You see, we’re both privileged, educated, white, and liberal. We agree mostly on the need for massive change when it comes to guns and the second amendment, but disagree on the how.

  • Him: wants a straight out ban on all guns, especially semi automatic weapons, a la Australia’s buyback program. Enough is enough at this point when we compare ourselves to other civilized nations.
  • Me: wants massive regulation that’s consistent with how we deal with cars and driving. As someone who grew up with guns at home from family members in law enforcement, I desperately want to believe we can have our second amendment right without this kind of senseless violence.

We both agree that anything would be a step in the right direction. Where’s the compromise? Why is it that someone who’s a former FBI person of interest can walk into a club in Florida fully armed with semi-automatic weapons and murder 50 people? How was he able to buy guns a few days ago with no problem?

We talk a bit more about what an individual can do that’s not just posting a few words on social media to make ourselves feel better. We get talking about laws, representatives, voting records, and we both feel that events like this are ultimately on us, all Americans, as voters. But I realized it’s so easy to say this without knowing the facts and I started digging into Florida’s activity to see if that sentiment is true. What I find is not clear, it’s not simple, and it’s not pretty. All I keep coming back to, is in order for this to stop, everyone must do their part every year and all the time and use their voice in a meaningful way. Until that happens, the madness will continue.

First and most importantly, I took a look at various voter stats from the past few years. Are people turning out to vote for non-presidential elections? The answer is no. The results are abysmal. For a variety of races voter turnout was extremely low. A small amount of people are choosing their representatives on local, state, and federal levels that directly impact the gun control debate. Many of Florida’s elected officials don’t support regulation.

  • In the November 2015 elections, a non-Presidential voting year, voter turnout in Orlando was extremely low. There weren’t many “big” contests. Only 14.65% of registered voters cast ballots in the election — 22,339 out of 152,505 eligible voters.
  • In the Aug 2014 Primary — Only 17.52 percent of Florida’s 11.8 million voters turned out, it’s the lowest primary turnout since 1998.
  • In 2010, only 49% of people turned out in the general election, which included Marco Rubio’s win to US Senator.
  • In the 2014 Midterm Elections, Florida had a +3.4% increase over 2010, from 41.7% to 43.1%. However, this is still less than half of the state voting for non-presidential positions. Across the country, 2014 was the lowest turnout in 70 years. These were the options on that ballot that year in Florida:

I did a quick search on what Florida’s gun laws are. At a quick wikipedia glance, it seems like there’s basically none. Many of these issues have been voted on in recent years within the state.

Governor Rick Scott has signed the following into law:

I needed to know more about Florida’s leadership and their views. As a New Yorker all I know about Florida is that it’s got some occasionally crazy news (zombies?) and tends to be a swing state in big elections. I also know they had a knee jerk reaction to Obama’s gun announcements earlier this year. These are the people at the top and their gun control stance, and Ontheissues.org has a full list of Florida’s politicians. Below are some of their names:

Bill Nelson — Democrat (Senior Senator, assumed office in January 2001) is an advocate for new gun control laws including an Assault Weapons Ban and imposing a ban on magazines over ten rounds.

Marco Rubio — Republican (Junior Senator, assumed office in January 2011) is very anti-gun regulation, and during his presidential run claimed he’d protect second amendment rights and roll back President Obama’s executive orders. Often discussed as the least effective Senator in the Senate.

  • Florida has 27 representatives to Congress. Orlando’s Congressman is Daniel Webster — Republican in the 10th Congressional District, who assumed office in January 2013. He has an A+ rating from the NRA and opposes any regulation of the second amendment.
  • Within Florida’s State Legislature representing Orange County seems to be roughly 5 Senators:

Andy Gardiner — Republican

Alan Hayes — Republican

Darren Soto — Democrat

Kelli Stargel — Republican

Geraldine Thompson — Democrat

Where do all of these people weigh in on gun control? They all roughly follow party lines, but I wanted to know specifically what bills they’ve voted for or against when it comes to guns. Below are the voting records from https://votesmart.org/ regarding only this issue from the two US Senators as well as the Florida state senators, and the Congressman:

Bill Nelson:

Marco Rubio:

Andy Gardiner:

Alan Hayes:

Darren Soto:

Kelli Stargel:

Geraldine Thompson:

Daniel Webster:

I am as sad and angry about the events of this weekend as anyone, not just because they happened, but because they’re avoidable. Something like this should be a very rare occurrence, if ever, and not the norm. Mass shootings should not be getting worse. FIFTY people, with more likely to come, died during a weekend that celebrates loves and equality. How messed up is that?

With this information readily available everyone across the United States should, as a registered voter, go out to the polls every chance they can. There is no excuse for voter turnouts of 14% in major cities. It’s appalling that less than 50% of people make decisions on leadership in a state. We have an extremely inactive Congress, which is our collective fault as a nation. It’s not always easy and in fact keeping up with local elections is quite complicated. I know that my own participation has been lackluster, but that changes today. The importance of non-presidential political roles in issues like gun control on a state and federal level has never been more in our face than today. Use your voice in a meaningful way. Do the research. Get out and vote. Continue to post on social media, but follow those posts up with action.