In Response to Orlando, The Right will Divide and Obfuscate

[Originally written and published on June 13]

Once again, this country has experienced an act of terror resulting in high casualties at the hands of someone with a gun. As a nation, we woke up to this horrible, despicable news, feeling grief and outrage — but not surprise. We knew this would happen again. We didn’t know who would do it or to whom, but each of us understands profoundly that mass shootings are always right around the corner, so long as we exist in our current legislative state.

Right now is the moment to upend this inevitable future. Only by seizing this tragedy as an opportunity to put gun use in America on the table as an issue to decide today, before more people die, do we honor the lives that were lost.

Soon, the supporters of the gun lobby will try to convince us that conversations about gun control so soon after the Orlando shooting are offensive to the victims. Do not let them wield the power of dictating the conversation. They know that refusing to discuss gun reform is the best way to maintain the status quo. And at this point, maintaining the status quo is a decision to place the value of gun ownership above that of human life.

The shooter, Omar Madeen, targeted a gay nightclub during a Pride celebration, and that inarguably makes his act a crime of hate. It is an act of terror, to be sure, but it also a violent and despicable expression of hatred toward the LGBTQ community worldwide.

But you won’t see conservative pundits or politicians focusing on that aspect of things. You will see them minimizing the fact that this club was gay, that its celebration was part of Pride Month, and that most of its patrons belong to the LGBTQ community. They will do all they can to avoid a discussion about the disgusting and enduring lack of acceptance of LGBTQ rights throughout this country — evidenced by a recent uptick in legislation that is hostile to LGBTQ rights — and focus instead on furthering an anti-Islam ideological agenda.

Be careful not to allow this brutal expression of hate toward one community of marginalized Americans to be co opted into a political rallying cry to support the creation of more hate, toward our fellow Americans who practice the Muslim religion, and who are increasingly marginalized for that choice. Madeen’s identity as a Muslim does not justify Islamophobia. And furthermore, Islamophobia, besides being merely a regurgitation of undeserved hatred, diverts national attention from the truest enemy: guns.

Over the next few days, as talking heads and politicians obfuscate the issues at hand, it is our obligation to envision instead the sea of automatic rifles and pistols that will take out the next group of innocents, and the next, and the next. We need to focus on those deadly weapons, and not on Mateen’s religion or his parent’s place of birth. You will hear the Right doubling down on the regulation of Islam and immigration in this country. But the only regulation relevant to this tragedy is that of firearms.

The Right will rant about borders, borders, borders — when instead we should be focusing on guns, guns, guns.

As we grieve and process this crisis, we must not allow the conservative right to disregard the glaring truth that Sunday’s tragedy was, at its core, a direct result of our nation’s refusal to seriously regulate firearms and enforce gun control. Mateen was investigated by the FBI twice in the past three years, yet firearm regulation in this country is not strict enough to prevent him from purchasing and owning the firearm that killed 50 people. That is inexcusable.

To respect the legacy of the victims, do not allow hatred of religion to win the discourse. Put the focus squarely on two issues: the strict, enforceable, federal regulation of firearms and the promotion of equality and inclusivity for LGBTQ Americans.

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