This morning, hundreds of millions of Americans woke up to the news that a man armed with an AR-15 assault rifle who had called 911 to announce that he was about to commit a heinous act in the name of the Islamic state group had brutally slaughtered over fifty people at a gay nightclub in Orlando and wounded many more before being killed in a shootout with police.
Today’s attack was a hate crime, a mass shooting, and a terrorist attack all rolled into one. It’s hard to think of words to properly describe it; horrific seems like an understatement. The FBI is taking charge of the investigation and is trying to piece together what happened, which could take a while.
“This is an open investigation. We’ve reached no definitive judgment on the precise motivations of the killer,” said a weary and saddened President Obama from the White House Briefing Room. “The FBI is appropriately investigating this as an act of terrorism. And I’ve directed that we must spare no effort to determine what — if any — inspiration or association this killer may have had with terrorist groups.”
“What is clear is that he was a person filled with hatred. Over the coming days, we’ll uncover why and how this happened, and we will go wherever the facts lead us.”
An ATF spokesman, speaking at a press conference in Florida, said the gunman had legally purchased the AR-15 assault rifle used in the attacks along with another weapon (a handgun) in recent days. The weapons have already been traced, but the ATF did not divulge where they were purchased. The shooter had an active security license and a firearms license, authorities have said.
It’s not yet known why the shooter specifically targeted the Pulse nightclub, but there can be no doubt the shooter wanted to attack the LGBT community.
As President Obama said:
“This is an especially heartbreaking day for all our friends — our fellow Americans — who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. 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.”
Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Oregon Governor Kate Brown also recognized that the tragedy was a hate crime.
“Yesterday it was such an honor to join Spokane’s inspiring celebration where they, as many communities across the country this weekend, were celebrating the progress we’ve made for our LGBTQ friends and family. It was an event marked by pride, love and joy,” said Governor Jay Inslee.
“This morning we wake up to see this horrific tragedy. We are all waiting to learn more about the motivations of this man but there is no doubt that today is one of unimaginable sorrow for the LGBTQ community, the people of Florida, for our nation and for people everywhere who are sickened and shocked by such an act of hatred. It’s difficult to even find the right words in a time like this.”
“Trudi and I, and every Washingtonian, send our deepest condolences to the people of Orlando and Florida.”
“Tragically, what we are waking up to in the United States today is that the growing number of mass shootings in the U.S. increases the number of Americans with a personal connection to a Roseburg, a Charleston, a Columbine, and now, an Orlando,” said Governor Kate Brown.
“Two days ago I participated in Umpqua Community College’s commencement exercises just nine months after ten lives were lost in a mass shooting on its Roseburg campus. As we celebrated UCC students reaching a major milestone, we also honored the community’s resiliency.
“I call upon us as a state to move beyond the political debate about gun control and instead bring responsible gun owners and community advocates together to find solutions. We must take action to better protect community safety.”
“My thoughts are with the victims in Orlando, their loved ones and families, and I extend my sincere gratitude to the first responders. As Oregonians, we share in the pain and mourning reverberating across the United States and world today.”
We at NPI believe in the idea that love is stronger than hate. We thank the central Florida Muslim community for swiftly uniting with local LGBT leaders to support the victims and the families of the victims of this attack. A vigil has already been planned for tonight by the Islamic Center of Orlando.
Vigils are also being planned here in the Pacific Northwest. In Seattle, a vigil will take place at Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray will speak. The vigil will begin at 8 PM Pacific Time, organizers say.