Orlando mass shooting

Politicising massacre at Florida gay club clouds the real issues

Working together, without prejudice, is the only way to find a solution

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 June, 2016, 10:53pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 June, 2016, 12:34am

Politicisation of the deadliest mass shooting in American history was inevitable. With elections for the president and other public officials less than five months away, candidates were quick to send condolences to the victims and their families. But the tweeted “thoughts and prayers” of politicians have been stated with numbing regularity each time a gunman claims multiple lives, to no avail. Only when sentiments are backed with resolute action to put an end to extremism, intolerance, hatred and uncontrolled gun ownership will the tragedies end.

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The shooting at a nightclub in Orlando merged all those issues. Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old American Muslim, opened fire with an assault rifle and handgun at the gay entertainment venue, having moments before the attack called the emergency number 911 to pledge allegiance to the extremist group Islamic State. He took at least 49 lives and injured dozens more before police shot him down, by far eclipsing the tally of victims in recent years by other gunmen at universities, schools, places of worship and cinemas. Investigators have already admitted he had been twice previously scrutinised for terrorist links, raising questions as to how he was not on officials’ radars.

Messages from inside club depict three hours of horror: ‘Everyone get out of Pulse and keep running’ ... ‘he’s coming. I’m gonna die’ ... ‘losing blood, love u all’

Only when the inquiry is complete will his motives be known, but it is obvious extremist views and homophobia were involved. The shooting coincided with Ramadan and LGBT Pride Month; Mateen was a devout Muslim and his father said his son had recently been incensed when he saw two men kissing. US President Barack Obama rightly described the massacre as “an act of terror and an act of hate”. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump offered an unproductive and self-serving message, though, tweeting with limited knowledge: “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.”

The world stands with Americans in condemning the atrocity. Debate has been heightened globally on terrorism, religion, guns, mental illness and sexual minorities. Working together, without prejudice, is the only way to find a solution.