Update: In a press conference Monday morning, Orlando police confirmed that 49 people had been killed and 53 injured early Sunday morning at Orlando's Pulse gay nightclub in the deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S. history. After opening fire on the crowd, an individual named Omar Mateen had taken hostages and was ultimately killed in a stand-off with police; Mateen had called 911 and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State shortly before the massacre. Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer declared a state of emergency, and the massacre is being investigated as an act of terrorism.
The victims' names were released by the city of Orlando on its website as their next of kin were informed. Here are some ways to help the Orlando shooting victims and their loved ones; you can also donate to the victims' fund, as well as express your solidarity with the LGBTQ community by posting a tribute online. You can also attend a vigil near you to honor the victims.
Earlier: Early Sunday morning, a gunman opened fire in Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. As of 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, the death toll had been raised to 50, according to Buddy Dyer, mayor of Orlando, with more than 50 injuries have been reported as well. While officials initially reported the Pulse shooting death toll as 20 people, the number was later corrected to 50 in a press conference by Orlando police and FBI officials. This makes the shooting the deadliest mass shooting in American history. While no motive has been named for this event as of yet, the FBI and other domestic law enforcement are involved in the case, and are treating it as an incident of domestic terrorism. Health officials in Orlando have asked for Orlando citizens to please donate O negative, O positive, and AB plasma blood in the wake of the tragedy.
As unimaginable as violence and death like this is in any capacity, the state of Florida (like much of the United States) is all too familiar with gun violence and, more specifically, mass shootings. According to a study done by PBS, there were 27 mass shootings that took place in Florida in 2015 alone. The shootings left 113 injured or killed. In the same year, there were 355 mass shootings in the U.S. as a whole, meaning that a little over 7.6 percent of all mass shootings in the country took place in Florida last year.
According to a 2015 infographic by NPR that broke down gun laws by state, Florida stands somewhere in the middle in terms of strictness on who can own a gun, but leans towards the more lenient states. In fact, in 2015 Guns & Ammo magazine named Florida the 12th "best state for gun owners," noting that, "For many years, Florida’s gun laws have been the envy of gun owners nationwide...The Sunshine State places no restrictions upon modern firearms, magazines or NFA [National Firearms Act] items..."
As a NPR graphic points out, Florida does have waiting periods for handguns, but unlike states like California (generally regarded as one of the most strict states in terms of gun control, according to the Washington Post), which have waiting periods for all firearms, the waiting period applies to only handguns. Florida does not have universal background checks for purchasing a gun, nor does it have assault weapon restrictions, according to NPR. While Florida does have a ban on the open carry of handguns, it also issues concealed carry permits with "no discretion," meaning that the applicant doesn't have to give a reason for wanting to carry a concealed weapon, according to NPR.
Of course, these statistics don't account for guns bought illegally, but the sad fact of the matter is that (as of 2012) since 1982, 56 out of 71 mass shootings utilized at least one legally -bought gun, according to Mother Jones.
Despite the fact that mass shootings and gun violence can happen anywhere, even in places like California, where laws are decidedly more strict, the fact is that the easier it is to buy a gun, the more guns there will be. More guns do not make us safer, despite what gun right's advocates like to say. According to a study done by Slate in 2015, between 1983 and 2003, mass shootings took place in 25 other wealthy nations. In the United Kingdom, for every 100 inhabitants, 6.2 individuals owned guns. Comparatively, in the United States, for every 100 inhabitants, 88.8 owned guns. There were 3 mass shootings in the UK. There were 78 in the United States.
Statistics like these highlight more specific numbers like the ones in Florida, where gun control laws are not as strict as they could be and dozens mass shootings are happening per year. In order to change things, gun control laws have to be changed.
If you'd like to help the victims, survivors, and families of those affected by the Pulse shooting immediately, and live in the Orlando or central Florida area, officials are calling for blood donations, specifically for O negative, O positive and AB donors