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: In the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, at least 50 people died on Sunday following a violent attack on Pulse, a popular gay nightclub in Orlando. More than 50 others remained hospitalized as doctors and blood donation centers asked for donations — and concerned citizens lined up to oblige. The tragic incident has reignited the never-ending debate over gun rights, but there's one detail from the Orlando shooting that makes a pretty convincing argument against widespread gun ownership.
Reports surfaced late Sunday morning that more than 300 people had been gathered in and around the Pulse nightclub at around 2 a.m. when the shooting began. One of those individuals nearby was an Orlando police officer, who was armed. That officer exchanged gunfire with the shooter at 2:02 a.m., according to police sources. Then, the gunman proceeded inside the club, where he continued shooting and held dozens of hostages for around three hours.
The operative detail here is that lone police officer who was stationed outside of the club. He was, arguably, in the right place at the right time — and with the right weapon, a gun — to stop the shooting from escalating beyond a few random shots outside of a club. Somehow, though, that wasn't enough to stop the violence.
That's not a criticism of the police officer. Many officers ultimately responded to the shooting, including SWAT officers. They eventually set off a controlled explosion in order to get into the building and rescue the hostages. They saved dozens of lives and took down the shooter — and they should be admired and respected for their work.
Rather, it's a criticism of a typical gun rights argument, which suggests that Americans should have access to guns so that they can protect themselves when violence occurs. On Sunday, an officer was legally armed — and, as far as we know, trained to use that weapon in the face of danger — yet a mass shooting still ensued. If you fail to see the safety involved in legally arming average Americans, you're not alone.
I'm sure gun rights advocates would respond to this point by saying that more of the individuals at the club should have been armed in order to protect themselves. (Then again, that's probably not a sound argument no matter what side of the gun debate you're on, since guns and alcohol definitely don't mix.) To those gun rights activists, I'd ask: How far do you want to take this gun ownership thing?
The gunman who carried out Sunday's attack reportedly carried a handgun and an assault rifle known as an AR-15. The AR-15 is the civilian version of the M16 rifle, which has been widely used by the U.S. military. We may allow citizens to carry — even openly — a small handgun, but are we really going to allow our citizens to walk around with the quasi-military-style weapons needed to deter an attack from a quasi-military-style weapon? As a citizen, should I feel like I need to learn how to use such a weapon in order to feel safe in my community?
Gun rights activists often talk about adding more guns to public life. That seems like a slippery slope for society to take when it's not even clear that such a strategy would work. After Sunday's massacre, the need for action — preferably in the form of gun reform — has perhaps never been more clear. Now, it's the kind of action to take that Americans need to agree on.