Monday, June 13, 2016

Hate and terrorism: in my own backyard

The worst incident of mass terrorism in the U.S. since Sept. 11, 2001 took place not far from where I live in central Florida.  Today, I met a young woman whose closest friend was among the 49 clients at the Pulse nightclub who were mowed down and killed early Sunday morning while I slept--along with about 50 others wounded.

She, like many of us here, are sad and of course angry and confused:  Is this latest attack a sign that gun violence is out of hand, or is it a hate crime, as it appears to be?  The killer targeted gay people and was known to hate homosexuals, raising the question, has the progress made in gay rights led to more homophobia?

The killer was also a Muslim who claimed some connection, still unknown, to ISIS. So we ask yet again, why can the U.S. not persuade Saudi Arabia and other Islamic nations from sponsoring extremism in schools and mosques around the world?

And of course, there is the most immediate question: When, oh when, will this country get serious about gun control?  Why should a man suspected by the FBI of being a potential terrorist be allowed to purchase an assault rifle?

Who outside the military needs an assault rifle?  The right of self-defense with firearms has nothing to do with the easy availability of guns in America, which has become, like other parts of the world, marked by hate and senseless violence.

As I pray for the victims, many Hispanic young men, and their families, I pray too that Congress will get serious about gun control and that the federal government will do much more to stop Islamic extremism.  Fifteen years after 9/11, we face the same issues and feel unsafe in our own communities.

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