Is ‘deadliest’ deadly enough?

Mourners grieve at a vigil for the victims of the shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, June 13, 2016.

Jim Young, Reuters

Mourners grieve at a vigil for the victims of the shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, June 13, 2016.

Daily Editorial Board

Fifteen times since he assumed office in 2009, President Barack Obama has stood behind a podium, and with downtrodden eyes, decried America’s gun epidemic. 

On Sunday afternoon, he delivered his 16th speech — this time about the latest, calamitous mass shooting in Florida.

Hours earlier, a lone assailant toting a legally purchased assault rifle — later identified as Omar Mateen — stormed a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., killing 49 patrons and injuring 53 more. Aside from the atrocities waged against Native Americans, the rampage is the deadliest shooting ever to occur on U.S. soil.

For the nation’s LGBT community, the shooting is an odious reminder of the continued persecution of gay people — particularly those of color. Despite the gay community’s long, tumultuous struggle for equality — foregrounded by the Stonewall-era riots in New York — the attack in Orlando bears glum resemblance to anti-gay arsons in New Orleans, Los Angeles and Nashville during the gay liberation movement in the 1970s. 

Nearly 50 years later, the prerogative of such crimes remains the same — to viciously destroy the few sanctified spaces where gay people feel safe to celebrate their identity openly. Hours after blood soaked the floors of Pulse Night Club in Orlando, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that an Indiana man — armed with assault rifles and explosive material — had been arrested en route to a West Hollywood gay pride parade. 

Identity aside, the shooting in Orlando was an assault on the American ideal of liberty. For Mateen, freedom — to live and to love — was clearly untenable. 

On Sunday, Obama articulated these sentiments: “This is a reminder that attacks on any American — regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation — is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that help us as a country,” he remarked.

While acts of malice may engender fear, solidarity in the face of violence will always triumph.

As with Aurora, Newton, Charleston, Isla Vista, Roseburg, and many others — the bloodshed in Orlando has, justifiably, raised public furor. Concerned citizens question the action of elected officials — many of whom vetoed legislation that would prevent people on the F.B.I. watch list from purchasing guns. Some lawmakers voted against classifying anti-LGBT attacks as hate crimes, and some have recklessly accepted campaign funds from gun-supporting special interest groups.

And yet, elected officials continue to offer condolences — now rote, as the death toll from gun violence in America has climbed to more than 6,000 in 2016 alone. 

There is no longer room for prayers or succor. Action must be taken to ban high-powered assault rifles in the United States; combat weapons have no peaceful purpose in the hands of ordinary citizens. 

With a presidential election looming in November, some candidates will surely make sweeping, populist appeals to gun control. As voters, we must realize that unfettered gun access will continue to have devastating effects on American society if action is not taken. In this election, every vote matters — the only antidote to gun violence is our own political agency.