Silicon Valley Mourns Victims of Orlando Terrorist Attack

A gunman’s rampage on a gay nightclub in Florida killed 49 people and wounded 53 more, making it one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history and the worst domestic terror strike since the Twin Towers fell.

It was also a hate crime against the LGBT community.

The shooter, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, reportedly targeted Pulse nightclub out of homophobia. He was killed by police after an hours-long standoff and is excluded from a revised victim count

News of the tragedy prompted an outpouring of grief across the globe with people unfurling rainbow flags and holding vigils to honor the victims.

In San Jose, 300 people lit candles outside the Billy DeFrank LGBTQ Community Center Sunday in tribute to the lives lost. Maribel Martinez, who heads Santa Clara County’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, read the names of the first known victims—almost all of them Latino. Gabrielle Antolovich, Billy DeFrank’s board president, called the shooting an attack on “our own people.”

That the gunman targeted a gay club adds to the sense of violation. Queer gathering places have historically offered refuge for people who face persecution outside. 

As President Obama noted in his address after the shooting, Pulse was more than a dance club—it was “a place of solidarity and empowerment where people [came] together to raise awareness, to speak their minds and to advocate for their civil rights.”

“I rarely thought of gay bars as sanctuaries before today, but that's how they've always served me: as safe spaces, as community centers, as places to feel connected with and accepted by people like me,” Casey Newton, Silicon Valley Editor for The Verge, wrote on Facebook hours after the attack. “They are among the most diverse places I visit, and also the most inclusive. While they are not religious places, they embody religious ideals: of radical acceptance, of universal brotherhood, and of love. Once I'm done crying, and done working, I'm going out in the Castro again to help remind the world what LGBT people have always stood for—the idea that you should be who you are and love who you want. There is no other way.”

The county’s government center and local city halls lowered their flags to half-mast, at the president’s behest. Various community groups planned more vigils, including two tonight at San Jose’s City Hall—one at 6pm and another at 8:30pm.

Lawmakers decried the tragedy as another failure of the nation’s gun policies, which allowed Mateen, who had been investigated for ties to terrorist groups, to legally buy an AR-15-style weapon—a frighteningly efficient tool for mass murder.

State Assembly members put out a call for action on gun safety laws Monday, holding a press conference in San Francisco to highlight a slew of gun safety bills awaiting a vote in the state Senate Committee on Public Safety this week. Here’s a list of them:

AB 1664 (Levine, Chiu, and Ting): removes loophole in assault weapon ban that allows for “bullet buttons” to easily facilitate changing magazines.

AB 1673 (Gipson): closes loophole allowing for sale of “ghost guns,” or gun parts and components that can be easily reassembled.

AB 1674 (Santiago): limits purchase of long guns to one per month, aligning the regulation for hand gun purchases.

AB 1695 (Bonta): stops illegal “straw” purchases, or someone legally buying a gun and then reselling it to someone unable to legally purchase a firearm.

AB 2607 (Ting): allows mental health professionals, employers or coworkers to seek restraining orders to prevent high-risk individuals from obtaining firearms.

The Bay Area’s Muslim community expressed shock and outrage about the attack, which authorities believe was inspired, though not coordinated, by ISIS. Mateen, an Afghani-American, was born in the United States and appears to have been radicalized over the internet.

“We join our fellow Americans in expressing our deepest condolences to the victims and their families,” said Zahra Billoo, head of the Bay Area chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, in a statement Sunday. “We are horrified by this tragedy and encourage all people to donate blood, support the various vicitms’ funds and attend vigils in their neighborhoods. We are stronger when we stand together against hate violence.”

Speaking of blood donations, there’s an urgent need for them in the wake of the shooting. But in an infuriating twist, it’s easier for a suspected terrorist to buy an assault rifle than a gay man to donate blood in this country. Federal law bans sexually active gay men from donating blood, which adds another layer of outrage.

For those who can donate blood, find out how through One Blood. To give money to the victims, click here.

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

19 Comments

  1. I don’t know where to begin…. More of the same from the whacky left. Muslim extremists hate everyone except other radical muslims! Lets be clear on that. Gays just happen to be one of the groups that they hate. They throw gay people from the tops of huge buildings or stone them to death. This was a target that was soft. But because this club was a gay club and gay people were slaughtered, the left will focus on that because it detracts from the real issue. Radical Islam. Say it with me Jen “R A D I C A L I S L A M” There that wasn’t so difficult. Are there loopholes in gun laws yes. Would banning all guns (which is impossible) have kept this radical islamist murderer from killing people? No. So once again the left is going to play smoke and mirrors. In the end who does this hurt? Does it further one sides political power over the other? These same Muslims that have declared jihad on all of us would slaughter every single liberal and their entire family in a heartbeat. We are in a very bad place right now. We are becoming as bad as France with our heads buried in the sand. These monsters seek a caliphate and they are determined and conventional means will not stop them. We can all throw our guns in the ocean, hold hands and sing “we are the world” but we will cease to exist. Im not a huge fan of Trump but Hillary scares me more than anything else with her promise of 4 more years of Obama type failed policies. But nice gun control article Jen. You didn’t let us down.

    • I’m all for calling him a radical islamist terrorist but under one condition: that we also call abortion doctor murderers radical christian terrorists. Deal?

  2. “Lawmakers decried the tragedy as another failure of the nation’s gun policies, which allowed Mateen, someone on the terrorist watch list, to legally buy an AR-15—a frighteningly efficient tool for mass murder.”

    Nope – Mateen was *not* on a terrorist watch list. He was investigated in 2013 and 2014. Per FBI agent Ronald Hopper, “We determined that contact was minimal and did not constitute a substantive relationship or threat at that time.” Depriving citizens of constitutionally protected rights without due process is frightening. Particularly when one considers previous FBI abuses of power against Martin Luther King and anti-war protesters – or the current wave of selective prosecutions.

    A black metal AR-15 may look scary, but some wooden stock hunting rifles are more lethal – ask someone with a knowledge of firearms. And no, AR-15s are not ‘frighteningly efficient…for mass murder’. They’re actually poor compared to others; it’s clear Mateen lacked gun knowledge.

    The murders in Paris and Orlando were interrupted by an armed response: two armed diners at a Paris restaurant and an armed security guard in Orlando. Casualties would have been far worse otherwise. It’s not clear how many Orlando victims were shot by Mateen or by Orlando law enforcement in their response. OPD’s chief raised that aspect in today’s interview.

    Note that over 70% of law enforcement officers support gun rights. Fresno Sheriff Margaret Mims has been an outspoken critic of loopy gun control proposals by Gavin Newsom and Sacramento legislators. Criminal don’t observe laws. That fact seems to be lost on some elected officials and their feckless proposals.

    San Jose Pink Pistols – a LGBT and women-friendly group of shooting enthusiasts conducts several events each month. See http://www.pinkpistols.org/ and http://www.meetup.com/San-Jose-Pink-Pistols/ for more information. We’d enjoy having you attend an event, Jennifer.

    • How many lives would have been saved if the Orlando Pink Pistols would have been having their social hour at the Pulse nightclub.

      How strange it is that gay activists preach constantly about the omnipresence of “homophobia” and yet in a world of ISIS, borderless immigration, Ft. Hood, and San Bernardino, take no precautions against those who would act on their “homophobic” impulses.

      At this moment in time, I would say that gays are probably MORE at risk of being victims of gun violence than the general public, and that any prudent gay who wishes to publicly exercise their right to freedom of association should get a concealed carry permit and pack some heat.

      So, may we now conclude that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which just recently turned thumbs down on concealed carry permits is disproportionately putting gays at risk?

      • AFAIK, it’s illegal for patrons to possess firearms in any establishment that serves alcohol. I believe most gun owners strongly support this – I certainly do. Too many ‘Florida man’ videos of injuries or fatalities involving gun play and alcohol.

        But another venue where open or concealed carry is legal?

        Pure speculation, but I’d bet on a different outcome. I’m privileged to shoot with several highly decorated combat war vets, two women that routinely put .45 bullets in a shot group the size of a dime at 50′, and men that frequently win high speed holster draws. Four of us completed a 4 day defensive handgun class at FrontSight Academy. It included building penetrations in a simulated and timed hostage situation with mock innocents, perps, and hostages. All of us delivered two instantly fatal shots. One would have been sufficient, but training required two. Generally one shoots to stop a threat, not to kill. But imminent danger (yours or another) can provide legal justification to take another’s life.

        We we also advised to retreat in case of a threat, call 911, and only shoot where there’s no other practical alternative.

        • > AFAIK, it’s illegal for patrons to possess firearms in any establishment that serves alcohol.

          It’s legal for patrons to possess drivers licenses and car keys in establishments that serve alcohol. And there is a presumption that they are capable of not drinking. They’re called designated drivers.

          There is no reason, other than gun-o-phobia, why it couldn’t be made legal to possess a Glock and a concealed carry permit in an establishment that serves alcohol.

  3. Rather than putting *more* laws on the books that regulate people that actually follow the laws, why don’t we spend all this energy and focus on working with all parties affected: gun owners, gun manufacturers, anti-gun supporters, legislators, general public, firearms experts, law enforcement, etc.

    It’s always easy to use fear and panic to push an item forward, but I just wish we would spend the same energy to actually try to work together to come up with a solution, not just react. What happened in Orlando is horrific. Any legal and law abiding gun owner I know condemns this. I am pretty sure all lawful gun owners condemn this. But that’s the problem, how do you keep people lawful?

    I don’t have an answer to the issues facing us with gun violence; however, I do strongly believe the following:

    1. The NRA is not promoting a solution, they are promoting fear and a lack of collaboration, and an unwillingness to budge.
    2. Anti-gun legislators are doing everything they can to get guns limited from everyone though bans and restrictive laws.
    3. Neither side of a gun-related issue is trying to figure out a solution, they feel any compromise is a sign of weakness and won’t cave.
    4. Until we find a way to allow for “sensible” laws (please stop using “common sense” as a term, it is insulting), these kinds of tragedies and the daily killings on the street will continue.

    I am all for thorough background checks, waiting periods, severe penalties for gun related crimes or crimes that use guns, training for people, detailed training and proficiency for individuals that want to carry a weapon concealed, and coming together with law enforcement to figure out what they need to be successful.

    We are missing the crucial point here: accountability. Why do we feel OK that police and security personnel carry guns? Because they are properly trained and follow the law. If they do something inappropriate, there are consequences and there is a long trail of ownership, training, performance, etc. I’m not suggesting we need that level of scrutiny for every gun owner, but I think anyone that wants to carry a weapon on their person (CCW) should be allowed to do so and be subject to many rules and training (this is generally the case, but not in many places). To have a gun at home for self protection, sport, or just because you want one should be allowed legally (I think our founding fathers would agree).

    While random acts of senseless violence like this makes me sick, our society is OK with other random act of violence on a daily basis (e.g., drunk driver killings), but they are not on the same immediate scale. If you add them up, it is pretty horrific. Yet, we allow the same drunk operators to get back on the road and risk our community. Do we start banning cars? Of course not. Perhaps that is more appropriate for another discussion, but I bring it up as an example of the same principle (to me) that is being talked about here. Just because you have some really bad actors, do you restrict everyone to the extreme in an effort to control the extremists…as they are the ones that can never be controlled.

    • ” Why do we feel OK that police and security personnel carry guns? Because they are properly trained and follow the law.” The reports I have heard and read say that the killer was a security guard. Has that been proven to be incorrect? I don’t know about Florida, but my experience in California is that the three major categories in the security guard demographic are :geezers who would be useless in a crisis, felons, and cop wannabes who couldn’t pass the psych test.

      • AFAIK, only NYPD publishes data on shot accuracy. About 18% (less than 1 in 5) hit their intended target. Lots of innocents getting wounded and extensive property damage by errant shots. In fairness to NYPD, their brilliant elected officials mandated a 12 lb trigger pull to reduce ND – negligent discharge. I believe it’s about 1 every 33 minutes in the US for law enforcement. One of my pistols has a factory setting of 5.5lbs ,and I have it tuned for less to increase rate of fire. I feel sorry for NYPD (and civilians near any exchange of gunfire with NYPD).

        Law enforcement requalification is shamefully easy. And that’s the only time most use a firearm. SJPD MERGE officers are in a different league and are excellent marksmen.

        A Pink v. Blue (San Jose Pink Pistols v. SJPD) shooting challenge could be interesting. I suspect cops (with MERGE) would win in 100 yard rifle, but less certain about longer. SJPP maybe in semi-auto pistols, and strongly favor SJPP in revolvers. Maybe a fundraiser for PAL – police athletic league (kids sports) would be a good beneficiary. Fun to ponder.

      • According to the ATF twitter feed, it looks like an AR-15 type rifle and a Glock 9mm. Is this information refuted in other areas? To most people, it looks like a scary AR-15 (even if it is a knock-off)….believe me, they get a lot scarier. The ironic thing, regular hunting rifles are far more deadly and can be equipped with the same scary looks. Why do people like cars with fins or headers or certain colors? Because they think they are cool. Why does someone get a 220mph Ford Mustang for their daily driver? There is no reason it should have 450hp. It will never be used at a race track. For that matter, car will never be legally allowed to exceed 75-80MPH, but they do. Should that be eliminated? High speed chases could be eliminated forever with that restriction.
        Why do we allow that? It is dangerous. It risks lives…I bet more than mass shooting gun deaths too.
        The fact is: We live in a free society. FREE. Free means that bad things can easily happen. If we were in communist Russia or China, we would not have a gun problem, guaranteed. I’m not suggesting that is what is needed; rather, I am simply giving the result of a political and citizen society.
        Freedom means you are allowed to make bad choices….really bad ones. Knee-jerk reactions are never the best.
        https://twitter.com/ATFHQ/status/742105007693156352/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

    • Kirk,
      “The NRA is not promoting a solution, they are promoting fear and a lack of collaboration, and an unwillingness to budge.”

      I find lots to fault with the NRA, and I’m a life member. But do feel the NRA has advocated sensible solutions. Examples:
      a. Reverse Prop 47’s provision that changed handgun theft from a felony to a misdemeanor. Any property theft under $950 is now a misdemeanor. Most firearms cost well under $950. Why treat gun theft like candy theft?

      b. Boost mandatory minimum sentences for possession of stolen firearms.

      c. Require more transparency. It’s too easy for DA’s to plea bargain firearms related crimes. Only rarely are prohibited persons prosecuted for lying on a firearms background check. We have no means to tell if Jeff Rosen is enforcing our firearms laws. Anecdotal information says he isn’t.

      d. Treat juvie gangbangers as adults. Brady (an anti-gun group) claims “50 children a day are killed by firearms”. Well, yes when a child is defined as anyone under 25. Remove the 14-24 year olds and the rate plummets, remove ages 10-13 and child fatalities become vanishingly small.

      e. Invest in better corrections program. Our recidivism rate is about 80% when measured over 5 years.

      The NRA has advocated for all of these items…and more. The common thread is ‘do what works and don’t punish innocent, law-abiding citizens’.

      The US has by far the largest number of firearms per capita. We’re also safer than 109 other countries when ranked by firearm deaths per capita. Our safety ranking soars when black crime cities like Chicago, Detroit, New York, Houston are removed. It’s an uncomfortable truth that firearms injuries and deaths are primarily perpetrated by blacks and latins – see the FBI crime stats. About 2/3rd of white gun deaths are suicides.

      Seems like we should be focusing on black and latin communities plus mental health. Like others, I don’t believe we can police ourselves out of the problem. On the other hand, our gun fatality rate has been steadily declining. There’s no correlation between gun crime and NY & CA’s (toughest in nation) gun laws. The laws simply haven’t had any tangible impact.

      33 states have now adopted some type of constitutional “shall issue”, open, or concealed carry laws. None have produced the anarchy that Brady predicted. Firearms crime has remained steady or declined in those states.

      I’d support tougher access restrictions were there evidence of positive outcomes, but it’s proven illusive. I’m frustrated by opportunistic weasels like Gavin Newsom. He knows the data, but fails to advocate meaningful reforms. Instead he wants to give the impression of positive change, when there’s absolutely no reason to his restrictive proposals will have any positive impact.

      • GGO,

        I hear ya. I guess I was more making a point by making it extreme. I, too, am a life member of the NRA. I am also a life member of the California Rifle and Pistol Association, Second Amendment Foundation, and the California State Sheriff’s Association.

        I am from the only area that has probably stricter gun laws than California: NYC. So, I have first hand knowledge of how hard it is to own a firearm in NYC (you need to get a permit and register a shotgun and even a .22 rifle).

        I do agree that the NRA is trying to protect everyone and teaches gun safety at youth. They promote gun laws that try to help law abiding citizens, the ones that are directly impacted by any existing or new gun laws.

        I believe we need to focus our attention on existing laws, connecting the many disparate databases of information, and effectively screening the consumer. Trying to demonize a firearm because it looks scary and make it harder to own or purchase is an emotional and uninformed response. It’s like saying we should ban all monster trucks because they are scary. No one is saying you need to own one, but what gives you the right to stop someone else that is just a law abiding as you?

        The NRA is not all bad, but they are put into positions that make them say dumb things and push positions that I think are kind of indefensible. Unfortunately, they have to go the “all or nothing” route…that to me is the crime.

        -Kirk

      • > a. Reverse Prop 47’s provision that changed handgun theft from a felony to a misdemeanor. Any property theft under $950 is now a misdemeanor. Most firearms cost well under $950. Why treat gun theft like candy theft?

        Prop 47 has been a DISASTER! 25,000+ auto break-ins in San Francisco. We need to identify the lunatics and goo-goo’s who sold California on this bill of goods and hold them accountable.

        > b. Boost mandatory minimum sentences for possession of stolen firearms.

        Anyone know what the current mandatory minimum sentence is?

  4. Where was the white house and the state department (Clinton) when Benghazi was under attack. Same ole BS, don’t act on the problem only give weak answers after the fact. This is how our government works. All the Government, down to state and cities post comments but nothing every changes. I blame the federal government for not changing investigative tactics and admit we do not do enough instead of trying to be politically correct. Starting to like Trump’s views.

  5. Before jumping to a conclusion about the shooter’s motivations and/or associations, we should first establish his association with sanity, and, if he is determined to have been crazy (all but a certainty), acknowledge how crazy it is for us to beat each other up with our political and/or social agendas.

  6. Marteen was *not *equipped with an AR-15. LGBT For Gun Rights broke the story and put up helpful photos and background info for fact-challenged, sloppy journalists. Note that the term “assault weapon” doesn’t apply. It’s not defined under FL law. And despite the Sig’s scary look (Kirk’s monster truck analogy), they’re fun to shoot, and quieter to reduce hearing damage.

    CA prohibits suppressors aka silencers – another example of our idiotic regulations. Unlike 007 movies, suppressor-equipped firearms do make a lot of noise. They reduce noise to about 130-150 dB – the same as a M-80 or cherry bomb firework. They also reduce noise complaints when housing tracts encroach on outdoor ranges.

    See https://www.facebook.com/LGBTforGunRights/?fref=photo

    • According to the ATF twitter feed, it looks like an AR-15 type rifle and a Glock 9mm. Is this information refuted in other areas? To most people, it looks like a scary AR-15 (even if it is a knock-off)….believe me, they get a lot scarier. The ironic thing, regular hunting rifles are far more deadly and can be equipped with the same scary looks. Why do people like cars with fins or headers or certain colors? Because they think they are cool. Why does someone get a 220mph Ford Mustang for their daily driver? There is no reason it should have 450hp. It will never be used at a race track. For that matter, car will never be legally allowed to exceed 75-80MPH, but they do. Should that be eliminated? High speed chases could be eliminated forever with that restriction.
      Why do we allow that? It is dangerous. It risks lives…I bet more than mass shooting gun deaths too.
      The fact is: We live in a free society. FREE. Free means that bad things can easily happen. If we were in communist Russia or China, we would not have a gun problem, guaranteed. I’m not suggesting that is what is needed; rather, I am simply giving the result of a political and citizen society.
      Freedom means you are allowed to make bad choices….really bad ones. Knee-jerk reactions are never the best.

  7. It’s remarkable how quickly this conversation has changed from the facts, to blaming guns, gun laws, gun owners, the NRA and homophobia, we have even gotten into banning cars.

    This man was investigated and interviewed by the FBI put on the terrorist watch list removed from the terrorist watch list.
    Reported on by fellow students, Disneyworld, background checks of, and received a guard card.

    Because of political correctness and a willingness look at anything other than the facts, our wonderful Federal Government was in charge of turning yet again another Muslim terrorist lose on unarmed civilian population.

    There are no laws that can be tyrannical enough to keep us safe as long as we have leaders willing to look the other way as vermin like this guy are waved on and armed up by the our PC government, and the same guy that brought us “Operation Fast and Furious”

    Well done Barrack Hussein Obama, keep chipping away at the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.