In surprisingly strong the language, the Vatican reacted to the shooting in Orlando this past weekend which claimed the lives of 50 people and injured 53 more. According to the Holy See Press Office, the Pope reacted with “horror” upon learning of the massacre. They also added,
‘The terrible massacre that has taken place in Orlando, with its dreadfully high number of innocent victims, has caused in Pope Francis, and in all of us, the deepest feelings of horror and condemnation, of pain and turmoil before this new manifestation of homicidal folly and senseless hatred.’
The Vatican’s spokespeople also added that the Pope joined the grieving families in prayer, and hoped for a way to prevent such atrocities in the future.
‘We all hope that ways may be found, as soon as possible, to effectively identify and contrast the causes of such terrible and absurd violence which so deeply upsets the desire for peace of the American people and of the whole of humanity.’
The tally of 50 deaths includes the gunman himself, Omar Mateen, who died in a shootout with police in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Although news sources quickly jumped on Mateen’s connection with Islam and declaration of loyalty to Hezbollah, ISIS, and Al Qaeda (three organizations which, incidentally, hate each other), more recent evidence points to a man who was deeply disturbed and violent, had a history of spousal abuse, used gay hookup apps like Grindr, and frequented the gay nightclub that would become the site of the mass murder. This was clearly an extremely troubled man whose religious affiliations were not the whole story.
Of particular note is that the Republican-controlled Congress shot down a bill that would have prevented this disaster in the first place. Mateen had been under investigation and was added to a terrorist “watch list” according to NBC’s Pete Williams. Under the bill, Mateen would have been prevented from purchasing the firearms he used to commit the murders.
In the wake of tragedies like these, conservatives decry any attempt to pin the blame on the easy availability of firearms. They may shrug their shoulders and say “oh well”, or point fingers at radical Islam. But the names must be mentioned; Adam Lanza, Seung Hui Cho, Dylan Roof, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. None of these men had affiliations with a radical religious group and all of them took part in some of the worst shootings in U.S. history. And, as with Mateen, there were warning signs. Just as a felony conviction may remove a citizen’s right to vote, the right to bear arms should be contingent on proving the need for a firearm, either for protection or sport. And a gun purchaser should have the burden of proof shifted to them to show the state and gun vendors that they are mentally competent to own and responsibly operate a firearm.
Hopefully this is what the Vatican meant when they spoke of finding ways to identify and contrast the cause of these events. Those of us who demand stricter gun laws in the U.S. need all the help we can get.