50 People Dead In Orlando LGBT Nightclub Shooting, Making It The Largest Mass Shooting In US History
Officials in Orlando, Florida have confirmed that there are at least 50 people identified as dead and many others injured after a shooting early Sunday morning. The number of people who died in the Orlando shooting at LGBT nightclub Pulse — which is likely to rise in coming days — makes it the largest mass shooting in American history. Ever. There were around 300 people in the nightclub when the gunman, who has been identified as Omar Mateen, an American citizen, entered with an assault rifle and, reportedly, a personal explosive device and opened fire. While many were able to escape, in large part because a bouncer knocked down a partition blocking a restricted exit from the club area, others were taken hostage by the gunman or shot immediately.
Police were able to enter the club and shoot the gunman. The death toll has been rising throughout the morning as police conduct their investigations. At a press conference on Sunday morning, law enforcement said that, in addition to the 42 people taken to the hospital originally, there were still many bodies within the club that needed to be identified. Police Chief John Mina said that they were focused on sweeping the nightclub for any other explosive device before they could focus on removing and identifying the bodies. They were able to confirm 50 dead, but medical officials said that many of the victims they have been operating on all morning are critical.
The rising death toll means that this is the largest mass shooting in America.
According to CNN, the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 when 23-year-old student Seung-Hui Cho opened fire and killed 32 people before killing himself, is the second largest shooting to date. The third largest shooting was at Sandy Hook Elementary School, when Adam Lanza, 20, killed 28 people, including his mother and himself.
It’s terrible to think that we enough of these tragedies that we can rank them. Other mass shootings on the “top 20″ include names you probably remember: Columbine (13 killed, 1999), San Bernardino (14 killed, 2015), Aurora, Colorado (12 killed, 2012) when that lunatic opened fire in a movie theater. Others are lesser known, or worse, slip your memory. Like Fort Hood, in 2009, where 13 people were killed. Other large scale shootings were at Killeen, Texas (23 killed, 1991) or Red Lake High School (9 killed, 2005) And at least Americans have been insane: in 1949 a a WWII vet used a German pistol to kill 13 people on a major street in Camden, New Jersey (13 killed, 1949).
In addition to being the largest mass shooting in American history, it is also the largest mass killing of LGBTQ people. The second largest would be the 1973 arson at Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans where 32 people — all gay men — were killed in the hate crime. Many survived by escaping the burning building with one of the bartenders. According to Time magazine, even in that seemingly tolerant city, homophobia slowed the investigation down:
The police department’s chief of detectives reinforced the homophobic climate when he told reporters that identifying the bodies would be tough because many patrons carried fake identification and ‘some thieves hung out there, and you know this was a queer bar.’
This is not just the largest mass shooting in history, but one of the largest hate crimes in against LGBTQ people since the 1973 arson and Stonewall Riots in 1969, even if officials and media organizations take their sweet time in labeling it one. There’s nothing anyone can say, though, that makes a shooting of this scope any easier to cope with.