Omar S. Mateen, the shooter who killed 50 people and injured dozens more in Orlando, Florida on June 12 was a “person of interest” who the FBI had investigated, was briefly on a “terrorist watch list,” and beat his ex-wife, according to reports in the Washington Post and LA Times.
But he was able to legally buy the AR-15, the gun of choice for mass shootings, in Florida, reported the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms:
It is impossible to tell from early reports how lengthy an investigation of Mateen was, whether he was still being monitored in any way, or whether his wife had reported his violence to law enforcement—but even if he was still being monitored for terrorism ties, he would be able to legally get a gun.
Last December, two proposed bills that would have expanded background checks on gun buyers and kept people on terrorist watch lists from purchasing guns were voted down, mostly by Republicans.
Many of them have taken sizable donations from the National Rifle Association, which aggressively lobbies against gun control bills. Some have received more than a million dollars. After the Orlando shooting, some of the same politicians tweeted their “thoughts and prayers” for the victims.
Less than two weeks before the Orlando shooting, US president Barack Obama eerily warned that the National Rifle Association lobbying had created a dangerous situation in America where terrorists can get guns.
At a town hall meeting in Indiana, he argued for “commonsense gun laws,” and decried the NRA’s influence:
If you buy a car, if you want to get a license— first of all, you’ve got to get a license. You have to take a test. People have to know that you know how to drive.
You don’t have to any of that with respect to buying a gun, and when we talked about doing effective background checks, it was resisted because the notion was we were going to take your guns away.
I just came away from a meeting today in the Situation Room in which I’ve got people who we know have been on ISIL websites, living here in the United States, US citizens, and we’re allowed to put them on the no-fly list when it comes to airlines, but because of the National Rifle Association I cannot prohibit those people from buying a gun.
This is somebody who is a known ISIL sympathizer, and if he wants to walk in to a gun store or a gun show right now and buy as much as many weapons and ammo as he can, nothing is prohibiting him from doing that, even though the FBI knows who that person is.
So sir, I just to have to say respectfully, there is a way for us to have commonsense gun laws. There is a way for us to make sure lawful, responsible gun owners like yourself are able to use it for sporting, hunting, protecting yourself. But the only way we’re going to do that is if we don’t have a situation in which anything that is proposed is viewed as some tyrannical destruction of the second amendment, and that’s how too often the issue too often gets framed.
The NY Daily News is directly blaming the NRA for the tragedy: