By Amala Dasarathi
On 12th June Omar Mateen gunned down 49 people in Pulse, a nightclub frequented by the LGBTQ community of Orlando, Florida. It was reported that Mateen did not have any ‘hate crimes’ registered against him. He did, however, have a history of perpetrating domestic abuse at home. Mateen’s ex-wife says that he hit her multiple times while they were married and also held her hostage, although he was never held liable for these acts by the law. (Mateen’s wife Noor Salman’s role in the shooting is also being investigated, as she apparently scouted the club with Mateen before the attack and is also seen on camera buying ammunition with Mateen.)
Soraya Chemaly writes in the Rolling Stone that Mateen’s history of intimate partner violence must be considered while examining what drove Mateen to do what he did. “Regardless of religion or ethnicity, anti-LGTB rhetoric is the expression of dominant heterosexuality that feeds on toxic masculinity and rigid gender stereotypes,” she writes.
A recent study conducted by Everytown for Gun Safety, an organisation that studies mass shootings, found that over 25 percent of mass shootings that took place from 2009 to 2015 were committed by individuals with prior domestic violence charges. In fact, the FBI reports that in 57 percent of the mass shootings that took place between January 2009 and June 2014, the victims were close family members of the assailant, such as wives and children. Even in shootings that do not involve close relatives of the assailant, 64 percent of the victims are women and children.
Did Mateen choose a safe space inhabited by the LGBTQ community because he felt entitled to control their behaviour, and acted violently when he felt unable to do so? Another picture emerging of Mateen is that of a closeted homosexual. People who frequented Pulse said they had seen Mateen at the club before, and one man said Mateen had approached him on a gay dating app.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted condolences to the families of the victims of the shooting, like several other world leaders. But there has been considerable backlash to his tweet, given that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalises homosexuality has not been scrapped yet in India.