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Editorial: A time for solidarity, and change

It’s hard to come up with words adequate to condemn the slaughter Sunday morning of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

People across the United States are expressing sympathy for the victims and their families, anger at the gunman and  steely resolve that we won’t let terrorism defeat us.

Deep down, though, we fear nothing will change in our nation’s response to mass shootings. Meanwhile, the intense attention on the man who carried out the attack threatens to inspire other isolated, mentally unstable individuals to go out in a blaze of notoriety. Claiming allegiance to ISIS or white supremacy or whatever their cause, so-called “lone wolves” rationalize an attack on innocent people and go in, guns blazing.

We’ve come to react with both shock and familiarity to mass killings and terrorist attacks. “Oh, no. Not again.” 

Yes, again.

The targeting of gay victims in a mass assault is a cruel twist. Through the centuries, people have been ostracized, ridiculed, bullied, beaten and murdered over their sexual preferences. We like to think our society has become more accepting and enlightened. But one deranged individual with a high-powered rifle — a .223 AR-style Sig Sauer MCX semiautomatic, to be precise — has reminded us with blistering clarity that intolerance and hate fester still.

If any shred of good can come from a tragedy such as the Orlando massacre, it’s the widespread expression of solidarity with the LGBT community. In Rowan, Salisbury Pride will hold a Pray for Orlando vigil outside Lee Street Theater on East Kerr Street at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Those who refuse to grieve these lost lives — those who stand apart with crude jokes or righteous judgments — find themselves in an ever-shrinking circle of small-minded people, people like the Orlando killer.

Lawmakers must study with new eyes how access to military-style weapons played in to this crime. The shooter skated along a razor-sharp edge; he openly expressed radical Islamic allegiances at least twice, but FBI investigations ended inconclusively. He worked as an armed security guard, so he was armed for years. But only recently did he buy a rapid-fire rifle capable of mowing down a crowd in a matter of seconds. Shouldn’t that have triggered an alarm somewhere? If, under current law, we can’t keep such weapons out of the hands of people investigated for terrorist ties, it’s time to change the law. To let this go on is reckless and stupid.

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