• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Here's Johnny - Compromise to save lives

From 1988-1991, I lived in Orlando, Fla., where I worked as a Navy journalist for the Naval Training Center's public affairs office. A few months before I came to The Sun in 2014, I was flown there for a job interview with a company that offers mobile health check-ups. I was offered the job, but with my daughter just a freshman in high school and more lingering love for My Old Kentucky Home than I'd imagined, I decided against returning to the scene of three of the best years of my life. While stationed in Orlando, I never went to Pulse, the nightclub where a monster in human form took the lives of 49 people early Sunday morning. For one thing, I wasn't gay (not that there's anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld and Costanza kept saying in the episode where they were mistaken for a gay couple). For another, folks were getting kicked out of the military for being gay, and even if I'd been on the trail of a heterosexual female, it wouldn't have been wise for someone on admiral staff to be seen in such a place. We are still learning what drove Omar Mateen to murder more than four dozen people. We know that in a chilling 911 call in the midst of his butchery, he claimed allegiance to ISIS. We know his ex-wife said she'd left him because he was abusive, and that he appeared to suffer from a mood disorder. We know he'd expressed disgust with homosexuals. We know that FBI agents interviewed Mateen twice after reports from co-workers that the American-born son of Afghan immigrants may have had terrorist ties. Then, according to the New York Times, the FBI discovered a link between Mateen and the first American suicide bomber in Syria. They found "minimal contact," and closed the investigation. Mateen was able to keep his security officer license, his job and his Florida firearms license, which he used a few days before the Pulse shooting to buy a handgun and a "long gun" - the latter of which was an assault rifle. Question: Do you believe a man who'd been interviewed multiple times by the F.B.I. should have been allowed to buy an assault rifle? I don't. Question: Do you believe people on America's terrorist watch list should be able to buy assault rifles, or any guns? I don't. Groups on both sides of the gun control issue will use the tragedy to raise money for their cause. It's the American Way. Maybe it's time for all of them, and the members of Congress they support, to lay down their arms, so to speak - to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The assault weapons ban passed in the 1990s was allowed to expire, and no serious gun control effort has passed Congress since. Can't we meet somewhere in the middle - for instance, make it illegal for someone interviewed multiple times by law enforcement personnel or on the terrorist watch list to buy or possess a weapon of mass destruction? Couldn't we plow more resources into groups that can diagnose people who are mentally ill or might pose a threat to others, and increase the level of cooperation between mental health experts and law enforcement? When I was in Orlando, I spent a week on the firing range with the Seabees during their annual training for a lengthy feature story. I learned how to disassemble, clean, reassemble and fire - with some level of accuracy - an M-16. We weren't allowed to put the weapon in automatic mode, and instructors kept an eye on all of us. Twenty-five-plus years later, a hate-filled and possibly mentally ill man took such a weapon into a crowded nightclub, killing 49 people and forever altering the lives of all those who loved them. We've got to do something - or make sure that those who refuse to do anything pay a little more attention to us and a little less to the interest groups that fund their campaigns.

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