The news bulletin that flashed across my laptop screen seemed all too familiar except for the number involved: an armed gunman killed 50 people in a crowded LGBT night club in Orlando early Sunday morning, making it the largest mass gun massacre in the history of the United States. Armed with an assault rifle and handgun, the killer called 911 to declare his allegiance to ISIS.
It may be tempting to quickly file this attack away as being uniquely “terrorist” because of the ties to radical Islam. Just as in the San Bernardino massacre in December which killed 14. Just as in the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 killing four; and the ISIS massacres in Paris last November and in Brussels in March.
But I can’t help but think of the similarity between these terrorists and our own home grown variety, who have also targeted
people simply for going about their law-abiding lives.
I think about Robert Dear, who shot up a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic in November, killing three people and injuring nine.
He had a history of anti-abortion sentiment and declared himself in court a “warrior for the babies.”
I think of Scott Roeder, a far-right Christian anti-abortion activist, who shot Dr. George Tiller inside a Kansas church in 2009.
Tiller provided medical care to women, including abortions.
I remember the 2014 massacre on a Jewish center in Kansas, killing 3, and the 2012 attack on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, killing six.
And I remember the massacre at a storied African American church in Charleston South Carolina, where a neo-Nazi killed 13 during a bible study meeting last June. The killer’s 2,500-word manifesto stated that he targeted Charleston because of its high African American population.
I am even reminded of the terrorist attack at the Atlanta Olympics twenty years ago. Eric Rudolph planted a bomb at those Olympics in 1996 which killed one person. Then he spent five years in hiding in the Appalachian wilderness while on the FBI’s most wanted list. After his capture, he confessed to bombing abortion clinics in Georgia and Alabama and a lesbian bar in Atlanta. In all, he killed two people and injured 120 others.
While our focus today is on the ISIS-inspired source of Sunday’s attack against an LGBT club, it’s important to remember that even our own home-grown extremists target people who simply adhere to different beliefs, and make different legal choices.
We should reject all violent extremism.