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Shooting renews gun-control push

By Amy He in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2016-06-14 11:38

After Orlando, senator seeks to bar firearms to hate-crime convicts

With the US reeling in the aftermath of a mass shooting at a crowded gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which left 49 people dead and 53 wounded, a US senator introduced legislation that would bar people convicted of hate crimes from owning or buying firearms.

Bob Casey Jr, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said at a press conference on Monday that law enforcement needs to focus on the connection between violence and hate crimes.

Gunman Omar Mateen, 29, had reportedly once expressed anger over seeing two men kissing. Authorities said on Monday that they had identified all but one of those shot and killed at the Pulse nightclub by Mateen, who was killed in a shootout with police. Many victims remain hospitalized in critical condition.

Mateen used an assault rifle and handgun that he had recently purchased legally. He professed allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS) in a 911 call he made during the attack, law enforcement officials said.

ISIS claimed responsibility on Monday for the slayings in an official broadcast on the group's Albayan Radio.

"One of the caliphate's soldiers in America carried out a security invasion where he was able to enter a crusader gathering at a nightclub for homosexuals in Orlando, Florida ... where he killed and injured more than a hundred of them before he was killed," the group said in its broadcast, according to Reuters.

Casey described the deadly shooting as "an act of terror" and "an attack on the LGBT community".

"In Orlando, he was targeting people based on who they were and who they loved, and that has to be a focus of our work as well," Casey said. "If you have proven you will commit criminal acts based on hate, you absolutely should not have access to a gun," he said. "It's common sense."

Leaders from around the world expressed their condolences for the worst mass shooting in American history.

President Xi Jinping called President Barack Obama on Monday to express sympathy on behalf of the Chinese government and Chinese people, according to Xinhua.

Premier Li Keqiang said in a press conference after his talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that China "opposes terrorist action in all forms".

Congressional Democrats challenged Republican lawmakers by reviving legislation that would deny the sale of firearms to those on terrorism watch lists, which had failed to pass in December.

The Democrats said they will try to attach the revived legislation to the Commerce, Justice and Science spending bill that will be on the Senate floor this week, according to the website Politico.

New York Senator Charles Schumer, a supporter of the legislation, said that Democrats believe they will "do better" this time in getting Republicans to support it. "Circumstances are going to force them to see the light," he told Politico.

Julian Mortenson, a professor of law at the University of Michigan, said that gun control advocates expect each mass shooting to be the catalyst for significant reform, but it has not happened.

"So I don't see signs of the fundamental political dynamic changing, and until we see some of that - and it's hard to tell when that will happen, perhaps at some point it will - I'm not sure we should expect the outcomes to be any differently politically," he said.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence advocacy group said in a statement released on Sunday when the Orlando shootings took place that it is "far too easy" for those who are intent on causing harm to access guns.

"We owe it to the people of Orlando - and to all of the 90 Americans killed each day by guns - to do everything in our power to prevent this kind of violence," said Dan Gross, president of the organization.

Obama said on Monday that "it appears that the shooter was inspired by various extremist information" online; he added that "all those materials" are now being scrutinized and "exploited".

Investigators said they are operating under the theory that the attack was inspired by ISIS. But Mateen, who had been interviewed twice by the FBI and once was on a terrorist watch list, had previously expressed solidarity with Islamist groups that oppose Islamic State, FBI Director James Comey said on Monday, adding "confusion" about his inspiration for the attack, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Mateen's ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, said outside of her home in Boulder, Colorado, on Sunday that their marriage lasted four months and that she had left their Florida home and filed for divorce. She said that Mateen had been abusive, and at times displayed erratic behavior. "There were definitely moments when he'd express his intolerance toward homosexuals," she said.

 Shooting renews gun-control push

A man kneels at a memorial service the day after a mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida on Monday. Reuters

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