How can we run fair and safe elections in the time of social distancing? Diane talks with Ohio State University election law professor Edward Foley.
Guest Host: Nia-Malika Henderson
Thousands of mourners gathered last night in vigils held around the country for the 49 victims of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The FBI is defending its handling of the gunman three years ago when they placed him on a terror watch list, but nothing prevented him from legally purchasing the weapons he used in the mass shooting on Sunday. Both presidential candidates spoke about the mass shooting yesterday, with Hillary Clinton arguing for tougher gun laws and Donald Trump repeating his call for a ban on all Muslims entering the U.S. Guest host Nia-Malika Henderson and a panel of guests discuss the latest on the investigation plus national and international reaction to the worst mass shooting in recent U.S. history.
- Karen Tumulty National political reporter, The Washington Post
- Sarah Warbelow Legal director, Human Rights Campaign
- Dr. Liza Gold Clinical professor of psychiatry, Georgetown University Medical Center; vice president, American Academy of Psychiatry & The Law; editor and author of "Gun Violence and Mental Illness"
- Jeffrey Simon Visiting lecturer, department of political science, UCLA; author of "Lone Wolf Terrorism: Understanding the Growing Threat"
- Carrie Johnson Justice correspondent, NPR
MS. NIA-MALIKA HENDERSONThanks for joining us. I'm Nia-Malika Henderson of CNN sitting in for Diane Rehm. She's off today. In the wake of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, vigils were held around the world yesterday for the victims of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Here in the U.S., presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, gave starkly different speeches about the tragedy in Orlando and what to do about it.
MS. NIA-MALIKA HENDERSONJoining me in the studio to discuss the latest on the investigation, what the presidential candidate are saying and how the LBGT community I reacting, Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post, Sarah Warbelow of the Human Rights Campaign and Dr. Liza Gold of Georgetown University and joining us by phone from Los Angeles, California, Jeffrey Simon of UCLA. We'll be taking your comments, questions throughout the hour.
MS. NIA-MALIKA HENDERSONCall us on 800-433-8850. Send us your email at email@example.com. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. First, we're going to go to Carrie Johnson. She's joining us from Washington D.C. She's the justice correspondent for NPR. Carrie, this is, obviously, an ongoing and moving investigation. Developments, I'm sure, by the hour, by the minute. What do we know right now about whether this shooter had definite ties to Islamic State?
MS. CARRIE JOHNSONThe FBI director, James Comey, says that there is no evidence this plot was directed externally or outside the United States. It does appear, according to the FBI director, that the shooter, Omar Mateen, was self-radicalized after viewing quite a lot of online propaganda from jihadist groups through electronic means. And the FBI has the shooter's phone. It's been going through the phone and other electronic evidence.
MS. CARRIE JOHNSONThe FBI director says it's really difficult to untangle different streams of motivation in many of these cases and this is no exception, in part, because local newspapers in Florida and California have reported overnight some evidence that Omar Mateen had frequented the Pulse nightclub before this deadly attack and may have used gay dating apps to connect to gay men in the Florida area. So it's not clear whether he was doing that in order to find targets or from some other motive related to a sexual identity or a mixture of both.
MS. CARRIE JOHNSONThe FBI is looking at all of those things as we speak.
HENDERSONAnd is it true that the gunman, he was on a terror watch list in 2013, but he was later removed. Why did that happen?
JOHNSONNia, the FBI was investigating him starting in May 2013 because co-workers of the shooter's, at a courthouse in Florida, started to raise questions about some inflammatory and possibly extremist statements he made. So the FBI got on the case. They interviewed Mateen twice. They found a confidential informant to go meet with Mateen and record his phone calls. They engaged in some physical surveillance, did a whole bunch of other techniques for ten months and found not enough to bring any criminal case at all.
JOHNSONSo Mateen was on the watch list from May 2013 to March 2014. The FBI says he went off the list in March 2014 and as a result, he was able to legally purchase two weapons earlier this month, at least two weapons earlier this month in Florida, that were used in the course of this attack.
HENDERSONAnd some people focusing on that, why he was able to actually legally purchase a gun, even after being on that watch list.
JOHNSONYeah, there is some policy prescriptions out there from presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and some Democrats in the U.S. senate raising questions about whether the FBI should be alerted, whether in instances where anyone who's ever been on a watch list, even if they're no longer on one, attempts to purchase a firearm, but there are some big civil liberties concerns there, both from key supporters of the second amendment in Congress and at the NRA as well as groups like the ACLU, which have pointed out that some of these terror watch lists are rife with errors.
JOHNSONThey're vague and, in their view, overbroad and it would be a real violation of people's due process rights if they were not able to purchase guns based on their erroneous inclusion on a watch list.
HENDERSONAnd Carrie, some scrutiny on the police reaction to this mass shooting. I understand that three hours passed before a SWAT team actually stormed the nightclub. What was the reason for that delay and did it have any impact on the fatalities?
JOHNSONYeah, we're still trying to understand that. The FBI and local law enforcement have not given us a sign of how many of those 49 people who have died were killed in the early moments of the attack, which began around 2:00 a.m. on Sunday morning and how many were killed in the course of the SWAT team swarming the building and taking the shooter and eventually killing the shooter and in the exchange of gunfire around 5:00 a.m.
JOHNSONThe FBI director, Jim Comey, says he's not wanting to second guess the decision of local law enforcement on the ground, in part, because it appears, for some time, Omar Mateen stopped shooting. He was holed up in bathroom with some hostages and we know he had at least three phone calls with 911, one of which he pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State and its leader and also made reference to the Boston marathon bombers, the Tsarnaevs.
JOHNSONAnd at some point, his communications with 911 grew so alarming to local law enforcement that they determined there was an imminent loss of life likely and that's when they decided to storm that bathroom around 5:00 AM. And we know from the local police chief there they tried a lot of things. They tried to detonate explosives to blow a hole in the bathroom wall. That didn't work. So it took a while for them to get through. They finally used some kind of Bearcat armored vehicle type device to punch a hole in the wall.
JOHNSONHostages started streaming out of the wall and then the shooter started streaming out of the wall.
HENDERSONCarrie Johnson, thank you so much for that update.
HENDERSONI want to bring in our guests here. I'm going to go right to you, Dr. Liza Gold. From what we know so far about this shooter and, again, it's obviously very early in this investigation, do you think he was mentally ill?
DR. LIZA GOLDWell, let me start by saying that I've never met him, evaluated him, obviously, and so I can't really speak specifically to this gentleman. However, when you are talking about -- it's relatively unusual for someone with severe mental illness, serious mental illness to carry out an attack like this. It does happen on occasion, but there are other factors that are typically more common than serious mental illness. One of them is that you often see individuals who we used to indentify as fanatics, which is not considered a mental illness, they hold an extreme overvalued idea that's shared by a lot of other people.
DR. LIZA GOLDIt becomes sort of the dominant feature in their life, in their thinking, their -- they organize how they understand reality around it. It's not delusional, per se, but they're highly emotionally committed to it. It can be anything from sovereign citizens to, you know, discriminatory groups, homophobic groups, race, religion, whatever and people are so emotionally committed to it that when something triggers anger and problems with controlling their anger, they act out on that idea that organizes the world for them.
DR. LIZA GOLDAnd that's one part of it. And the other part of it, of course, is having access to weapons that can kill lots of people at one time.
HENDERSONAnd why isn't that people around him didn't see some of these red flags, some of this anger or maybe they did, but they didn't necessarily alert authorities. That's something that people are questioning?
GOLDWell, again, I don't know the specifics and what red flags there would have been for people in this particular case, but because these are not folks who are mentally ill, they are not deteriorating, they're not overtly delusional or thought-disordered, they're holding down a job often or going to school and so it's not clear to me what red flags this gentleman might have had. Other people might have accelerating anger due to a problem that's arisen in their environment, a job problem or a relationship problem or some such thing, which kind of tips them over the edge.
GOLDThey are angry people in addition to holding these beliefs and they often have a history of violence, but it's not really necessarily possible to predict, even if you know all of these things, who's going to go out and commit a crime like this. These are very -- as horrific as they are, fortunately, they're relatively rare. Less than 1 percent of all firearm deaths in the United States are due to these kinds of mass shootings so that's pretty uncommon.
HENDERSONAnd Jeffrey, you've studied attackers like the one in Orlando. Does he fit the profile of a lone wolf terrorist?
MR. JEFFREY SIMONThere actually is not one single profile of a lone wolf terrorist. Lone wolf terrorism cuts across the entire political and social spectrum. We've had right wing white supremist, neo-Nazi lone wolves. We've had single issue lone wolves and we've had a number of Islamic extremist lone wolves. What separates the lone wolf from the organized group is that, basically, they have no group decision-making process that they're involved with. And that's what makes them so dangerous.
MR. JEFFREY SIMONThey're free to think up any scenario they want and then act upon it. And there's also no constraints on their level of violence. Many terrorist groups will have certain thresholds because they're concerned about alienating supporters or concerned about a government crackdown. This doesn't apply to the lone wolf. And many of them can be mentally unstable, however we're going to define that whatever the emotional disturbance might be, yet still very effective.
MR. JEFFREY SIMONAnd it's difficult for law enforcement to identify and capture them because there's no communications to intercept, no members to arrest and learn about plots. In this case, we're having a lone wolf who did not fly under the radar. A number of the lone wolves do. There were warning signs in terms of the FBI had investigated him two times. And now, if it is true that he had visited the same club over the last several years, they now have to know what really went on...
HENDERSONThank you, Jeffrey. Coming up, more of our conversation on the mass shooting in Orlando.
HENDERSONWelcome back. I'm Nia-Malika Henderson with CNN sitting in for Diane Rehm. Jeffrey Simon, I'm going to pick back up with you on this. You wrote a book, "Lone Wolf Terrorism: Understanding the Growing Threat." One of the things you were saying is that it's difficult for law enforcement to pick up on these lone-wolf terrorists or actors because they don't have communications with other folks and there's no sort of group decision-making process, which is what makes them particularly dangerous.
SIMONYeah, and what's also interesting is that, prior to the Internet, the lone wolves were really loners. They basically did not communicate their intentions to anybody. And in one sense, while the lone wolf still is not communicating with other people via emails, they are wanting to talk through the Internet, through blogs, through posts and things along those lines. The many lone wolves I've studied, prior to an attack, basically expressed their desire to commit violence. The problem is, sometimes there's not enough lead time.
SIMONSo I look at the Internet, one, as a game-changer in terrorism, because both terrorist groups take advantage of it and the individual terrorists -- the individual who wants to learn about different extremist ideologies and tactics and become radicalized -- the Internet provides one of those mechanisms. And this is not just a problem in the United States, it's throughout the world.
HENDERSONAnd, Sarah, how is the LGBT community reacting to what happened in Orlando? Was this in fact a hate crime?
MS. SARAH WARBELOWAs you can imagine, the LGBT community is just devastated. You know, clubs have long been a sanctuary for LGBT people, a place that you can go and feel safe, even when you don't feel safe at work, in your home, in your place of worship. And so to really target that area of safety, it suggests that it was a hate crime. It has not yet been labeled so by the FBI but it is at this point possibly a matter of time.
MS. SARAH WARBELOWIt's absolutely clear, you know, that he was not targeting just a random group of people but, rather, had much anger against LGBT individuals and chose a particularly symbolic place at a particularly symbolic moment. June is Pride Month for LGBT people. We're approximately a year out from the Supreme Court decision granting LGBT people nationwide marriage equality.
HENDERSONWe got an email from Will in Ohio and this is what he had to say. Please consider the following explanation for this shooting. An angry, depressed, heavily closeted gay man decides to commit suicide and take as many people out with him as he goes, to provide cover and distraction and hide his sexual identity, he calls 911 and confusedly claims he is a member of one or more Islamist terrorist groups. New evidence seems to point more strongly toward this scenario than one of a radicalized, home-grown terrorist. Sarah, is this being explored by investigators? This might be something you don't necessarily know but, if it is the explanation, what effect will that have on the political rhetoric around this?
WARBELOWSo this information is relatively new, the suggestion that he was using gay dating apps and attending gay clubs frequently. It's hard to know at this juncture whether he was casing clubs for the particular act of violence that he engaged in or whether he had so internalized the homophobia that our society engages in that he had self-loathing towards himself. You know, this is not something new for the LGBT community. And when you hear at every turn how horrible you are for being a LGBT person, it really takes a toll on people, particularly when their individual communities are not supportive.
WARBELOWThis year alone we've had over 200 bills in state legislatures across the country aimed at stripping away rights from LGBT people. There's still so much animosity towards our community.
HENDERSONAnd, Karen, we are in the middle of a presidential campaign. And yesterday we had Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump weigh in on what happened in Orlando. What did they say?
MS. KAREN TUMULTYWell, there was a -- there could not have a been a more distinct contrast in their styles. Donald Trump essentially doubled down on the kind of rhetoric that he has been using. He, in a number of interviews, made comments that could be interpreted to suggest that President Obama has some sort of affinity with this terrorist. He, in terms of concrete proposals, there was not anything new except that he would now put a temporary ban on immigration from countries with links to terrorism. It was previously a religious-based ban. It would be Muslims.
MS. KAREN TUMULTYAnd Hillary Clinton gave a very subdued speech, emphasizing that, you know, this is a time that the country should be coming together. That, you know, I don't know that our politics is capable of that anymore at these moments. You know, not since 9/11, when the country really did come together, people forget that Congress' approval rating after 9/11 was in the 70s.
TUMULTYAnd -- but ever since then, it seems like these moments of crisis just seem to drive us further apart. And this one is one that, you know, you had all three of the most contentious issues in our society come together in that nightclub -- acceptance of LGBT people, gun control and our fears of terrorism.
HENDERSONAnd so the divide between Donald Trump's approach to what happened and Hillary Clinton reflects a divided country, essentially.
TUMULTYAbsolutely. And, you know, Hillary Clinton, her argument was essentially, we need to keep doing the stuff we are doing, only do more of it. So, you know, this I think comes down to the basic sort of policy divide between the two of them.
HENDERSONAnd in terms of policy or solutions, Dr. Gold, I mean how difficult is it to address this? How difficult is it to identify who the next mass shooter would be? How important is mental health to this equation?
GOLDWell, you know, from a -- if you look at the problem of gun violence in the United States, especially after a horrific event like this, it sounds very trivializing to say it's only one -- less than 1 percent of the population and it's certainly not my intent to trivialize the horror of all of this. But if you're trying to find less than 1 percent of something, it doesn't matter what tools you use, you are looking for a needle in a haystack. So we have to change our approach in terms of how we're trying to identify people who may be violent and have access to firearms. And that's a very big discussion that has lots and lots of moving parts.
GOLDIn terms of mass shooters, which again are the most rare form of shooting in the United States -- although clearly, you know, one of the most horrific -- one of the things I think that would be helpful is if you look at the kinds of weapons that are used to kill a lot of people at one time. You're talking about the semi-military -- semi-automatic military-grade weapons with large ammunition clips. So if -- there's been arguments that's made about the assault-weapon ban and that it didn't make a difference statistically in the number of gun deaths for the 10 years that the ban was in effect from 1994 to 2004.
GOLDAnd from a statistical perspective, absolutely that's true, because not many people use assault weapons to commit lots of crimes and kill lots of people. But if you're looking specifically at mass shootings, of the 10 largest mass shootings in the United States, seven or eight of them had assault-style weapons and military-grade weapons. So from looking at decreasing casualties, I think limiting military or assault weapons is a policy change that doesn't focus on, is this person mentally ill, is this person bigoted, what kinds of problems do they have? But looks at just how to reduce the number of people injured or killed by someone who's intent on committing violence.
HENDERSONJeffrey, would banning assault weapons deter these kinds of lone-wolf attackers from committing these types of attacks?
SIMONI don't think so. I mean basically, in terms of a determined terrorist, they try to find whatever weapon they can. And if they're committed to committing an atrocity, they're going to go ahead and do it. We've seen, in the Boston Marathon case, they used home-made pressure cooker bombs. It's interesting to think about if the lone wolf in the Orlando case did not have an assault weapon but, let's say, just a handgun and the casualty total was lower, that still would be a tragedy if only four or five people were killed in the club.
SIMONSo going back to the point that it is important to try to find these early warning signs and to try to identify these type of individuals. But again the problem is, you know, we live in a free, open, democratic society and you can't have co-workers always talking, you know, telling on somebody else because they said something. But in this case, there were those warning signs. But the case of the lone wolf really goes beyond the whole issue of the gun-control debate in the country.
GOLDLet me just say that I agree, if someone's intent on committing violence, they will find a way to do it. What I'm really speaking to is trying to limit the morbidity and mortality of firearm deaths in the United States and not focus so much on mental illness, which is not a big part of it. But look at some -- the cultural things that feed into it. The profile of these folks is often that they have had violent incidents in the past. And in identifying people who have had violent behavior, you can sometimes get a hold of some of these people.
GOLDEven so, if you look at the number of people who go on to commit mass shootings versus the number of people who've had violent felony convictions or misdemeanor convictions, you're still looking for a needle in a haystack.
HENDERSONKaren, you talked about Congress' approval rating was something like 70 percent in the wake of 9/11.
TUMULTYYeah, it didn't last long.
HENDERSONYeah. I think it's like 12 percent now or something. What are they prepared to do, if anything, in reaction to this, on any number of fronts -- gun rights, gay rights -- any of the things that we've been talking about?
TUMULTYI think that is the beginning and the end of what Congress is prepared to do and particularly in an election year. It is, you know, remarkable to see how quickly people stepped up to, you know, to use this as a -- to further an argument that they were already making. And Donald Trump, in particular, at a time, you know, 10 hours after all of this started, when most leaders were on Twitter just expressing condolences, he sort of took a bow for having been right about this all along.
HENDERSONI'm Nia-Malika Henderson with CNN. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." If you'd like to join us, call 1-800-433-8850. Or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Find us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Sarah, I want to go to you on this. In Donald Trump's speech yesterday, he seemed to suggest that he would be better in terms of LGBT rights and protecting that community than Hillary Clinton. And he really framed terrorism as a specific and real threat to the gay community.
WARBELOWHis claims are simply outrageous and incredibly disappointing that he would use this horrid tragedy for the LGBT community to self promote. Donald Trump has made very clear that he would appoint someone to the U.S. Supreme Court that would roll back marriage equality. He has offered no policy solutions for improving the lives of LGBT people. In contrast, Hillary Clinton has a very detailed plan to address the wide range of experiences of the LGBT community, from addressing transgender people's ability to serve in the military, to the equality act which would guarantee that LGBT people can't be discriminated against in all aspects of lives -- their lives from employment to housing to even jury service.
WARBELOWYou know, she has taken a proactive approach, while he has shown nothing truly but disdain for the LGBT community.
HENDERSONAnd, Karen, what do you make of how Hillary Clinton framed the LGBT piece in her speech yesterday?
TUMULTYWell, I, you know, she put a heavy emphasis on what kind of society we are, what kind of society we should be and how far we've come. But it was also significant that, in her, you know, as of yesterday, she began using the phrase Islamic terror for the first time. It was a phrase she had rejected before. And her aides to her said, you know, she just want -- Donald Trump had been taunting both her and President Obama on that. And her, you know, people close to her were saying, well, she was just trying to get this off the table so we can get back to discussing what she thinks are the real issues.
HENDERSONBecause that had been a real part of the Republican reaction to the Democratic response to this, saying that -- I believe Donald Trump said that Barack Obama should resign if he didn't use the phrase radical Islamic terror in any of his remarks.
TUMULTYAnd he said that on Sunday, as they were still, you know, dealing with bodies in the nightclub.
HENDERSONJeffrey, I wonder if you have any sense of whether or not any of these policy prescriptions that are coming from any number of candidates or congress folks, would they address this issue of lone-wolf terrorism?
SIMONWell, we see in the case of the Orlando incident that it's a homegrown type of extremist or whatever the motivating factors were. And I think in terms of the whole immigration debate, what we're really seeing is how ISIS and other groups have perfected the use of the Internet to be able to reach out to people who are already in a country. And that's one of the big calls from ISIS and other groups, to -- sort of a call to arms. And I kind of look at that as sort of a spam email approach, where if you send out millions of spam emails, you just need a small percentage to take the bait to be effective.
SIMONSo while al-Qaida had started perfecting the use of the Internet and social media, ISIS has taken it to a whole new level. So, in a way, they don't have to have their trained fighters come over to the United States. They're able to reach out through the Internet. And so, in a way, that's one of the main problems we're facing with the lone-wolf terrorist, whatever, you know, their motivation and their background may be. And the term radicalization has been used frequently. And it's really kind of the new buzz word in both terrorism studies and government policy and so forth.
SIMONYet nobody really can define what radicalization actually means. Is it somebody who's espousing extremist views? Is it somebody who then is going to plan an attack? We don't know what the tipping point is between somebody who may be curious about a certain ideology, then start talking about it, then become somewhat radicalized or, you know, extreme about it, and then take action. So I think, until we know what those tipping points are, we just have a lot of work to do in trying to identify who these individuals may be.
HENDERSONAnd in some ways, Dr. Gold, this terrorist, this gunman might seem closer to the Charleston shooter than a lot of the other sort of incidents we've seen in Paris, for instance.
GOLDWell, I do think that all of these mass shooters tend to have certain things in common. When you're talking about a single person, you're talking about someone who's very angry, who often has their own very idiosyncratic rationale for being angry. It may jibe with some other movements that are around, but they're angry people and they're blaming a certain subgroup.
HENDERSONComing up, your calls and questions. Please stay tuned.
HENDERSONWelcome back. I'm Nia-Malika Henderson of CNN, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Sarah, I want to go to you on this. One of the criticisms that I heard of some of the coverage that's been going on in terms of this Orlando massacre was that the LGBT community had been erased from its own tragedy. What do you make of that critique?
WARBELOWI think it's incredibly distressing that LGBT people are being ignored, and instead there's been a flip-focus on terrorism by individuals of the Islamic faith and really in restructuring what has happened and taking this hard pivot and ignoring LGBT people. It allows a lot of conservatives in the United States the space to say how sad it is, how terrible but not actually be responsible for their own contributions to homophobia, to transphobia and really to ignore the policy solutions that have to happen in order to create a society in which LGBT people are much more welcome, where there's a decrease in violence against LGBT people.
WARBELOWThis is obviously a very high-profile tragedy, but violence is nothing new to the LGBT community. Even mass violence isn't something that's new to the LGBT community. Last year alone over 20 transgender women were murdered.
HENDERSONAnd Karen, you wrote about this, I believe, on Monday or Sunday about this.
TUMULTYYeah, and, you know, Sarah at the beginning of this program described, you know, these kinds of nightclubs as places where gay people go to sort of escape and relax and be themselves, but there's also a very distinct history of what happens in those settings. The president is about to turn Stonewall into a national monument. That is where a lot of people think that the whole gay rights movement began, and it was as a reaction to violence.
TUMULTYThere was a horrific firebombing of a club in New Orleans. This is -- you know, so it's the other side of these, you know, places where we think and LGBT people think of themselves as sort of having a sanctuary to be themselves.
WARBELOWAnd I would just add that, you know, it's difficult, the kind of pressures that LGBT people feel as a result of having to come to grips with their own sexuality in our culture is hard enough. When these are -- when these groups are targeted for violence, the reverberations go very, very deep throughout the community and make it that much more difficult for people to find their way -- for these people to find their way in the world.
WARBELOWYou know, it's a double type -- for me it just feels like a double type of tragedy to pick such a vulnerable population for such a horrific kind of crime and to see that also mirrored in these issues about the transgender rights and bathrooms and this and that. And, you know, I understand that people may want to be limiting, you know, the reach of civil rights, and they're going too far, but, you know, picking vulnerable communities to do that, and it is just -- it's so destructive to those folks. It really is heartbreaking.
TUMULTYThere was a real poignance in a story we have on the front page today, talking about the number of Latinos who were victims of this. But the fact is that in a number of cases, the way their families even found out that they were gay was by just, you know, being notified that their loved one had been a victim of this.
HENDERSONSarah, what do you see going forward from the LGBT communities, the kind of fight for equality? What does this mean for that larger movement?
WARBELOWIn the short run, it really is a reclaiming of pride, not going back into the closet, refusing to allow this tragedy to redefine what it means to be LGBT in America and rather to continue to push forward with a willingness of people to be open and proud of who they are. Over the long run, though, there's so much more that needs to be done.
WARBELOWYou know, I think that a lot of people looked at the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality and for many straight, cis-gender Americans thought, well, there's the LGBT movement with a big, bright red bow on it, you know, this is the end. But the violence that we've seen really just underscores how much is left to be done, how much we need to change people's understanding and minds and realize that there are incredible vulnerabilities.
WARBELOWThere is no federal law that prohibits discrimination consistently against LGBT people in every area of their lives. You know, we see that there is still in place a blood ban. Gay men disproportionately were the victim of this particular crime, and yet their friends and loved ones oftentimes cannot give blood because they've been engaged in an intimate relationship in the last year, even when that's been a monogamous, low-risk intimate relationship.
HENDERSONJeffrey Simon, we've got an email from someone named Samir, and I'm going to direct this to you. Do you think part of the problem with the FBI investigation on the suspect was they were blinded by looking to see if he would fit a profile as an Islamic terrorist and not necessarily a person with violent tendencies?
SIMONNot necessarily. I think it wouldn't have mattered to the FBI if there was, let's say, no link to, you know, an Islamic extremist group, but he still had the violent tendencies and was planning to commit some kind of an attack. I think we're going to find out in the next few weeks, maybe months, there'll be an extensive investigation in terms of what went wrong because not always in an individual this scrutinized.
SIMONAnd the problem for law enforcement and the FBI is that there are so many individuals that may fit different types of profiles, and yet you can't just suspect that these individuals are going to be terrorists. We've had lone wolves that don't fit the profile. I mean, in Britain actually there was an honor student at the King's College in London who didn't fit a profile of a lone wolf and attempted to assassinate a British member of parliament.
SIMONSo this lone-wolf problem and the issue of trying to ferret out those who may commit these type of attacks is just a whole new dimension of terrorism. We just don't have the organized groups where it's much easier to infiltrate or to get warning signs.
HENDERSONThank you, Jeffrey. We're going to go to a caller, Bruce (PH) from Setauket, New York. You're on our air.
BRUCEHi, Malika. Thank you very much for your time. I feel that we need to look at the FBI more closely and question them more closely. From Orlando here to the Tsarnaevs to 9/11, they missed it all, even the car bombing attempt in Manhattan. They had the evidence right in front of them. Daniel Patrick Moynihan referred to the FBI as Kansas City types. They all have college degrees, but they're not particularly imaginative or creative.
BRUCEWas Mateen, was his questioned by a psychologist at the FBI? There was a female prior to 9/11 who raised red flags about people wanting to be able to fly planes but not land them. Her warnings were ignored. Everybody else gets a promotion, and she gets drummed out of the FBI.
HENDERSONThank you, Bruce. We're going to direct your question to Karen Tumulty.
TUMULTYWell, I do think that one opportunity that these horrific events do present is a chance to rethink how we go about this. And after 9/11, there was a lot of, you know, rethinking. You know, an entire gigantic new federal bureaucracy was created. But the idea was that, you know, too much information was in silos. There had to be some sort of coordination.
TUMULTYBut ultimately what this comes down to, as is the case with so many of the most contentious issues, is pitting our fears against our values. And how much of living in a free and open society are we willing to give up for the additional measure of safety?
HENDERSONAnd we're going to go to another caller. Travis from Houston, Texas, you are on the Diane Rehm Show.
TRAVISYes, ma'am, hi. I -- I really like this topic, and I would like to say I'm an older gay man, I've been out for like 30 years. So I remember the AIDS crisis, and I like how different this crisis is compared to the AIDS crisis. I remember a time when Reagan would not even say the word. And here what I like is all these straight alliances. And I feel like it's really humbling. And I feel like they have a place in our story as gay people.
HENDERSONTravis, thank you for your question. Sarah?
WARBELOWYeah, the solidarity that we've seen has just been tremendous, from every corner of the United States, from straight allies. One of the things I think is incredibly moving is many Muslims in Orlando were out in force yesterday to donate blood in the wake of this tragedy. It's way too easy to say, right, that this is about Muslim people being hateful towards LGBT people, and that's really not what we've seen.
WARBELOWCertainly the LGBT movement and the Muslim community could do better in terms of being allies towards one another, but we are not isolated communities. There are LGBT people who are Muslim. There are Muslim people who loved LGBT people. And so that solidarity is critical and really dramatic difference from what we saw in the '80s with the AIDS crisis.
HENDERSONSo some movement in terms of progress and inclusion.
WARBELOWThat's right. You know, instead of the general American populace saying ew, LGBT people are gross and yucky, and let's make them the other, there's a much more willingness to embrace, although as I mentioned before, and I do believe that this shift towards focusing on the claims of radical Islam really is a way to absolve people of having to deal with homophobia and transphobia in our society.
HENDERSONNow that's an excellent point. We thank Travis for his call and for your comments, as well, Sarah, on this.
GOLDCan I -- can I just say, you know, we have a need as human beings to try to put things into categories that we understand. There -- you know, the fact of the matter is that all of us know what it is to be angry. All of us know what it is to be angry enough to want to hurt somebody. But we all also know what it is to love people and love important things and values and have priorities in our life that are very positive.
GOLDAnd so trying to categorize anger and hatred as belonging to one group or another I think is something of a red herring. I think that's part of what leads to sort of the normalizing of violence against different kinds of groups and something that we all need to struggle against and identify and call out when we see it.
HENDERSONI'm Nia-Malika Henderson with CNN. You're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. So Karen, I want to go to you on this. What do we think is next in terms of the politics? I mean, in some ways you express pessimism, saying that there will likely just be more arguing and more division.
TUMULTYI think that -- and my pessimism is that anything meaningful is going to get done because everybody is -- immediately ran to their corners. Oh, this is -- this is about gun control, no this is about Islam, no -- you know. But I do think that it is likely to change the issue mix, to change the concerns that are on voters' minds in this election. And at this point I am out of the predicting game as to how this roles. But the -- there is now a very clear choice of -- and it was defined so starkly between what Hillary Clinton represents on the -- on the question of confronting national security threats versus what Donald Trump represents. And I am not about to predict which way the American voter decides to go and feel more comfortable.
HENDERSONAnd we're going to go to another caller, Rob from Houston Texas, you are on with the Diane Rehm Show.
ROBHey guys, I was just thinking about something. I know that the shooting happened at an LGBT dance club, but you guys are only talking about it as if it affects only the LGBT community, as if Americans as a whole aren't affected by the murder of 49 Americans. And I was just kind of wondering what your thoughts are on that.
HENDERSONThank you, Rob. Sarah, do you want to take that?
WARBELOWYou know, we know that this affects the much broader community, and I think there's actually been a lot of conversation about it. The president did a beautiful job of laying out that targeting people based on their sexual orientation really was taking a sledgehammer to all of us by undermining the values of diversity and inclusion, of plurality in the United States. You know, we've seen so many instances, whether it's, you know, the young children in Newtown, whether it was the mosque incident that happened a few years ago in which people were killed.
WARBELOWAt the same time, I think it's critically important that we don't lose sight of the fact that this did happen to LGBT people, and that has to be a part of the broader story of what's happening.
HENDERSONDr. Gold, is it your sense that the dialogue around mass shootings and around mental illness and around anger, does it get better as we have gone from tragedy to tragedy? Is it your sense that you understand it more now with each tragedy?
GOLDIn some ways it is getting better. I think a big part of creating change is understanding against that where mass shooting fit into the bigger picture of firearm violence in this country, strangers killing strangers with guns is one of the least common types of deaths. It doesn't make the deaths less tragic, it doesn't make them less horrific, but you're much more likely to be killed with a gun by someone you know, far more likely, than in one of these kinds of unpredictable, you know, heartbreaking incidents.
GOLDSo I think that kind of information has got -- I mean, I think the change can be seen very clearly even in the political realm, where up until recently, gun control was a subject people kept away from, the same way they kept away from Social Security. You know, it was another third rail. And now we have candidates who are actually bragging about having failing ratings from the NRA. I mean, you never had people bragging about that.
GOLDSo to my mind, that shows that there is more understanding not necessarily of mass shootings but of the bigger problem of firearm violence, of which mass shootings are a heartbreaking example but not really the most primary issue, although certainly the most high profile.
HENDERSONKaren, quickly, did you want to respond?
TUMULTYWell yeah, that is -- it's also part of the political divide there because if you look at the polling, since Newtown support for more restrictive gun laws has actually ticked down a bit in the most recent rounds of polling on this.
GOLDWell, I do think that -- and again, I'm not a policy expert or, you know, anything but. What I'll say is that as a psychiatrist, again we work with people, mental health professionals work one on one with people to effect change, and we do see that on a one-on-one basis, people can change and do change. So I remain somewhat optimistic for change on a one-by-one basis. I think we'll eventually get there.
HENDERSONWell, that's a great note to end on, optimism. Dr. Lisa Gold, Karen Tumulty, Sarah Warbelow and Jeffrey Simon, thank you all for joining us today, and I'm Nia-Malika Henderson with CNN, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks so much for listening.
Most Recent Shows
Diane speaks with Susan Glasser, staff writer at the New Yorker where she writes a weekly column on life in Trump’s Washington.
Diane talks to The Economist's Vijay Vaitheeswaran about the impact of coronavirus on the U.S. economy.
Diane talks to Edward Luce of the Financial Times about the week that transformed the Democratic primary into a two man race.