It was 4:03am when my phone beeped, displaying the NYT Now notification, “A shooting at an Orlando nightclub has left ‘mass casualties,’ police said.” Learning it was the dance club Pulse in downtown Orlando, I knew there was a chance my daughter may have been there. Thankfully, that was not the case. A huge wave of relief and gratitude twisted with deep heartache for all those whose lives would change forever and for those lives tragically lost.
Just the night before at a family dinner we discussed the need for change to our country’s weapon legislation. We wondered if this year’s presidential campaign will finally result in changes to gun laws that have long been manipulated in favor of the NRA and guns sales, but at a severe cost.
Venue Safety Conversations Intensifying – But What about Gun Control?
As details of the shooting emerged, the news revealed that the gunman, identified as Omar Mateen, used at least two guns, an AR-15-style assault rifle and a 9mm handgun to kill 49 people and injure 53.
The New York Times ran another piece revealing that those responsible for the 16 recent mass shootings and the massacre at Pulse bought their weapons legally and with a federal background check. “At least eight gunmen had criminal histories or documented mental health problems that did not prevent them from obtaining their weapons.”
How is this okay?!
There was the mass shooting at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris. There was the fatality and three injuries during the backstage shooting at Irving Plaza in New York in May. The fatal shooting of singer and former contestant on The Voice, Christina Grimmie, at Orlando’s Plaza Live during a meet-and-greet this past Friday night. One day later, there was the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub.
The conversations between promoters, venue operators and performers surrounding venue and event safety are getting tenser.
“How these two tragedies could have been prevented, how they will impact venue security and artist behavior in the future and what can be done in a society where highly lethal assault rifles are available at the ready are vexing topics the music business will now have to carefully consider,” writes Billboard journalists Andy Gesler and Ray Waddell in Billboard’s piece, “’This Is the New Reality’: Artists & Concert Execs Weigh In on Security Challenges After Orlando.”
True. More pressure may be put on venues to install metal detectors, or at the least, perform a pat down of everyone entering a venue. How this will work logistically with small rock clubs, or bars, or outside restaurants with music, or parks that have music programs is still a big question.
The Catharsis of Art and Music
Vigils were held Sunday and today in cities from San Francisco (with the exception of Orlando, which is holding off for security reasons) and as far as London’s Soho district.
In New York, art, music, and creativity were celebrated during the 70th Anniversary of the Tony Awards Sunday evening, as the show dedicated the night to Orlando and spotlighted its diversity. James Corden, host of the awards, opened with this statement in support of the victims and their families, “Theatre is a place where every race, creed, sexuality, and gender is equal, is embraced, and is loved. Hate will never win.”
Numerous Broadway performers, including the cast of Hamilton, not only took the stage during the awards show but took their songs to the street outside the Beacon Theatre. There was no fear of “what might happen,” only defiance and tributes, words of wisdom and love.
In the eloquent way he crafted the song lyrics and the Tony award-winning musical, Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda presented his beautiful sonnet:
My wife’s the reason anything gets done
She nudges me towards promise by degrees
She is a perfect symphony of one
Our son is her most beautiful reprise.
We chase the melodies that seem to find us
Until they’re finished songs and start to play When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
That nothing here is promised, not one day.
This show is proof that history remembers We lived through times when hate and fear seemed stronger;
We rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.
I sing Vanessa’s symphony, Eliza tells her story Now fill the world with music, love, and pride.
For the creators and the enjoyers, art and music has been a beloved form of catharsis throughout time. These words of love and unity provide much needed comfort for many of us, and may in time, for those who are mourning the loss of their loved ones.
A United Front for Healing – Can It FINALLY Lead to More Gun Control?
#OrlandoUnited has been trending on Twitter, and throughout yesterday and today the world has come together to support our LGBTQ population and the diversity of all of humanity. In Colorado where the Aurora Theatre was previously the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, the Colorado Muslim Society embraced the gay community while publicly condemning the violent act in Orlando.
How can this unity be empowered even more?
How can those in the music and event industries, especially those whose business is in the area of event health and safety, combine forces to advocate for a change in our weak weapons legislation and access to guns, which has no doubt contributed to the extreme level of death and injury in the U.S.?
Can music industry groups in turn join forces with organizations lobbying for stricter gun legislation on state and federal levels, like Everytown For Gun Safety, which itself is a coalition of advocacy groups, including Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, and survivors of gun violence?
During the performance of Hamilton’s “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down) at the award show, the use of muskets was obviously absent.
— Moms Demand Action (@MomsDemand) June 12, 2016
The second amendment was written during the time when muskets were used for one’s defense, and its legislation was influenced by English common law and the English Bill of Rights of 1689. I’m not the first to say, we are no longer are in the age of muskets. We don’t need to defend our families and properties in the way Americans did over 200 years ago.
The United Kingdom has continually amended their gun laws to reflect societal changes, and within their strict legislation, the U.K. has one of the lowest rates of gun-related homicides in the world. Meanwhile, the U.S. is still in the militia mindset and drinking the NRA Kool-Aid. And even with background checks, those who shouldn’t have access to guns are able to buy them legally. Additionally, individuals are able to buy and sell guns online and to each other to whoever has the cash, no background check needed.
More venues, festivals and concerts may now be pressured to install metal detectors and beef up security, which may help but is in no way a done-and-dusted solution to gun violence in America.
There are still drive-by shootings and kids dying in their homes because their parents didn’t lock up their weapons.
There are venues of all kinds – theaters, shopping malls, schools, and places of employment – where shootings have and can still take place outside of our homes.
There are still people with mental illnesses who have access to guns, like Shawn Bair who shot and killed my cousin Krystal while she was working at a supermarket, stocking shelves. She was only 20 years old.
We all know we can’t expect Congress to do the right thing, but we can force them to do the right thing.
It took the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 to force the U.S. government to support human rights, resulting in the Civil Rights Act a year later.
The power in numbers from all facets of society and business to FINALLY change weapon legislation has the power to preserve human life. Let’s hope it happens. Soon.
Learn more about gun legislation advocacy groups: