The June 12, 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida is considered the deadliest mass shooting in United States history. Authorities identified the shooter as Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, 29, of Fort Pierce, Florida. Mateen was armed with an assault-type rifle and handgun; he killed 49 people and wounded 53.
Parker Waichman LLP is available to assist anyone who suffered personal injury, including emotional distress, property damage, or death due to gun violence at Pulse.
Omar Mir Seddique Mateen’s Pulse Killing Spree
Based on information provided to CNN by Orlando police Chief John Mina, Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Captain Mark Canty, Mayor Buddy Dyer, first responder dispatch, witness accounts, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and other law enforcement authorities, approximately 320 people were enjoying a “Latin Flavor” event at Pulse. Just before 2:00 a.m., a clubgoer heard gunshots as she and her friends were readying to leave, according to CNN. The group ran into a bathroom; one member reported that Mateen entered the bathroom at 2:05 a.m. and shot some of the people hiding with her. People began screaming and, according to CNN, “blood flies.”
The DJ described the scene saying, “Just all hell broke loose, people running for the door, jumping over the gates.” The DJ took cover behind his booth, shielded two people, and fled to safety. Some clubgoers pretended to be dead on the dance floor and some locked themselves in bathroom stalls, texting loved ones to avoid being heard, according to National Public Radio (NPR). Some at the scene reported that the gunman was pacing, laughing, and shooting at bodies on the ground. “I could see his feet, like scooting back, scooting back, scooting back, as he heard the police outside,” said one of the hostages. Mateen is believed to have spent time online during his siege at Pulse, checking Facebook and searching his activities on the internet, texting his wife, and phoning a friend, according to NPR.
Victims suffered wounds to the chest, pelvis, extremities, and abdomen, according to NPR. Others died. The wounded were brought in by the “truckloads and ambulance loads,” according to doctors’ reports, which also indicated that so much blood was lost that the hospital went through its entire medical supply. More was brought in from nearby hospitals.
Over 100 police and SWAT officers were brought in to rescue Pulse guests through a variety of methods, including detonating an explosive to open a hole to release hostages. Gunfire was exchanged with Mateen during the night and, once the wall was broken, hostages began to emerge, along with the shooter. “The suspect came out of that hole himself, armed with a handgun and a long gun,” said Orlando’s police chief. Mateen began firing at police; they fired back, killing him. An officer was hit in the gun battle, but was saved by his Kevlar helmet.
Mateen’s Abusive, Treasonous, and Weapons Past
NPR, citing the FBI, reported that Mateen identified himself as “an Islamic soldier.” He threatened to detonate explosives, a car bomb and suicide vests. Investigators reported that searches of the area failed to turn up any of these items. Mateen legally purchased the two weapons he used at Pulse, a Sig Sauer MCX assault-style rifle and a handgun, in Port St. Lucie the week prior to the attack, said investigators. A third weapon was found in his vehicle, reported NPR.
Public records indicate that Mateen possessed a valid firearm license since September 2011 and was licensed as a security officer.
Are Existing Gun Laws to Blame?
Following the Pulse massacre, gun sales increased and a Florida Congressional candidate announced a contest on Facebook to give away an AR-15 rifle on July 4. The AR-15 is similar to the Sig-Sauer Mateen used, noted NPR. Meanwhile, the Senate voted on four gun control measures. All failed.
Currently, a 2005 law excludes lawsuits against the maker of the Sig-Sauer-one of the guns Mateen used at the Pulse massacre-although a bill has been introduced to repeal that law. Meanwhile, trial and appellate courts in Connecticut have permitted a lawsuit brought by plaintiffs in the Sandy Hook Elementary case to continue despite this law.
Gun manufacturers do have some legal protections against liability that are not seen in other industries due to the 2005 law entitled, “The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act” (PLCAA). The law was passed in response to a rash of lawsuits that cities filed against the gun industry in the late 1990s and early 2000s, according to NPR. Allegations typically involved that gun makers or sellers were engaging in “negligent marketing” or creating a “public nuisance.”
In 2000, New York City joined 30 counties and cities suing gun manufacturers, alleging that gun manufacturers should have been making their products safer and should have implemented improved tracking in locations where their products were sold. Manufacturers, according to one argument, should stop supplying stores that sell numerous guns that are found to have been used in crimes.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) responded by pushing for PLCAA, which allows that dealers and manufacturers may be held responsible in specific cases and arguing that the industry needed the protection because it did not have the “deep pockets” necessary to fight numerous lawsuits, according to NPR.
John Goldberg, a professor at Harvard Law School and a specialist in tort law said Congress was particularly “aggressive” in granting the gun industry the PLCAA legal shield. “Congress has rarely acted to bar the adoption by courts of particular theories of liability against a particular class of potential defendants, especially when that form of liability has not yet been recognized by the courts,” he said, reported NPR.
Interestingly, recent laws have stopped the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from conducting research on firearms and have stopped researchers from accessing gun trace information, NPR reported. Gun-rights advocates argue that withholding that information involves ensuring gun owners’ privacy.
Meanwhile, research indicates that, although Americans tend to be in favor of “gun rights” in the broad sense, Americans do tend to favor gun control regulations, such as background checks or bans on assault weapons.
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