Iowa Gun Owners Blames Orlando Massacre on Gun-Free Zones, Liberal Media

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A Sig Sauer MCX semiautomatic rifle, one of the guns used in the Orlando massacre. Image: Sig Sauer/Screenshot

In a belated response to the worst mass shooting in United States history that left 49 dead at a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning, Iowa Gun Owners’ executive director Aaron Dorr sent out an email Wednesday blaming the massacre on gun-free zones and “anti-gunners [sic] zealots.”

Dorr begins by accusing proponents of gun control of “point[ing] the finger at you and me every time some criminal with a gun commits a crime” and blaming gun violence on law-abiding gun owners, firearm manufacturers, and video game developers. “Before the blood dries, they rush to the nearest camera crew and demonize the millions and millions of law abiding Americans who carry a firearm every day to defend themselves and their families from exactly the kind of monster that attacked the night club in Florida last weekend,” he writes.

He goes on to argue that the president, anti-gun Iowa lawmakers, and the liberal media are partly to blame for deadly mass shootings. “What you’ll never hear anti-gunners zealots like President Obama, the editorial board of the Des Moines Register, or local gun-grabbers like Rep. Bruce Hunter and Rep. Art Staed say is that they shoulder a major portion of the blame for these horrific crimes!” Dorr writes, underlining his words for added emphasis. “That’s because they support and institute the very types of gun free zones that make places like the nightclub in Florida such an attractive target in the first place.”

“Gun free zones are killing us!” Dorr exclaims, and “next to the shooter and any accomplices, it’s the politicians, bureaucratic staff, and liberal media outlets that call for and institute these policies that should be on bended knee apologizing to the families of the victims.”

The email is a response to an editorial published Tuesday in the Register calling for a reinstatement of the 1994 federal ban on assault weapons, which expired in 2004 (the law was loaded with loopholes and made little to no impact on gun violence in America).

Dorr dismisses the editorial as a “screed” that was “as predictable as it is stupid — calling on the legislature to disarm law abiding Iowans instead of acknowledging that evil people are out there and gun free zones are their favorite ‘hunting ground.'”

The argument that mass shooters target gun-free zones — public places where carrying a gun is prohibited — in order to attack defenseless victims is a popular talking point among gun rights advocates, but there is scant evidence to support the claim. Gunmen typically have other motives for choosing the sites they target, often involving a personal connection (the Orlando shooter had frequented the nightclub in the past and was secretly gay). Claims that armed civilians have prevented mass shootings in the past are exaggerated, and many law enforcement officials believe they would risk making the situation worse — during the 2011 mass shooting in Tucson that nearly killed Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, an armed civilian arriving at the scene nearly shot the man who’d wrestled the gun away from the killer.

In his email, Dorr does correctly point out how existing gun control laws failed to stop the Orlando shooter, who pledged allegiance to ISIS during his massacre and had previously been investigated for possible ties to other terrorist groups. “In Orlando, the complete failure of gun control was on display yet again as the murderer in this shooting had passed a background check, passed another check to obtain a permit, passed another to get a job as a security guard, had been interviewed multiple times by the FBI, and still went on to rack up one of the largest body counts in American history,” he writes. And even if Congress had passed a law to prohibit suspected terrorists from purchasing guns, it wouldn’t have stopped the Orlando shooter.

Iowa Gun Owners, “Iowa’s only no compromise gun lobby,” regularly sends out emails to newsletter subscribers warning about gun control legislation in the Statehouse, mobilizing supporters to push back against local gun ordinances, and offering gun giveaways.

Despite the organization’s warnings that Iowans’ Second Amendment rights are at risk, there are relatively few firearm regulations here and gun sales in the state are reportedly on the rise after the massacre in Orlando.

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.