Orlando shootings divide opinion on US immigration and gun laws

With 49 people shot dead, and a further 53 wounded, at a gay night club in Orlando at around 2am on Sunday, 12 June, a furious debate has sparked over US immigration and gun control, which is dividing the nation, according to a report published by Business Standard. The victims were gunned down by 29-year-old Omar Mateen.

Mateen, a US citizen of Afghan-origin, opened fire on club revellers at the Pulse night club armed with an AR-15 assault rifle and a handgun. Following the massacre, Mateen then turned the gun on himself. According to a Xinhua news agency report, the guns in Mateen's possession were purchased legally.

Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, immediately made events in Orlando an 'immigration' issue. In a speech on Monday, June 13, the tycoon described the shootings as "the worst 'terrorist' strike on US soil since September 11," before reiterating his plans to suspend Muslim immigration.

Worst shooting in US history

The events that transpired in Orlando will go down as the worst in US history, and once again the nation's gun laws will come under scrutiny. In the aftermath of the attack, US President, Barack Obama, said: "This massacre is a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon."

During Obama's two terms in office he has had to comment on no fewer than 17 mass shootings that have occurred across the US. In 1994, the manufacture of certain, semi-automatic weapons for civilian use was prohibited. However, when the prohibition expired in 2004, US Congress decided to lift the ban.

Challenging the Republican-controlled Congress on its refusal to renew the banning order, president Obama said: "Reinstate the assault weapons ban, make it harder for terrorists to use these weapons to kill us. Without such a ban, these incidents will just keep happening."

In Florida, the state in which Orlando city is located, gun laws are considered 'lenient', so much so that many now jokingly refer to Florida as the 'Gunshine State' as opposed to 'Sunshine State', in mockery of relaxed laws.

51,675 gun violence incidents occurred in the US in 2015, which left 13, 136 people dead and 26,493 injured, according to national statistics. Some commentators say it's likely to be more, given the number of shootings that go unreported and therefore, unrecorded.

US immigration policy and muslim ban

The deadly events in Orlando have led to increased debate over US immigration policy. In the wake of the shootings, Donald Trump was quick to 'congratulate himself on being right about Muslim immigration.'

Mateen was a US-born citizen. His parents arrived from Afghanistan over 30 years ago. On learning of Mateen's descent, Trump said that he wants to: "Suspend immigration from parts of the world where there is a proven link between that country and terrorism."

However, President Obama was quick to quash Trump's idea, saying: "That's not the America we want. It does not reflect our democratic ideals." He went on to criticize what he describes as 'loose talk and sloppiness' by Trump and said that Trump's actions only serve to promote discrimination and further alienate ethnic and religious groups.

Obama said that Trump's US immigration ban would lead to a feeling of betrayal towards the US government by Muslim-Americans. "Where would it end?" Obama said. "Are we going to start treating all Muslim-Americans differently? Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Are we going to start discriminating against them because of their faith?"

Trump countered by claiming that Obama's policy on US immigration and Muslims is simply the 'current politically correct response.' Trump said that Obama's approach prevents the US from responding swiftly to threats and thinking clearly.