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Kansas City Reacts To Deadliest Mass Shooting In U.S. History

Hannah Copeland
KCUR 89.3
More than 200 people attended a vigil for victims of the Orlando gay club shooting at Barney Allis Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri.

Horrified. Sad. Distraught.

That’s how Kansas Citians felt Sunday after a weekend shooting at an Orlando gay club left 50 people dead.

But they also weren’t surprised.

“I just feel like mass shooting in this country happens really often,” John Lim said.

The alleged gunman, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, had ties to ISIS, NPR reported. Mateen was killed in a shootout with police after a nearly 3-hour standoff.

Another 53 people were injured.

Paul Mullenex, walking on the Country Club Plaza Sunday afternoon, took a grim view of what happened in Florida.

“Oh, there's going to be like two more within the next six months,” Mullenex said. “It happens all the time.”

Shootings coincide with Pride

For members of the LGBT community, the murders came as cities across the country celebrated Pride Month. Kansas City’s festival was last weekend.

Stephanie Mott, state vice-chair of Equality Kansas, says that LGBT people are being harassed, assaulted and sometimes killed everyday somewhere in the country, and she sees a direct connection between the proliferation of anti-LGBT measures coming from state legislatures and the violence directed at gay people.

“People are afraid. People are in shock,” Mott said. “People are hurt and angry and fearful and hopeless. But I think at the same time, the people I’ve talked to understand that we need to keep moving forward with love. There’s really only one way for us to put an end to the hate, and that’s by continuing to love.”

The Heartland Men’s Chorus, scheduled to perform Sunday evening at the Folly Theater, wrote on Facebook that their hearts were with the Orlando victims and their families. They sang at Barney Allis Plaza after their concert.

“When the gay community has faced oppression and hatred in any form, Heartland Men’s Chorus has responded with our voices that enlighten, inspire, heal, and empower,” the post said. “This is why we sing.”

Mayor calls for action

“Let me make a prediction,” said Mayor Sly James at the vigil Sunday evening. “If we do not do something about this, there will be another and another and another.”

Already, the gun control debate has begun in earnest.

“I think criminals will find a way to get illegal guns, and if the government makes it even more illegal, then there will be more of a profit in the black market,” said Justine Shuster. “I'm not sure. There's no perfect answer.”

Delaney Hiegert said she thinks better gun education, not necessarily gun control, is needed.

“We don't really have laws, in Kansas especially,” Hiegert said. “Especially one that’s like 20 more deaths than the highest one in recent years, I think that it would hopefully change some people’s minds on the fact that we don't have any education on guns at all.”

Members of the Kansas City Anti Violence Project, an LGBT advocacy and education group, were on hand at the rally. Joshua Volland, a volunteer with the Project, said it was important to have the vigil and stand together.

"I was just out in my local club the other day and anyone could have walked in to do that," he said. "Although it's there [in Orlando], they're still our brothers and sisters, whether it be gay, straight, lesbian, trans, whatever the case be, it's still felt around the world."

Muslims condemn violence

Credit Laura Ziegler-KCUR 89-3
Women in prayer the night of the Orlando shooting at the Islamic Society of Johnson County

Moben Mirza, Secretary of the Johnson County Islamic Center in Overland Park, said in a phone interview worshipers would spend part of Sunday night’s Ramadan service condemning the violence in Orlando.

The group has a statement on its Facebook page calling the act “heinous, immoral and un-Islamic.”

“We remain united against the perpetrator and promoters of hatred,” the statement continues.

Outside the mosque before services began around 10:00 p.m., worshipers flooded in. Women pray separately from men with the service broadcast remotely on a television. 

As young children joined their mothers and fathers and others played outside around the mosque, Mirza emphasized the community is particularly focused on engaging it's young people. 

"We keep ourselves engaged in the community, emphasizing that our country is also our community," he said."We (get our youth) involved in interfaith projects and with the poor, so nobody feels like they can do this within their own community."

He was partially referring to someAmerican Muslim youth who've either tried to attach themselves to radical Islamic groups or who've perpetrated violence in this country in the name of Islam.

Mirza said the center has seen no backlash from the events in Florida, but the mosque received anti-Islamic emails and phone calls following the Paris and San Bernardino shootings.

KCUR reporters Laura Ziegler, Brian Ellison, Matthew Hodapp and Hannah Copeland contributed to this report.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
Slow news days are a thing of the past. As KCUR’s news director, I want to cut through the noise, provide context to the headlines, and give you news you can use in your daily life – information that will empower you to make informed decisions about your neighborhood, your city and the region. Email me at lisa@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @larodrig.
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