The nation once again is grappling with its contentious relationship with guns in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in modern history, this time focused on the patrons of a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Credit: Cal Tabuena-Frolli for Reveal

This week’s attack on a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was the largest mass shooting in American history. On this hour of Reveal, we go to Orlando to hear from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community targeted by this violence.

The city’s downtown now is flooded with disaster responders, government officials and media outlets trying to understand what happened. And in the midst of this upheaval, members of the LGBT community targeted by this violence are working through the tragedy in their own way. We hear from them and a woman who survived the shooting. She’s also a gun owner and believes she could have protected herself if she’d been armed.

Many are asking not only why this tragedy happened, but how. In 2013 and 2014, the FBI investigated shooter Omar Mateen and decided he wasn’t a threat. He passed a background check to buy firearms. And he passed a third security check to become a private armed security guard.

Reporter Shoshana Walter investigates how security companies – including the one Mateen worked for – screen guards, and she explains more about how these screening systems work and where they break down. Reveal originally checked Mateen’s arrest record in 2014 as part of an investigation of the armed-guard industry.

In this hour, we also look at the ways gun violence is measured, and we investigate how the NRA and gun control groups use data on gun violence to shape the debate.

But the true cost of gun violence cannot be quantified. We end this episode by remembering the victims of the Pulse nightclub attack with a sonic memorial.

Dig deeper

  • Listen: A sonic memorial to the victims at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub
  • Examine: Lone wolves are the face of modern domestic terrorism
  • Read: Orlando shooter Omar Mateen was a licensed security guard
  • Check out: More essential reading on the Orlando massacre


Support for Reveal is provided by The Reva and David Logan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Mary and Steven Swig.

Special thanks to Alex Kapleman, David Rodriguez, Peter Conheim and the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus for their help on this episode.

Track list:

  • San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, “Dedication”
  • Explosions in the Sky, “First Breath After Coma” from “The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place” (Temporary Residence)
  • KILN, “Arq” from “Dusker” (Ghostly International)
  • KILN, “Willowbrux” from “meadow:watt” (Ghostly International)
  • KILN, “Rustdusk” from “Dusker” (Ghostly International)
  • KILN, “Arq” from “Dusker” (Ghostly International)
  • Michael Howard, “Limelight” from “”The Martyr and the Magician (Needle Drop Co.)
  • KILN, “Flycatcher” from “Dusker” (Ghostly International)
  • Peripheral Living, “When Youngsters” from “Experimental Lakes” (Power Moves)
  • Peripheral Living, “When Youngsters” from “Experimental Lakes” (Power Moves)
  • Peripheral Living, Acquired“” from “Experimental Lakes” (Power Moves)
  • Peripheral Living, “Surrounds and Survives” from “”Experimental Lakes (Power Moves)
  • Billy Torello, “Maddalena è un Pungitopo” from “Ultime Notizie Dalla Tartaruga – Chitarra Vol.2” (Spettro Rec)
  • Peripheral Living, “Town v. City” from “Experimental Lakes” (Power Moves)
  • Steffen Basho-Jughans, “1st Movement” from “Inside” (Strange Attractors Audio House)
  • Tom Carter, “for 4 Cs” from “Airborne Event (5.11.2003)” (WFMU)
  • Jim Briggs, “This Person” (Cut-Off Man Records)
  • Jim Briggs, “Steve + Friends” (Cut-Off Man Records)
  • Steffen Basho-Jughans, “1st Movement” from “Inside” (Strange Attractors Audio House)
  • Jim Briggs, “Lost Years Memorial” (Cut-Off Man Records)


Reveal transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. Please be aware that the official record for Reveal’s radio stories is the audio.

Section 1 of 3          [00:00:00 – 00:14:05] (NOTE: speaker names may be different in each section)
Choir: (singing)
Al Letson: From The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson.
Choir: (singing)
Al Letson: The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus is one of the many groups paying tribute to the victims in Orlando.
Choir: (singing)
Al Letson: Today on Reveal, remembering the lives lost and one man’s mission to track every single incident of gun violence in America.
Choir: (singing)
Al Letson: From The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson. In the days since the massacre in Orlando we’ve watched surreal scenes. Sirens and police lights outside of the Pulse nightclub, the looks of disbelief and horror in the eyes of those who survived the shooting, the tears for those who didn’t.
  The president once again stepping before the microphone to address the country.
Barack Obama: Today as Americans we grieve the brutal murder, a horrific massacre of dozens of innocent people. We pray for their families who are grasping for answers with broken hearts. We stand with the people of Orlando who have endured a terrible attack on their city.
Al Letson: Since taking office, President Obama has made a version of this speech more than a dozen times. After tragedies in Tucson, Aurora, Newtown, Charleston, and other cities. If you listen, you can hear a growing sense of frustration in his voice.
Barack Obama: It’s not surprising that today Gabby was doing what she always does, listening to the hopes and concerns of her neighbors. That is the essence-
  The majority of those who died today were children. Beautiful little kids between the ages of five and ten years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them. Birthdays, graduations-
  Our tears are not enough. Our words and our prayers are not enough. If we really want to honor these 12 men and women, if we really want to be a country where we can go to work and go to school and walk our-
  Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine, my response here at this podium ends up being routine, the conversation in the aftermath of it, we’ve become numb to this.
Al Letson: The president’s frustration is one that many of us feel as we try to make sense of the worse mass shooting in modern American history. The gunman, 29-year-old Omar Mateen had at one time been under investigation by the FBI, but he was still able to buy two semi-automatic weapons, a 9mm pistol and an assault rifle known as the Black Mamba, that he used to kill more than 40 people on Latin night at Pulse, a gay nightclub.
  Today on Reveal, we try to understand why these mass shootings keep happening and how Omar Mateen escaped detection. We start in Orlando with Reveal’s Stan Alcorn. He spent the week after the shooting there. Stan can you give us a sense of what you’ve been learning in Orlando?
Stan Alcorn: Sure. I started out by just basically going to the same press conferences and service centers as all the hundreds of other reporters that are here, but my focus all along has really been to learn about the people who were targeted in the Pulse shooting. I’ve been talking to people who were there and made it out and I’ve been talking to people who weren’t there but easily could have been there. Again, this was a gay club and it was Latin night, so that means mostly younger gay and lesbian Latinos and Latinas.
  I’m going to introduce you to four of these people who are struggling in really different ways to make sense of the attack.
Al Letson: All right Stan. Take it from there.
Stan Alcorn: The first thing I did when I got here was try to drive to Pulse, the nightclub in downtown Orlando. The streets were sealed off by police cars about four blocks away so I parked in front of someone’s house.
  You can hear the helicopter overhead.
  I walked as close as I could to the club, to an intersection with a Chipotle and Ace Hardware and about 40 cameras on tripods from all over the world. This is where the TV newscaster stand so they can talk with Pulse somewhere in the background behind them, though it’s too far away to really see.
  Besides the TV crews, there are some people taking selfies. There’s this one girl standing right at the edge of the police line squinting down the street toward the club with her cell phone out. Her name’s Naomi Winfield. She’s 19-years-old, Puerto Rican by way of New York, and for the last 24 hours she’s been trying to call a friend she thinks was at Pulse the night of the shooting.
Naomi Winfield: I’m just waiting. I’m waiting like everyone else. Every single time you see it just goes to the straight-
Operator: The person you are trying to reach is not accepting calls at this time. Please try your call again.
Naomi Winfield: It just goes straight to that.
Stan Alcorn: Naomi describes her style as masculine. She’s wearing a loose black T-shirt and brown pants. Just for this she says she gets looks and even insults walking around Orlando.
Naomi Winfield: God forbid I go out, you know what I’m saying, with my girlfriend or even a friend.
Stan Alcorn: Of course it’s a different story at Pulse, where she’s enough of a regular to have a favorite parking spot.
Naomi Winfield: The people at the desk, they know you. It’s like a home away from home kind of thing.
Stan Alcorn: Do you know the bartenders or the DJs on a first name basis?
Naomi Winfield: I don’t know them like oh my God I chill with them outside of the club, but when I am at the club, these people are family to everyone.
Stan Alcorn: She would’ve been at Pulse the night of the shooting if she hadn’t been in Tampa. She’ll find out two days later that her friend hadn’t gone either. She’d gotten sick. For now, she just wants to stay on this corner.
Naomi Winfield: It just makes me feel, you know what I’m saying, I don’t know.
Stan Alcorn: What does it make you feel? I’m curious.
Naomi Winfield: It’s a crazy feeling. I want to walk down this road so bad. I’ve even thought about just jolting down there and seeing how far I could get without the police stopping me. I literally came over here and I just wanted to see that P. I just wanted to see the sign. If you go over here, you can see it and you can see how close it is.
Stan Alcorn: Oh really? I didn’t realize you could even see it from here.
Naomi Winfield: See the little black and white sign?
Stan Alcorn: Oh yeah.
Naomi Winfield: That’s it. Literally that is it. That is the sign right there. I don’t know. I’m the type of person how I react to things, I make them like, things are unreal to me. I’m like no it didn’t happen. I just wanted to come here because I want to feel it. I want it to be real.
Stan Alcorn: That evening, a few thousand people gathered in a plaza a mile and a half north of Pulse for a last minute vigil. There were nearly two hours of speeches in front of a gleaming new arts building lit up like a rainbow flag. After the speeches and after the church across the street tolled it’s bell 49 times, once for each of the people killed, after all that, there was a kind of second vigil. The crowd broke down into smaller clumps around a couple of makeshift shrines on the lawn. Some people were lighting candles for the dead, writing prayers.
  One group of young men was in a hugging huddle, clinging to each other and crying. Chris Molina was at the edge of that group. He’d obviously been crying a lot, but he wasn’t crying now. Four of his friends were killed in the attack and until earlier that night he thought Pulse’s bar manager, Ramon, was dead too.
Chris Molina: I just saw him today here. We just hugged for about 10 minutes. I’ve known him for about seven, eight years. He was there when I first just came out of the closet. He was there holding me and saying hey come to Pulse. It’s a big community, it’s an open community, we’ll be loved there.
Stan Alcorn: As Chris is telling me this, a lanky guy with a Giants cap and a California shirt comes over. It turns out to be Paris Williams, a close friend of Chris’s sister. That’s Paris asking how Chris is feeling. Chris answers by saying that he’d recently come out to his family on New Years Eve.
Chris Molina: The main reason why I stayed in the closet all these years was because I was afraid of something like this happening [inaudible 00:09:11] The main reason I didn’t want to get hurt like this before. I was always afraid of somebody hating on us, you know what I mean, then here this happens. This proves to me that I don’t think I’m ready dude to really fully be out there. I don’t think I’m ready to be [crosstalk 00:09:27]
Paris Williams: You can’t live your life like that.
Chris Molina: I can’t live my life like that. It’s scary dude.
Paris Williams: Can’t live your life like that man.
Chris Molina: It’s real scary.
Paris Williams: You can’t live your life like that. There’s no way you can do that. At the end of the day, I know your mom, I know your sister, but you have to be true to yourself. You know what I mean? They love you so much. You know what I mean? You can’t do that. You can’t do that, man.
Stan Alcorn: They go back and forth about this, but they’re in total agreement about something related, which is just how important Pulse is for those who are not fully out. In particular gay Puerto Rican men in the neighboring town of Kissimmee.
Paris Williams: All the Kissimmee-Ricans. When y’all need to leave your traditional Puerto Rican households-
Chris Molina: Households. You go to Pulse.
Paris Williams: You go to Pulse and you can be yourself and you can be free and you can be with your friends and you can have a good time. Then when it’s over you have to put your mask back on and go back to Kissimmee.
Chris Molina: It’s like I did for many years. 27, 26 years I had to mask something. I would go out with my friends, be happy, be myself, and then come back home, my mask would go on and it’s Chris the straight guy again.
Paris Williams: It’s a transition to get to that point where you can love it because there’s always a part of you that is scared of the prejudice, scared of the opinions.
Chris Molina: Scared of something like this might happen. I think that’s why this hurts more is because I’m just recently out. It scares me. It’s scary.
Paris Williams: I’m going to tell you my honest truth. I will be really upset if this impacts you in that way. Me personally.
Chris Molina: I’m trying really hard not to because I don’t want to live in fear again for 27 more years.
Stan Alcorn: Someone across the plaza starts to sing a hymn and the conversation pauses. After a while Paris asks Chris-
Paris Williams: What are you thinking right now?
Stan Alcorn: Chris answers, what he’s thinking is how he could’ve been one of those candles.
  The next morning I go to see Jeannette McCoy. In the days just after the shooting a lot of people who were actually inside Pulse aren’t ready to talk about it, at least not to a journalist, but Jeannette is. We talk in the bedroom of her house with a poster behind her that says be bold and fearless.
Jeannette McCoy: Yeah. How do you want me to start? You want me to just-
Stan Alcorn: What have you been doing today?
Jeannette McCoy: Today I’ve been in bed.
Stan Alcorn: That is, to say the least, atypical for Jeannette. She’s not only active, she’s a competitive body builder in the Diva Fitness Pro category, which she describes as like Victoria’s Secret but for fit people. She’s just not someone to hide out in her bedroom with the blinds drawn.
Jeannette McCoy: I grew in New York, man. Honestly things don’t scare me. I’m sorry. I just don’t have that fear. Since then I’m making sure that my windows are locked.
Stan Alcorn: It’s not just to keep it dark it’s for safety.
Jeannette McCoy: Yeah. For safety. I don’t want anyone looking in.
Stan Alcorn: She’s also got a taser on her nightstand and a .40 caliber Smith & Wesson handgun in the closet.
Jeannette McCoy: It’s in my safe. Right up in here.
Stan Alcorn: I see.
Jeannette McCoy: Yep.
Stan Alcorn: At the end of May, Jeannette went through a rough break up. The night of the attack she decided to turn things around by going to the club with her brother and two friends.
Jeannette McCoy: I’m looking for the gay guy who knows how to salsa dance because I’m going to come up to him and say listen sweetheart, or I’m going to tell him in Spanish, look Papi you’re gay, I’m gay, we’re good. We’re going to dance and he’s going to twirl me because I love the way that they dance and we’re just going to have a blast.
Stan Alcorn: She ran into another friend, Angel Colon, and danced until 2 a.m., until it was last call.
Jeannette McCoy: I was just dancing with Angel and I turned to my brother and the moment I turned all you hear was pow pow pow pow pow pow. Non-stop. I don’t necessarily see him, but I’m seeing the gun that he has. It’s like with each one you see the fire, the sparks, it’s coming out of the gun. He’s just shooting.
  I had a sense of it was a hate crime. Somebody was in there to try to kill every single one of us.
Stan Alcorn: That’s when she gets angry. All around people are getting shot, trampling one another. She gets knocked down, gets back up, and somehow makes it outside. Instead of running away, she runs around the building back to the front entrance, because she wants to see the shooter. She can’t, but she does see the cops outside in a kind of standoff. She remembers yelling at them.
Jeannette McCoy: Just the feeling that I had [inside 00:14:04]-
Section 1 of 3          [00:00:00 – 00:14:05]
Section 2 of 3          [00:14:00 – 00:28:05] (NOTE: speaker names may be different in each section)
Stan Alcorn: She remembers yelling at them.
Jeanette: Just the feeling that I had inside: I wanted to take their gun. I just wanted to go in there and kill him myself, because it wasn’t fair. He was killing the people from my community. Every time I close my eyes, hearing the sounds, I wanted to go in so bad, because I didn’t feel that they were helping. They weren’t helping.
Stan Alcorn: All Jeanette’s close friends survived, but what they saw was unimaginable. Angel was shot three times in the leg, bullets Jeanette thinks would’ve otherwise hit her. She’s still angry, but she’s telling herself the same thing she tells her client as a physical trainer: “Let it out in the gym.”
Jeanette: If I’m lifting weights and if I want to cry, I’m going to lift weights and I’m going to cry. If I want to get a little bit angry and throw the weights on the floor and scream the F-word, then I’m going to scream the F-word. I’ve got to just make sure that I start off with small goals, because this is so fresh. My small goals are going to be on a daily and a weekly basis. I can’t think so far out, ten weeks, because life now is too short. You just don’t know.
Stan Alcorn: Do you have a goal for today?
Jeanette: Today’s goal is to smile, joke a little bit. I’m going back to the hospital to see Angel again. I’ve got to see Angel. He’s stuck with me forever.
Stan Alcorn: But before she goes, she has one final thought about the way we, as a country, respond to these mass killings.
Jeanette: These next couple of days, these next couple of weeks, people will come together to strengthen our nation and to strengthen us as a people, only in a time of tragedy, but here’s the thing: people then fall back to who they are. If you saw the Dr. Phillips Center downtown-
Stan Alcorn: Yeah, I was there.
  She’s talking about the vigil the night before.
Jeanette: When do you ever even see that many people for something that’s positive? That’s not fair. We shouldn’t come together like that. That’s a misrepresentation of love. That’s people that’s being reactive. They’re not being proactive; they’re being reactive. A proactive approach is when we sit here, and before anything happens, how can we get our communities together? How can we get the LGBT community together with your regular Americans so that they understand how we feel? Something has to be done, but I just don’t know what. That’s the thing: I just don’t know what.
Al Letson: That story was from Reveal’s Stan Alcorn in Orlando.
Shane Tomlinson: Hey, what’s up? It’s Shane. Www.[inaudible 00:16:33].com. Something for everybody, so check me out. Deuces.
Al Letson: Shane Tomlinson was one of the people killed at Pulse Nightclub. Like many of us, he shared his life on social media, a life that involved music. He had a passion for singing and performing. Here is he covering John Legend’s “Ordinary People.”
Shane Tomlinson: (singing) I’m going to do the verse one more time. (singing)
Al Letson: Shane and his band Frequency often played at nightclubs and weddings. He had wrapped up a gig just hours before the shooting. Shane was 33. We’ll be hearing the voices of others who were killed in Orlando throughout the show. You’re listening to Reveal.
Shane Tomlinson: (singing)
Speaker 5: Support for Reveal is provided by The Reva and David Logan Foundation, The Ford Foundation, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and The Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.
Al Letson: From The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson. After the mass shooting in Orlando, people started asking not just why, but how. How could Omar Mateen get access to two semi-automatic weapons, including a high powered rifle? We sent Reveal’s Christina Jewett to a California gun store to see what it takes to buy that kind of weapon.
Christina: On a Tuesday afternoon at a Sacramento gun shop, people filter in and out of a firearms store called Just Guns. There’s a wall of hunting rifles and rows of handguns. One area is dedicated to the kind of militaristic black semi-automatic rifles that have been used in the mass killings that have shaken the nation. Store owner Josh [Deiser 00:18:54] tells me the steady flow of three to four customers turning over the assault-style guns is a typical crowd.
Josh: This is normal. This is nothing out of whack.
Christina: He let me take a look at the AR-15. It was the kind of gun used in the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School and in San Bernardino, California. It’s similar to the gun used at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.
Josh: This is a semiautomatic rifle. It’s got some upgrades on it. It’s got a front sight on there so that you just need to put a rear sight in. Just a “standard” AR-15 black gun. This is a great, fun shooting gun. Everybody I’ve ever taken to the range with these has always loved them.
Christina: I asked Josh what I’d have to do to take one of those rifles home. I have to submit to a background check.
  Also I can’t be a felon and I can’t have domestic violence?
Josh: Yeah, obviously. Those are the no-brainers, yeah. You can’t have a felony, domestic violence, pills, things like that. If you’re on heavy narcotics that are regulated by the government, they will also deny as well.
Christina: I checked in with a gun law expert. Turns out, no one’s really checking your medicine cabinet. You’re only denied over a criminal case involving narcotics. A mental health history can also be a barrier, but it’s pretty hard to be denied a gun on that count, short of being declared legally incompetent or being committed to a mental institution. Then there’s the biggest loophole of them all: In Florida and 31 other states, I can buy an AR-15 on the internet or at a swap-meet with no check at all.
Al Letson: That was Reveal’s Christina Jewett. We mentioned that the FBI had investigated Omar Mateen and decided he wasn’t a threat. He also passed a background check to buy firearms and he passed a third security check to become a private armed security guard. Reveal reporter Shoshana Walter has investigated how security companies screen for guards, including the company Mateen worked for. She joins us now. So, Sho, what can you tell us?
Shoshana Walter: Two years ago, I did an investigation into the regulation of the armed security guard industry, and one of the things that I looked at is how well states were vetting armed security guards. I woke up to the news, the really tragic news, in Orlando, and I saw that Omar Mateen was an armed security guard. It just came to mind, “I wonder if I looked at Omar Mateen?” I went to my computer, I opened up my armed guard database, and there he was.
Al Letson: Wow, so you actually looked into this guy’s history before any of this happened?
Shoshana Walter: Yeah, back in 2014, we pulled a random sample of 400 names from the thousands of armed security guards licensed in the state of Florida. We just went through the list to find their dates of birth, their full names, their previous addresses; any information that would allow us to look up their criminal record.
Al Letson: What did you find out about him?
Shoshana Walter: I actually found nothing. Just like the FBI didn’t find anything, we also didn’t find anything in his background that would’ve prevented him from becoming an armed security guard.
Al Letson: His ex-wife has come forward claiming that he physically abused her. Some of his coworkers have said that was mentally unstable, threatened violence, made racist, homophobic comments. Shouldn’t that have raised a red flag?
Shoshana Walter: You would think so, but none of those things were on his record. He was never convicted of domestic violence, he didn’t have a restraining order on his record, none of his coworkers had ever reported him for the threats or harassment, and he’d never been convicted of a crime. All of those conditions would have prohibited him from buying a gun.
Al Letson: You also looked into the company that Mateen worked for, G4S. They’re one of the biggest private security companies in the world. In addition to background checks required by the state, does G4S do any other sort of evaluation?
Shoshana Walter: Yeah. G4S actually goes beyond what’s required by the state of Florida. For the shooter, he would’ve had to go through a psychological evaluation. It’s basically a multiple choice test, which he did pass in 2007.
Al Letson: Apparently, the FBI was looking into Omar Mateen as a possible terrorist suspect, but that didn’t show up when he went to buy a gun. Why not?
Shoshana Walter: Right. What we know now is that coworkers had complained several times to the company about threatening behavior by Mateen. He had made racist and homophobic comments, according to one coworker. Other coworkers say that he had claimed or bragged about possible terrorist ties. We know that the FBI was looking into him based on these allegations. While the FBI was investigating, they added him to the terrorist watchlist, but the FBI eventually concluded that there was nothing there and took him off the list. When he went to buy the guns, he was no longer on it.
Al Letson: But you would think that somebody that was on the terrorist watchlist or at least previously on the terrorist watchlist, I don’t know, that a red flag would be raised that they are out buying a weapon that, basically, can kill 49 people in an evening.
Shoshana Walter: There’s a big concern among lawmakers that suspected terrorists are able to legally purchase guns. Between 2004 and 2015, about 2200 suspected terrorists purchased firearms from federally licensed firearms dealers.
Al Letson: That just seems like a massive loophole. Why are the efforts to close that failing?
Shoshana Walter: This has been an ongoing debate for years. There have been many efforts over the years to pass a law that would prevent suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms, but over the years, they’ve all failed, mostly by opposition from Republicans, the NRA, but some liberals, too. There’s concern that many people who are on the terrorist watchlist have not been convicted of a crime, and there’s no way, really, to contest their placement on the list.
Al Letson: What’s interesting to me about all this is that after these mass shootings like this one or Sandy Hook or what happened in Charleston or Oregon, you could just go on and on, but the one reaction that seems to always pop up is to hire more armed guards.
Shoshana Walter: I think that’s the reason why we started looking at this problem a couple years ago. Mass shootings keep happening, and oftentimes, the reaction is to hire armed security guards. We’re seeing it now with gay bars and Pride celebrations hiring armed security guards. What this raises as a concern is how well are those armed guards getting vetted? Are they really keeping us safer?
Al Letson: That’s Shoshana Walter of Reveal. Thanks, Sho, for coming in.
Shoshana Walter: Thanks, Al.
Al Letson: Martin Benitez Torres was from San Juan, Puerto Rico. He was in Orlando visiting family when he shot this video while he was hanging out with his relatives.
Martin: [Spanish 00:26:03].
Al Letson: In it, he says, “Look at why I came,” and he pans the camera over food sizzling on the stove.
Martin: [Spanish 00:26:12]
Speaker 12: [Spanish 00:26:14]
Martin: [Spanish 00:26:15]
Speaker 12: [Spanish 00:26:16]
Al Letson: Later that night, Martin went to Pulse and never came back. He was 33 years old. The Orlando shooting is reminding America of the threat of the so-called “lone wolf terrorist.” By operating alone with no outside direction, this kind of attacker falls under law enforcement’s radar. A lone wolf typically doesn’t speak to other people. His plans don’t leave his own head, which can make it difficult for someone to step in and stop him. Reveal’s Scott [Fam 00:26:57] takes it from there.
Scott: When you’re reporting on a hate crime, one of the first calls you always make is to the Southern Poverty Law Center. That’s because they’ve been tracking hate groups for more than thirty years. We asked senior fellow Mark Potak if his group had ever heard of Omar Mateen.
Mark: Mateen was certainly not on our radar. We knew nothing about him.
Scott: Potak says lone wolves like Mateen are responsible for the vast majority of domestic terrorism in the US right now. Between 2009 and 2015, the Law Center tracked 63 domestic terrorism attacks.
Mark: What we found was that in all the incidents we looked at 74% of them were carried out by single people acting alone without money or organizational input of any kind from other people.
Scott: The Law Center divides the attacks into two categories. The first is largely white Americans, motivated by the anti-government Patriot movement. The other group is motivated by hate. The Law Center puts radical Islam in this category-
Section 2 of 3          [00:14:00 – 00:28:05]
Section 3 of 3          [00:28:00 – 00:52:21] (NOTE: speaker names may be different in each section)
Speaker 4: … Motivated by hate. The Law Center puts radical Islam in this category as well as homophobia, and racism.
Mark Potok: The classic example of the modern lone wolf is Dylann Roof; the person who carried out the massacre in Charleston, South Carolina of nine church goers last year. Roof never had any direct contact with any hate group; never met with other white supremacists; one day typed the word, “Black on white crime” into Google, and came upon a racist webpage run by a group called, The Council of Conservative Citizens that cataloged alleged black on white crime. Based on that, Roof decided to act; to actually go out, and start killing people.
Speaker 4: Potok says this kind of leaderless terrorism makes it nearly impossible, or prevent an attack.
Mark Potok: By definition, the lone wolf is the very hardest kind of person to prevent, so as a result is extremely difficult to find.
Speaker 4: Although Mateen fits the profile of a lone wolf, he also pledged allegiance to ISIS in a 9-1-1 call during the attack. That led both Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump to call for military action against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, but how would that play out?
  We called Mid East History Professor, James Gelvin of UCLA, and he told us that America’s strategy for dealing with this type of terrorism isn’t really working.
James Gelvin: We’re dealing with the idea of what we’re going to do is to destroy the top layers of an organization; there is no real organization out there. It really is a hydra headed monster that we’re up against.
Speaker 4: President Obama has tried a different strategy with ISIS: containment.
Pres. Obama: From the start, our goal has been first, to contain; and, we have contained them. They have not gained ground in Iraq, and in Syria, they’ll come in, they’ll leave, but you don’t see the systematic march by ISIL across the terrain.
Speaker 4: Professor Gelvin says so far, that approach is working. ISIS lost forty percent of its territory over the last year. This strategy would keep working, he says, if only we had the patience for it.
James Gelvin: Unfortunately, with the first string of attacks on Americans, and particularly San Bernardino, and now this one, that patience has been exhausted, and no politician in his right mind would be able to say, “Look, we’re winning. We’re containing ISIS, so therefore, why don’t we continue down this road.” That option has been taken off the table.
Speaker 4: And so, when a lone wolf like Omar Mateen attacks, leaders look to strike back at the only tangible target left. In this case; ISIS.
Speaker 8: Thanks to Reveal’s Scott Pham for that story. He had reporting help from Amy Julia Harris, and Julia Julia B. Chan.
Al Letson: Kimberly Morris was working as a bouncer at Pulse nightclub when she was shot, and killed. Here we get a glance of her life, and personality as she tries out Facebook Live for the first time.
Kimberly J.: What up Chris? I see that my manager isn’t around, so I thought I would try out this live broadcasting; see how it is, I guess.
Al Letson: Kimberly, also known as KJ to her friends, only recently moved to Orlando.
Kimberly J.: Yo, I just got a haircut after about six weeks. My hair was ridiculous. I wanted to hide it. It was crazy.
Al Letson: Pulse owner, Barbara Pomo said KJ fit right in.
Barbara P. : How are you?
Al Letson: She was thirty-seven.
Barbara P. : Oh, thank you.
Al Letson: You’re listening to Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting, and PRX.
  From the Center for Investigative Reporting, and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson.
  “I love you from here to the sky where you are resting.” Those were the words written by a friend of Jonathan Camuy. Jonathan was also one of those killed at Pulse nightclub. Jonathan moved to Florida to work on a Spanish language show, similar to the NBC show, “The Voice.” Not shy about his own voice, he posted this karaoke video on Instagram.
Speaker 12: [Singing in Spanish]
Al Letson: Jonathan Camuy was just twenty-four years old.
  Within hours of the mass killings in Orlando, a guy named, Mark Bryant started noticing a huge uptake on his website.
Mark Bryant: We started getting the notices about eight o’clock; seven-thirty, or eight o’clock in the morning, and we got on, and realized that we were just getting melted. Our servers were getting repeatedly. Our normal is between 12,000 – 24,000 hits, and we pegged over 1 million in six hours.
Al Letson: A million hits for the website called, “The Gun Violence Archive.” It’s a public database Mark Bryant created a few years ago. With it, he’s trying to do something that no one else has ever done. That includes the federal government.
Mark Bryant: We’re the only source- nationally- that collects all gun violence data; down to the person; down to the victims; down to the perpetrators; types of guns they use.
Al Letson: After high profile mass shootings like the one in Orlando there are calls for action, but ultimately, the voices fade, and not much gets done at the federal level.
  Mark says he wants to fill the huge gap in what we know about gun violence in America; just basic information about the shootings: where they happen, on what block, the names of the victims, and other circumstances. He says, it’s the kind of information that’s often drowned out in the debate over guns, and could allow gun laws to be based on real data, not just rhetoric.
Mark Bryant: We have folks on the left, and on the right that are very passionate about either gun rights, or gun violence prevention, and those people; most of their opinions are set in concrete, and that’s okay, but there is a whole group of people- probably 30 million gun owners- who aren’t on the internet railing every day. There are also folks that want to stop gun violence for their families; for society; for the future, and they’re not in the middle of the debate.
Al Letson: There’s one thing about Mark Bryant that might surprise you. It has to do with his background, and his passion for collecting guns. It’s something that goes way back. We traveled to Lexington, Kentucky last year to get to know Mark on his home turf. Here’s Reveal’s Michael Montgomery.
Michael M.: When you meet Mark Bryant, there’s a couple of things that you notice right away: he’s a burly guy with silver hair he used to wear in a ponytail, and a big, bushy beard. For years, he worked as a systems analyst for companies like IBM. When I look at him, I can’t quite tell if he’s an aging hippy, or a good old boy riding into the sunset.
Mark Bryant: There’s probably some good old boy left in me. I’ve lived in New York, and California, and different places, so some of that is gone, but I’m from Harlan, so there’s a certain level of me that’s not going to change.
Michael M.: He’s talking about Harlan County, Kentucky where he handled guns at a very young age.
Mark Bryant: A lot of the fathers after church- after lunch- would take the kids up to the garbage dump, and we would shoot rats. I learned to shoot at about five years old with .22 rifle that my father had bought back in 1937 for, I think, $13.
Michael M.: Mark Bryant’s affinity for guns never ended. To this day, he still enjoys shooting at the gun range with his private collection.
Mark Bryant: I have a .45; actually, two of them. I have a small .38 pistol, which belonged to father, and I have a .44 revolved, which belonged to my wife’s uncle.
Michael M.: But, as he’s grown older, his views on the impact of guns outside of the shooting range; they’ve shifted. He was hearing more stories about friends, and friends of friends who were shot. Some were victims of crime. Some were accidental; others, were suicides.
  The systems guy in Mark wanted more information. He wanted to know how many Americans were touched by gun violence.
  Media coverage was misleading. News crews closely follow large scale shootings, but overall far more people are killed, and injured in incidents with fewer victims; incidents that often get little, or no attention. That remains true today.
Mark Bryant: When we look at mass shootings, Orlando leaps out at us, and it should leap out at us. This was a horrific incident, but what we have had from Saturday 11th through the 13th, there have been nine instances where four, or more people have been shot, or killed. The four is the number that reaches the threshold for mass shootings, but no one has heard of those. We only hear the large ones.
Michael M.: Eight lethal gun incidents in 72 hours that were hardly covered by the media.
  Mark found something else. The way government tracks gun violence is also spotty.
Mark Bryant: I sometimes think some states’ crime reports are run through the tourism bureau before they make it out to the public. If something happens in one town, 25 miles away, nobody will know about it.
Michael M.: Mark Bryant’s Gun Violence Archive is supposed to fill that gap. Each day, Mark’s researchers comb thousands of websites; news outlets, reports from police, and coroner’s offices. The archive tracks all sorts of incidents, like crimes involving stolen weapons.
Mark Bryant: People don’t realize that there are 250,000 guns stolen every year. That’s 250,000 guns that ends up on the street.
Michael M.: Mark also tallies accidental shootings; child gunshot victims, and times when guns are used to intimidate, but aren’t actually fired. In 2015, it recorded some 53,000 incidents that resulted in more than 13,000 deaths. Mark says the costs go beyond human lives.
Mark Bryant: Gun violence costs billions of tax dollars in added police; in emergency rooms; in all … In loss of wages; loss of taxes with wages. The cost is just mind numbing.
Michael M.: Mark hoped his database would help policy makers craft gun laws that could save lives, but in America you can’t wade into the numbers without also wading into the intense politics of guns.
  We got a taste of that last year at a fancy ballroom in Nashville, Tennessee on the eve of the National Rifle Association’s national meeting. It was a fundraiser for the Crime Prevention Research Center; a group whose work supports some of the NRA’s most popular slogans.
Ted Nugent: More guns equals less crime. Fewer guns is a murderer’s dream.
Michael M.: That’s Ted Nugent, the rocker, and longtime NRA board member. He’s a big star on the gun circuit; outspoken, sometimes outrageous. Ted’s wearing a camouflage jacket, and cap, and he’s speaking to about a hundred people. They’re dressed in everything from suits, and fancy dresses to jeans, and cowboy boots.
Ted Nugent: I know some of you have family members that are anti gun. Fix them. I know you have co workers that don’t like guns, and don’t like NRA. Fix them. Hammer the livin’ [bleep] out of them every day with statistics. John’s got the statistics.
Michael M.: Ted’s talking about John Lott. He’s a controversial economist who founded the research center a few years ago.
Ted Nugent: Ladies, and gentlemen, John Lott.
Michael M.: This is his event.
John Lott: I want to say, after you listen to Ted, it’s kind of like anything is anti-climatic-
Michael M.: John’s best known book, “More Guns, Less Crime,” has been widely challenged by some academic researchers, but it’s a bible for the gun rights movement.
John Lott: We had a survey that came out showing that the vast majority of economists think that having guns make people safer.
Michael M.: John Lott couldn’t be more different from Mark Bryant. John is skinny, and bookish. He’s ambivalent about owning guns himself, but is a big ally of the NRA, and he’s dismissive of Mark’s Gun Violence Archive.
John Lott: I don’t think he’s doing a very good job.
Michael M.: He says even the very phrase, “Gun violence” ignores the benefits of guns.
John Lott: Guns make it easier for bad things to happen. There’s no doubt about that, but they also make it easier for people to protect themselves, and prevent bad things from happening.
Michael M.: According to John Lott, people use guns to stop crimes all the time. It’s just that it doesn’t show up in databases, or in media, and police reports, but he says that if you look at surveys of crime victims-
John Lott: You’re going to get five times, or so the rate that people use guns defensively as compared to using guns in the commission of crimes.
Michael M.: This is known as, “Defensive use,” and it’s a big deal in the gun rights movement. If you do the math, what John is saying is that guns are used in self defense more than a million times each year. Mark Bryant says that if that were the case, his researchers would know about it.
Mark Bryant: The logic that they use that says, “Most of them just aren’t reported. We just walk away happy that we kicked ass.” That’s bologna. That says that we took the law in our own hands, and did not think there was a need to inform of a crime that occurred that escalated to the point that we needed a gun.
Michael M.: Mark’s Gun Violence Archive documented just 1,300 cases of people using guns defensively in 2015, and while Mark says the actual number is probably a little higher, it’s still a tiny fraction of the figures claimed by John Lott. This isn’t just an abstract debate about statistics. John Lott’s research is used to back laws, making it easier to carry concealed weapons.
John Lott: When you pass right to carry laws, as the percentage of the population with permits increases, you see drops in violent crime. Some criminals stop committing crimes. Some criminals switch into other types of crimes, and some criminals move to other areas.
Mark Bryant: He wants us to believe that there’s a direct cause, and effect.
Michael M.: Mark Bryant says data on gun violence doesn’t support John’s claims about the benefits of concealed carry laws.
Mark Bryant: At one point, he was clamoring that Chicago’s gun deaths were down, because of the new concealed carry law in Illinois. The law had been in existence for about thirty days. Too many times, folks will tailor the data to suit their message that they already have.
Michael M.: Even though Mark says the gun lobby is wrong about the number of crimes stopped by firearms, it doesn’t seem to matter. John’s side is winning. All you have to do is look at the number of laws that allow more people to carry guns. More than three dozen states have now passed concealed carry legislation, or loosened existing laws, according to advocates on both sides of the debate. In the past decade, the number of permits has nearly tripled to more than 13 million.
  When it comes to tailoring gun data, Mark says the NRA, and its allies are the biggest offenders, but he says liberal groups sometimes do it, too. One example: Everytown for Gun Safety. That’s the group funded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Mark says Everytown has inflated the number of school shootings by including incidents that don’t involve students, or staff.
Mark Bryant: Two guys meet at the parking lot that happens to belong to a school at three in the morning to exchange drugs, or guns, or girls, or whatever, and gunfire comes into play; that’s not really a school shooting. I think the idea is that if 12 is bad, then 23 is a lot worse.
Michael M.: We contacted Everytown, and a representative told us they stand by their numbers.
  Mark Bryant says his archive is non partisan, but his private views lean toward gun violence prevention groups, especially after tragedies like the one in Orlando. He believes in proposals that already have broad support like tighter background checks, and better ways to store guns safely. Still, some people on the liberal side of the fence; they don’t know what to make of him.
Amanda Gailey: I think that there are times when a minority of people in the push for gun reform will wonder what he’s all about. Who is this Mark Bryant from Kentucky, who owns a lot of guns, and sticks up for gun people? He’s not our kind.
Michael M.: Amanda Gailey is a member of Nebraskans Against Gun Violence. She’s friendly with Mark, and relies on his database to track local gun violence.
Amanda Gailey: It takes a while to realize that he’s exactly the kind of person we need in the gun reform push. He’s fact based; fact driven.
Michael M.: The facts assembled in the Gun Violence Archive underscore the urgency of the issue. Last year alone, more than 3,300 children in America were killed, or wounded by guns.
Mark Bryant: You’re just seeing a constant grind of pain.
Michael M.: Pain that sometimes hits home. Mark had to hire a trauma counselor to work with his staff. Recently, one researcher quit her job. It was all just too much.
Mark Bryant: I believe it was an infant that was shot, and killed, and that took her over the edge.
  When I was starting this in ’13, I could remember the name of every victim. I knew how old they were. I could remember their photographs that were in the newspapers, and now I cannot do that, and that’s a good thing. I have detached from that. It’s bad that there has been so many of them that have just calloused me, but that’s where it is.
Al Letson: Our story was produced by Reveal’s Michael Montgomery, and co-reported by Matt Drange. In the interest of full disclosure, we should mention that the brother of one of our producers is a staffer at Everytown for Gun Safety. That’s the gun control group funded by Michael Bloomberg.
  The number of fatalities from gun violence in 2016 in America at the time of this recording- mid-June- is upwards of 6,000 souls. By the time you hear this, that number will have increased. Just think about that. The figure moves so quickly, we can’t even give you an accurate count. As it stands, its a big number that leaves behind shattered families, broken hearts, and unrealized dreams. Now, we can debate the shooters’ motives. We can argue about gun rights. We can talk about mental health, but none of that can measure the lives that have been taken; the years lost. We, here at Reveal, have been thinking a lot about how to hold someone’s life in your mind, and heart; how to grasp when they’re gone. This is our sonic memorial to the loss of life at the Pulse nightclub. Conceived by our sound designer Jim Briggs, and reporter, Michael Corey, it’s an audio timeline, if you will, of each victim’s lifespan.
  We start in 1966. Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez was the oldest person taken away that night.
  Each new tone represents the birth of one of the people who died at Pulse, and that note rings again for each year of their lives.
  That tone marks the birth of Akyra Murray in 1998. She was the youngest person killed in the nightclub.
  Every note, every life rings into the next: a chorus of humanity.
  June 12, 2016: the song ends, but their lives reverberate.
  I’m Al Letson from the Center for Investigative Reporting, and PRX. This has been Reveal.
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Julia B. Chan worked at The Center for Investigative Reporting until June, 2017. Julia B. Chan is a producer and the digital editor for Reveal's national public radio program. She’s the voice of Reveal online and manages the production and curation of digital story assets that are sent to more than 200 stations across the country. Previously, Chan helped The Center for Investigative Reporting launch YouTube’s first investigative news channel, The I Files, and led engagement strategies – online and off – for multimedia projects. She oversaw communications, worked to better connect CIR’s work with a bigger audience and developed creative content and collaborations to garner conversation and impact.

Before joining CIR, Chan worked as a Web editor and reporter at the San Francisco Examiner. She managed the newspaper’s digital strategy and orchestrated its first foray into social media and online engagement. A rare San Francisco native, she studied broadcasting at San Francisco State University, focusing on audio production and recording. Chan is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Stan Alcorn is a former senior reporter and producer for Reveal. His radio work at Reveal has won awards including a Peabody Award, several Online Journalism Awards, an NABJ Salute to Excellence Award, and a Best of the West Award, as well as making him a finalist for a Livingston Award for Young Journalists. He previously was a reporter for Marketplace, covering business and economic news – from debit card fees levied on the formerly incarcerated to the economic impact of Beyoncé's hair. He has helped launch new shows at Marketplace, Slate, and WNYC; contributed research to books by journalists at Time and CNBC; and reported for outlets including NPR, PRI's The World, 99% Invisible, WNYC, FiveThirtyEight, Fast Company, High Country News, Narratively, and Digg.