Club Q Shooting in Colorado
The Nov. 19 fatal shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs highlights the continuing trend of a worsening threat environment for the LGBTQ community in the United States. The incident prompts memories of a similarly deadly mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016. The Colorado Springs shooter faces preliminary charges of murder and bias-motivated crime. If authorities determine the attack was pre-meditated and directed specifically toward the LGBTQ community – and should another violent incident occur within the near- to medium-term – such frequency could indicate a trend of LGBTQ-targeted attacks in the US.
Shortly before midnight on Saturday, Nov. 19, a shooter entered Club Q – an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo., US and began firing with an AR-15 rifle. He was prepared for this event: with a flak jacket, at least one handgun, and extra ammunition for both weapons. The shooter fatally wounded five individuals and injured more than two dozen people at Club Q before he was subdued within minutes by two patrons – a transgender woman and a cisgender male US Army veteran – who kept the shooter pinned to the ground until officers with the Colorado Springs Police Department arrived on the scene. The shooting took place just hours before Club Q was slated to host a brunch starring drag performers to mark and celebrate the Transgender Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20. The mass shooting prompts memories of the June 2016 attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., – the deadliest attack on the LGBTQ+ community in US history – in which the shooter killed 49 people and wounded 53 others. Both attacks are believed to be pre-meditated, though the motive for the Club Q attack has yet to be determined.
Public and Governmental Response
While US society is broadly tolerant of the LGBTQ community, the threat of intimidation, discrimination, hate crimes, and violence remains present, especially in more conservative parts of the country. Club Q is characterized as a haven for LGBTQ individuals in the otherwise hostile environment of Colorado Springs, which has long been a hotbed of anti-LGBT sentiment: the city is home to Focus on the Family (FOF), a conservative Christian political organization founded in the late 1970s with an anti-LGBTQ focus and a far-reaching footprint – FOF maintains 14 international offices and partnerships among 60 countries.
In the aftermath of the Club Q attack, local businesses and civic organizations also showed support for victims, their families, and citizens. Acknowledging the tragedy, Colorado Governor Jared Polis stated, “I ordered flags lowered to half-staff on all public buildings statewide from sunrise this morning until sunset on November 26, 2022, to honor and remember the victims of the horrific shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs. Flags will be lowered for five days to remember each of the five individuals who lost their lives in this senseless tragedy. We will also be flying the Pride flag at the Colorado State Capitol for the next five days.”
The outpouring of support is not limited to the Colorado Springs community: candlelight vigils in major cities, GoFundMe campaigns supporting victims’ families, and harm reduction and advocacy organizations nationwide voiced their dismay at yet another fatal display of anti-LGBTQ sentiment. Club Q is characterized as a haven for LGBTQ+ individuals in the otherwise hostile environment of Colorado Springs, which has long been a hotbed of anti-LGBT sentiment The owner of the VERS nightclub in New York City spoke in solidarity regarding the incident, stating bricks were thrown at their windows at least three times in the past week – reinforcing the fact that anti-LGBTQ hate crimes can and do occur in cities typically known for embracing the community.
The White House released a press statement from President Biden offering condolences to the families affected by the Colorado Springs attack and used it as an opportunity to renew his efforts calling for a federal assault weapons ban, despite lacking the Congressional support to pass it into law. Reports indicate the gunman inadvertently evaded Colorado’s “red flag” gun law – which permits authorities to seize an individual’s weapons and ammunition – after he threatened his mother with a homemade bomb and other unnamed weapons in mid-2021. His mother notified police, who responded with the bomb squad and evacuated the neighborhood, but local law enforcement did not pursue further legal action nor remove his weapons. Had law enforcement chosen to intervene strongly in 2021, such actions could have delayed or prevented the fatal attack on Club Q.
While this incident does not necessarily mark an increasing trend in anti-LGBTQ attacks, future attacks against the LGBTQ community in the US cannot be ruled out. Highly politicized and sensationalized coverage of LGBTQ-related legislation and court cases continues to highlight the LGBTQ community in the US.
The overall threat environment for LGBTQ individuals in the US remains low. However, the threat landscape for LGBTQ Americans – particularly transgender individuals – continues to worsen, as shown by the unprecedented number of anti-transgender bills proposed in state legislatures nationwide in 2021 and 2022. If it is determined that the attacker targeted the LGBTQ community and another targeted incident occurs in the short-to-medium-term, Crisis24 would review the threat landscape for the LGBTQ community and potentially increase the threat rating for the US from a low to moderate.
This article was originally written and published by Courtney Kansler from Crisis24 on November 22, 2022.