If James Seevakumaran’s plans hadn’t been interrupted—either by the cops, or his roommate, or maybe his conscience—my hometown would have been ground zero for the next national tragedy. He had an assault weapon, two 110-round drum magazines, a handgun, and explosives, and had apparently plotted to mow down the 500 or so students who lived in his dormitory tower. Instead, he killed himself. His motives are unclear.
Below I’ve excerpted from an essay I wrote for the Orlando Weekly. Please take a second to read it. This is important: Whenever one of these incidents occurs, we tell ourselves that we won’t wait until next time to act. When fate grants us a reprieve, however, we shrug.
It’s time to act.
Imagine, just for a second, that things had gone differently.
Imagine that James Oliver Seevakumaran, the disaffected loner with a stockpiled arsenal who shot himself last week inside a University of Central Florida dorm, hadn’t been spooked by his roommate or the cops or the pangs of his conscience, but instead had gone through with his plan to massacre UCF students as they awoke to the sound of a fire alarm and began to exit their high-rise tower early that Monday morning.
Imagine that Seevakumaran had succeeded, that 10, 20, 30, maybe 40 students were mowed down before he finally committed the inevitable suicide-by-cop. Imagine that UCF’s sprawling campus was now mentioned in the same breath as Newtown, Aurora, Tucson, Virginia Tech and Columbine.
Imagine that a media frenzy had descended upon East Orlando, with journalists feverishly reporting details and rumors about the gunman and his victims. Imagine families mourning on the evening news. Imagine that the governor and legislators and congressmen and maybe even the president had come as well, to minister to a heartbroken nation and call for some sort of vague action.
Maybe then, in the face of yet another unspeakable tragedy spawned by a twisted mind and the barrel of a submachine gun, the pusillanimous U.S. Senate, cowed by the seemingly all-powerful NRA, wouldn’t have shelved an assault weapons ban for which – though it’s supported in polls by nearly three in five Americans – Senate Democrats couldn’t even wrangle 40 votes, much less the 60 they’d need to overcome a filibuster.
Yet Congress has, in its infinite wisdom, decided that James Oliver Seevakumaran’s freedom to obtain this killing machine with relative ease trumps students’ freedom to live without fear of being slaughtered, or the freedom of parents in Newtown to watch their babies grow up, or the freedom of moviegoers in Aurora to enjoy a peaceful Friday night.
Every time one of these incidents occurs, we gnash our teeth and tell ourselves that we won’t wait until the next time to act. But when fate grants us a reprieve, we shrug.