What to do after the horrors of Orlando? It is tempting to write about the Orlando shootings in terms of architecture, to speak about the solace from terror well-designed space can offer us, and to call again for designs that make us feel safe without resorting to the paraphernalia of paranoia. I have done so after other gun-related attacks and thoughtful critics are offering their thoughts again.
The issue is much simpler, and comes before architecture can do anything: We need to ban the use of assault weapons in this country now.
I will not recite all the reasons we need to do this, which everybody from our President on down have worked through for us over and over. Instead, I simply offer this simple alternative. Either we enact laws that prevent such a gunman as wreaked death in Orlando (or anybody who might at some point lose her or his temper, or bear a grudge, or have a grievance) from walking into a store and buy a machine designed not for hunting, but for killing as many people as possible as quickly as possible; or we turn all of our public spaces into fortresses guarded by metal detectors. I mean not just gay bars, but public spaces where any of us might gather for any reason.
I do not want to live in America as a fortress. I do not want our country to be walled off, nor my home turned into an electronically turreted castle. And, most of all, I do not want the places that make me a citizen of this country turned into policed safe havens. I do not want to live in fascist space.
I am gay, and so I am a target. I cannot feel safe anywhere. But, as other attacks have shown, it is enough to be African-American, or to be in the wrong place at the wrong time to lose your life in such a sudden and stupid way to hate enabled by weapons of mass destruction.
So, maybe it is a question of architecture. I want the architecture of this country to be open. I want spaces we all can inhabit and enjoy together. I want to be a part—an active, fearless, open part—of this land, this society, and this country.
To build such a place is difficult. It has taken us hundreds of years to get as far as we have come so far. The good news that the reactions to the massacre at the Pulse nightclub also made clear is that everywhere around us doors are still opening, shining light in closets and welcoming those who have been imprisoned by politics or economics in their country of birth to share and contribute to the further construction of our shared space.
One madman who had a nasty piece of equipment that killed almost 50 people should not be allowed to bring down that delicate consensual edifice. We need to take away his ability to do so. We need to ban these weapons now.