On Saturday, Nov. 19, Club Q was bursting with energy as local LGBTQIA+ community members partied at the only gay nightclub in the conservative town of Colorado Springs. When Anderson Lee Aldrich arrived that night and killed five people and wounded another 18, the town went quiet. The LGBTQIA+ community went quiet. The world, slowly becoming desensitized to such tragedies, even went quiet for a moment.
His motive is not known, and if it ever is known, it will be impossible to understand. Why innocent peoples’ sexual orientation or gender identity is an issue to any person is an unanswerable question–especially to the greatest extent of murder. This can’t be classified as anything other than a hate crime.
Colorado’s state laws decipher that a hate crime occurs only if an individual has “the intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, physical or mental disability, or sexual orientation”. The ambiguous nature of the law and words such as “intent” and “perceived” unfortunately have potential to help Aldrich’s case. Currently, the 22-year-old is said to be facing five murder charges and five charges of committing a bias-motivated crime for the killing of Daniel Aston, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh, Derrick Rump and Raymond Green Vance.
Also at the state level, Colorado has a seemingly beneficial “red flag” law that allows a judge to mandate an extermination of one’s firearms and weapons if they have presented a concern of hurting themselves or another person. In 2021, his mother called the authorities in fear of Aldrich as he was threatening her with a homemade bomb. With the strict and desperately needed enforcement of the “red flag” law, authorities would have more than enough probable cause to search and confiscate his weapons – or prevent him from purchasing any in the future.
This crime was preventable. Not only because of the “red flag” law, but I would argue that no average Colorado citizen needs to have an AR-15-style semi automatic weapon for any reason anyway. Such an argument is somewhat difficult to back in this situation considering the fact that the Aldrich’s own gun was used to prevent the attack from escalating into further destruction. However, the heroic patrons took his gun and hit him in the head with it, so evidently violence can be stopped without firing a gun. Stricter gun laws, perhaps, would have halted a gun from even arriving at Club Q with Aldrich.
The tragedy has gained attention in the conservative city. The several stories of heroism and Club Q’s sense of comfort for many make this even more devastating. Many have filled a nearby street with flowers, stuffed animals and plenty of other memorials to create a mourning space. I can only hope that this opens the eyes of everyone – from the small town to the entire nation – on the danger that LGBTQIA+ people still face every day, the desperate need for more gun control and the epidemic of hatred that our world is facing. This affects everyone and it should be handled as so.
Layne Rey is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. What are your thoughts? Let Layne know by tweeting her @laynerey12.