On November 19, tragedy once again hit Colorado Springs.
That Saturday night, 22-year-old gunman Anderson Lee Aldrich shot and killed five people and injured 19 others at the city’s only LGBTQ+ nightclub, Club Q. The murdered victims have been identified as Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh, Daniel Aston, Derrick Rump, and Raymond Green Vance. Aldrich has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder and five counts of bias-motivated crime causing bodily injury.
The Colorado Springs police responded well to the incident. Within eight minutes of the first 911 call, the shooter was detained. Thankfully, civilians Richard Fiero, who is a veteran, and Thomas James both tackled the gunman and saved many lives. None of the police officers shot at Aldrich.
However, while Mayor John Suthers—a Catholic—has done many press conferences denouncing the mass shooting, he was hesitant to acknowledge that it was a hate crime. I think this was likely because he is conservative and was playing politics. After all, the right has a history of rejecting the LGBTQ+ community as well as gun control legislation.
Our local Catholic bishop, James Golka, has released his own statement denouncing the shooting and its targeting of the LGBTQ+ community. Jared Polis, the nation’s first openly gay governor, has condemned the shooting as well.
I am deeply saddened that gun violence has struck Colorado once again. This is the third mass shooting in my lifetime that has occurred in my city, and I am only 17 years old. This shooting was a hate crime and could have been prevented if a red flag law was implemented in the case of the suspect, based on his prior run-ins with the police.
Moreover, despite what Catholic teaching says about homosexuality, we need to come together and support people regardless of their background or lifestyle. As Jesus says in the Gospel of John:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
We need to listen to what Christ says in this verse now more than ever. We have let people’s identities cause division when it could bring people together and foster empathy. Bishop Golka did a wonderful job speaking about this in his statement.
When reflecting on what occurred at Club Q, one has to put personal politics aside. This is a human rights issue. This shooting was not in any way justifiable. People who were created in God’s image were murdered. Catholics are taught to value and respect all life from conception to natural death.
In my opinion, we tend not to live up to this statement in its fullest extent—especially when it comes to people who have different ideologies than ours. We as Catholics need to speak out against this shooting as well as what motivated it. Secondly, we must do what we can to support the victims and their loved ones.
Provide comfort, pray, and donate what you can. But most important of all: love, and remember to see God’s image in everyone.
Ashley Paul is a student in Colorado and will be graduating from high school in 2023. She is passionate about diversity and activism and focuses on representation from many perspectives, including religion. She hopes to pursue this further in the future.