13/06/2016 11:16 BST | Updated 13/06/2016 13:05 BST

Orlando Shooting: It’s Easier To Buy A Gun Than For A Gay Man To Donate Blood

‘Let’s say it: The gay blood ban is homophobic garbage’

America’s gun laws are being challenged once more in the wake of the Orlando nightclub shooting.

More than 50 people were injured and 49 died after Omar Mateen opened fire at the Pulse nightclub in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Mateen, who was killed in a shootout with police, was armed with an AR-15 assault type rifle, a handgun and an explosive device.

The 29-year-old purchased at least two firearms legally within the last week or so, said Trevor Velinor of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Florida does not require background checks for gun sales and there is no special regulation on assault weapons.

There is a three-day waiting period between the purchase and delivery of a handgun.

The ease with which Mateen purchased the arsenal he used in the attack is being contrasted with the fact that gay and bisexual men are unable to donate blood if they have had sex with a man in the previous year.

Criticism of the ban flowed as blood banks called for urgent donations in the wake of the massacre.

Steve Adler, the mayor of Austin, Texas, addressed cheering crowds on Sunday as he proclaimed: “It should not be easier to buy an assault rifle than it is to be a gay man to donate blood.”

The sentiment is gathering momentum on social media, with many protesting at the apparent hypocrisy.

In December, the Food and Drug Administration lifted a three-decade-old ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.

But the lifetime ban was replaced with a new policy barring donations from men who have had sex with a man in the previous year.

The new policy brought the US in line with Australia, Japan, the UK and other countries, and researchers said it could slightly increase the US blood supply.

Gay rights activists said it still perpetuated negative stereotypes dating to the beginning of the AIDS crisis.

According to the American Red Cross, roughly 38 percent of the US population is eligible to donate blood at any given time, but less than 10 percent of those people actually do so each year.

All US blood donations are screened for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Omar Mateen was killed in a firefight with police 

On Sunday there was confusion after information shared on social media indicated the ban had been lifted and that all blood would be screened. 

But OneBlood donation centres denied any change in policy, tweeting: “All FDA guidelines remain in effect for blood donation. There are false reports circulating that FDA rules were being lifted. Not true.”

Some Twitter users decried the ban itself as a “true tragedy” and “intolerance at its finest”. 

Gerardo Mora via Getty Images
Long lines of people waiting at the OneBlood Donation Center to donate blood for the victims of the Pulse nightclub terror attack
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