A truly senseless and tragic mass shooting occurred on Sunday in Orlando. A targeted hate crime against the LGBTQ+ community at the Pulse nightclub on a Latin-themed night.
And it makes me just incredibly angry because we, as a nation, put a weapon of war into the hands of a civilian. That we allow people who are/have been on terrorist watch lists and no-fly lists to legally purchase weapons of war. And as I sit here and reflect on this tragedy, I am sick to my stomach by the thought that it could have been prevented or impeded in some way if we had stood together after Aurora, or Sandy Hook, or San Bernardino and said that enough is enough… Enough lives have been lost, enough blood has been shed.
If we had just done… something.
It makes me angry that we, as a nation in 2016, cling so desperately to an amendment written in 1789 to protect the rights of individuals to defend themselves against potential war at a time when our country had no standing army. The second amendment states: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to secure a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” This amendment was written at a time when well-regulated militias were our BIG national security plan. At a time when militias were armed with single shot muskets and long rifles with complicated reloading procedures.
But times have changed. We no longer need well-regulated militias to secure a free state. We have a standing army, navy, air force, marine corps, national guard, CIA, FBI, homeland security, and police forces, AND weapons capable of causing mass casualties in an incredibly short amount of time. Oh wait, I forgot, its only the second half of that precious amendment that our nation pays attention to “*insert Charlie Brown adult-talking trombone sound here* … the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” But that is NOT the intention of the amendment, and our nation’s perversion of that amendment is what put unnecessary weapons of war into the hands of a civilian with ill-intent.
This has to stop.
Across the nation, people are saying that their thoughts and prayers are with the victims and loved ones of the Orlando mass shooting. And they should be. But all of the thoughts and prayers in the world will not put an end to these senseless tragedies, actions will. Call, write to, tweet at your congressman. Vote for representatives and senators in this election cycle with voting records and ideologies that align with your own.
Because if we stay silent and don’t take action, we are tacitly agreeing to allow this kind of violence and tragedy to happen again. At the end of this piece, I will include some resources to help get you started in taking action against gun violence. I have also included a link to the funds to financially aid the families of the victims of the Orlando mass shooting.
PART II: SOCIAL IMPLICATIONS
As I said before, this mass shooting is a targeted hate crime against the LGBTQ+ community at the Pulse nightclub on a Latin-themed night. As such, the victims of this mass shooting are predominately young LGBTQ+ people of color. So, please, do not mistake this act of terror as an attack on “all humanity.” This attack was not random, it was targeted. It was an attack of hate committed against the LGBTQ+ community. Also, please do not mistake this actor of terror by Omar Mateen as an attack committed by the Muslim community or followers of the Islamic faith. And please do not use this tragedy to justify hatred towards a group of people who are in no way responsible for the actions perpetuated by one human being as others like Donald Trump have already done.
I repeat, do not use this tragedy to justify hate. It actually makes my blood boil when I hear of people and communities that have persistently perpetuated anti-LGBTQ+ hate and ignorance claim this tragedy as their own to perpetuate more hate and ignorance against a different community.
The LGBTQ+ community is no stranger to violence and tragedy. We have lost an entire generation of predominately gay and bisexual men to an AIDS epidemic that our government refused to acknowledge or take action on before it was too late. Police have raided our bars and cafes to arrest LGBTQ+ people for being who they are. And, please, do not mistake the Orlando mass shooting as the first act of violence committed against the LGBTQ+ community at a bar/café/nightclub that is considered a safe sanctuary from the hate, violence, and ignorance of the outside world. From the arson at the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans in 1973, to the Otherside Lounge bombing in Atlanta in 1997, to the Backstreet café shooting in Roanoke, Virginia in 2000, to the Puzzles Lounge attack in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 2006, and the attempted arson of a gay bar on New Year’s Eve in 2014 in Seattle, the LGBTQ+ community has known tragedy.
The Orlando mass shooting is the single greatest act of hatred and violence committed against the LGBTQ+ community in the United States, but this hatred and violence did not occur in a vacuum. Our community’s past is full of incidence of ignorance, violence, and hate committed against us. But our present is still full of these incidences. There is almost an epidemic level of violence committed against trans women of color, there is an abhorrent number of homeless LGBTQ+ youth, and hate crimes and discrimination are still a large part of our reality… Fear is still a large part of our reality. I think Twitter user Jeremey Kraatz said it best that “If you can’t wrap you head around a bar or a club as a sanctuary, you’ve probably never been afraid to hold someone’s hand in public.” While I am out and proud, I would be lying if I said that I was never afraid. Afraid of looking too lesbian at an interview and being rejected because of it. Being afraid of holding hands with my girlfriend and running into the wrong person on the street. These are reasons why people in our community feel so safe in places like Pulse. Places where we don’t have to be afraid of being who we are.
This tragedy did not occur in a vacuum and we could all do more to teach love and kindness instead of hate and ignorance. We could all do more to treat each other better. We could all do more to make this country safer for everyone.
Below you will find links to resources to help the victims and families of the victims of the Orlando mass shooting. You will also find resources to help put you in contact with your local representatives to change legislation to favor gun control (because if you want to build a gun culture off the back of the second amendment, you have to consider the amendment in its entirety and not just pick out the parts that favor the NRA lobby).
Support the victimes of the Pulse Nightclub mass shooting
Find out how your senator voted on background checks
Tweet at your congressman