It was only last year that the story was unfolding. Just one year ago that the horror was being told. Only 12 months ago that lives were ended, the country wept, and the way we look at everything changed.
On June 12, 2016, 49 individuals were murdered in the most gruesome mass attack of gun violence in U.S. history. That it occurred at a celebration — at Pulse nightclub in Orlando during a Pride Month Latin Night party — made it even more hurtful. Gay bars are safe spaces for the LGBTQ community, a place where you can be who you are, or who you want to be, without judgment.
This violence shattered the notion of safe spaces, at least temporarily. It cast a dark cloud over the City of Orlando, and its LGBTQ and Latin communities, as death touched everyone there. And it thrust the issue of gun violence — once again — onto the national agenda, as politicians and policymakers, legislators and lobbyists debated how to respond.
Gun violence is not new, of course. But the increase in mass shootings in recent years from Columbine to Fort Hood, from Virginia Tech to Sandy Hook, from Charleston to now Orlando has raised the stakes. People are being targeted because they’re gay, or African American, or children. People are being targeted for who they are, for just being.
Just a year earlier, our Pride Month was centered on marriage equality, and joy of being treated equally across the country, in courthouses as well as cafes. Now, we shared with other communities that have endured senseless violence that equality — the shared sorrow of grief.
For the LGBTQ community, our sense of purpose flourished. This deadly violence invaded Pride Month, our time when we celebrate being free, being Americans, being able to show our love and share our love with others. This intrusion solidified our resolve to fight.
The Pride Fund to End Gun Violence was born out of the Pulse tragedy, and works at the intersection of LGBTQ equality and support for sensible gun reforms. Since our founding we’ve focused on mobilizing the LGBTQ community and our allies; raising funds to elect pro-LGBTQ candidates who support sensible gun reforms; and serving as the voice of the LGBTQ community in the movement to stop senseless gun tragedies.
This year alone, 33,000 Americans will lose their lives to gun violence, including mass casualty shootings, accidents and suicide. When will we reach the tipping point? The Pride Fund’s gun reform platform is non-controversial and achievable — although maybe not in the short term, given the political realities: Expand background checks to cover all gun sales. Prohibit suspected terrorists from purchasing guns. Restrict access to assault weapons and high capacity magazines. Support federally funded research on gun violence. And prevent those convicted of committing hate crimes from purchasing guns.
For too long, lawmakers have failed in their responsibility to ensure the public safety by not taking action to reduce gun violence. No other country faces the daily onslaught of shootings and murders that the United States does, and yet — another 93 people will be killed today, and another 93 will be killed tomorrow, and so on. Every day.
The tragedy at Pulse forever intertwines June as both Pride Month and National Gun Violence Awareness Month, two recognitions at competing purposes. That alone shows how much more work we have to do.
Jason Lindsay is founder and executive director of Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, a political action committee that will support state and federal candidates who will act on sensible gun policy reforms and champion LGBTQ equality. Lindsay is a seasoned political operative with 13 years of experience working in politics, government and campaigns. He served for 14 years in the U.S. Army Reserve and was deployed to Iraq in 2003.