Political leaders call for honoring Pulse victims with action

Author: Jacob Ogles

LGBTQ+ advocates say eight years after the Pulse shooting, leaders and activists must honor victims with action. As members of the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and around the globe remember the 20016 tragedy that claimed 49 lives earlier this month, they are demanding more to be done to curb gun violence in the U.S.

“We have a saying that birthed out of the Pulse tragedy in Orlando, and it’s that we don’t just honor them with empty words or hollow sympathies. We honor those stolen from us with action,” said Brandon Wolf, press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign.

Wolf, who was in the nightclub the evening of the attack and lost two close friends, moderated an Instagram Live event on the eighth anniversary of the shooting. Leaders for HRC and Giffords, a political group fighting gun violence, discussed the best ways to prevent a similar tragedy in the future while leveraging something positive from an unthinkably awful crime.

“Look, I grew up black, queer on the South Side Chicago,” said Kelley Robinson, CEO of the Human Rights Campaign. “I grew up in the church. I remember when this shooting happened. It was almost a year to the date after the South Carolina mass shooting right in that church where nine people were killed. And to me, what I was holding is what it means for us to lose our safe spaces.”

But while deadly and hateful shootings like Pulse and the racist shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina earn media attention, gun violence takes lives every day.

Emma Brown, executive director of Giffords, stressed many shootings never earn media attention.

“The horror of gun violence is playing out hundreds of times each day in communities across America and disproportionately in communities of color, but the news doesn’t cover those shootings with the same regularity or in the same way that it covers mass shootings, particularly mass shootings that affect white communities,” she said.

In that sense, Pulse, where most victims were queer or Latino, was different in drawing attention to violence against marginalized minorities. But she said guns claim an average of 120 American lives every day.

“Guns are killing 44,000 people every year, and every single one is a tragedy, and everyone deserves our mourning and our outrage, and ultimately, right, gun violence has become a public health crisis in this country.”

But Florida U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost, a Democrat representing Orlando in Congress, said the result of gun violence impacting so many lives has been a greater awareness of the consequences of America entertaining the will of right-wing extremists. “The gun violence prevention movement for the first time, I think for real, is stronger than the gun lobby, and we see that through all of the wins we’ve had just in the last couple of years,” he said.

The lawmaker noted President Joe Biden’s creation of an Office of Gun Violence, modeled off legislation Frost filed, but also the devoting of more resources to communities affected by violent crime. Still, he said activists concerned with violence need to contact officials, or if possible run against them to help change the calculus of gun policy in Washington.

Ultimately, shifts in the law now won’t reverse the losses from the Pulse community. Wolf spoke about the sting he still feels when he survived the Orlando shooting but friends Drew Leinonen and Juan Guerrero did not.

“People who’ve been stolen from us by gun violence, they’re not just numbers,” he said. “We talk about stats all the time, but they’re not just numbers. They’re missing faces at birthday parties. They’re empty seats at dinner tables. They are people who had futures stolen from them because of this epidemic of gun violence, and we can’t lose sight of that.”

Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Jacob Ogles

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