On June 12, 2016, a gunman opened fire at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. Bullets from the shooter’s military-style assault weapon struck 102 people, leaving 49 dead, 53 injured, and hundreds traumatized. The LGBTQ and Latinx communities were targeted in a hate-fueled rampage that is now the deadliest modern-day mass shooting and the largest attack on LGBTQ people in America in history.
The Pulse massacre compels us to confront two realities: the systematic dehumanization of LGBTQ people and the far too easy access to weapons of mass slaughter. We must uproot hate and prevent those who seek to do us harm from accessing weapons of mass slaughter. Equality Florida is committed to common sense gun violence prevention measures in combination with our work to move equality forward for LGBTQ people.
We know all too well that discrimination against our community can be lethal - gay rights icon Harvey Milk was assassinated, Matthew Shepard was beaten to death with a pistol, and not a month goes by when we don’t hear of the murder of yet another transgender woman of color. Beyond the ways in which LGBTQ people have been specifically targeted by hate violence, gun violence is a civil rights issue that disproportionately impacts all marginalized communities, including people of color and immigrant communities. It is incumbent upon us to join forces with our progressive allies to advocate for policies that will keep our families safe.
Equality Florida is committed to addressing the epidemic of violence fueled by the normalization of hatred of LGBTQ people We demand the following common sense gun policy reforms:
Expanding universal background checks to include private gun sales
- Access to guns is far too easy – and the Pulse shooting is only the latest in a long list of tragedies. 9 in 10 gun owners support universal background checks on all gun purchases, demonstrating that responsible gun ownership can coincide with preventing dangerous individuals from accessing the tools to kill.
Restricting access to assault weapons and high capacity magazines
- There is simply no legitimate reason for private citizens to have access to military-style assault weapons like the Sig Sauer MCX firearm used to murder 49 people at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando on June 12, 2016. These weapons of war do not belong in civilian hands.
More than 20 percent of hate crimes reported nationally in 2014 targeted people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to the most recent FBI statistics. Hate crimes in general are on the decline, and yet hate crimes against LGBTQ people are rising. Here in Florida, the LGBTQ community was horrified when India Clarke, a black transgender woman, was shot and killed in Tampa last year by a man described as a “career criminal.” As of this writing, at least 21 transgender people have been killed in 2016 alone, the majority of whom are transgender women of color.
In the same way that Equality Florida has adopted policy positions that promote racial equity and reproductive justice, we now pledge publicly to advocate for common sense gun violence prevention measures to stem the rising tide of violence against our community. LGBTQ people are people of color, we are immigrants, we are women, we are people with disabilities, and the intersections of our identities have always informed our work. Moving forward, Equality Florida -- which will remain focused on uprooting hatred of LGBTQ people and on passing statewide nondiscrimination protections -- will partner with gun safety advocates and other allies in the LGBTQ movement and beyond to combat the epidemic of gun violence.