Democracy Alliance President
Mass shootings occur with grim regularity in our country, whose gun laws are insanely growing steadily more lax, not more stringent, thanks to the enormous power of the National Rifle Association and its stranglehold on politicians petrified to incur its wrath. But Saturday night’s carnage at Pulse, a gay club in Orlando, took a record number of lives, maimed many more, and scarred a community and a nation. Millions are rising, like those of us in the Democracy Alliance, to proclaim solidarity with our LGBTQ colleagues, friends and family, along with our Muslim brothers and sisters – two communities who have been targeted for hate and violence and who refuse to be set against one another, as too many are trying to exploit this outrage to do.
As I write, we still don’t know much about what motivated the shooter. He seems to have proclaimed fealty to ISIS in a 911 message before his rampage, but he was a rage-filled man who beat his ex-wife even as she slept, and there are also claims that he had patronized the bar in the past. As details of his life and contacts emerge, we’ll know more, but it seems safe to say, in the wake of this and the San Bernardino shootings, that we are living in an age of freelance terrorism that will be increasingly challenging for law enforcement.
“Gun laws are insanely growing steadily more lax, not more stringent, thanks to the enormous power of the National Rifle Association and its stranglehold on politicians petrified to incur its wrath.”
Any other society trying to deal with this sober reality – and the now-routine horrors of innocents gunned down in school classrooms, shopping malls, movie theaters and workplaces – would restore the ban on assault rifles like the AR-15 used in Orlando, San Bernardino and Sandy Hook. This is a “weapon of war,” in Hillary Clinton’s words, that has no civilian use except the massacres in which it has been employed by hateful, unstable people. We live in a country where anyone can stroll into a gun shop and walk out loaded up with killing machines, and our political system to date has been incapable of stopping it.
We are now seeing the spectacle of some conservative politicians trying to capitalize on the fear that the Orlando attack has generated, to attack President Obama and Hillary Clinton as being insufficiently tough on terrorism, while doing everything they can to avoid talking about the fact that this was a homophobic hate crime.
Dan Patrick, the Lieutenant Governor of Texas, has been roundly condemned for his tweet on Sunday morning of a Bible verse from Galatians: “a man reaps what he sows.” Though Patrick claims the tweet was set up before the Orlando shooting, the passage was more apt than he intended, for it is homophobic politicians, and their inciters and enablers elsewhere on the religious right, like Pat Robertson, who are sowing what they have long reaped: a bloody harvest after years of constant and virulent attacks on LGBTQ people.
Now, more than ever, we must insist on moral accountability for hateful rhetoric and bigoted laws and policies. Every time there is a burst of obscene violence such as what took place in Orlando last weekend, we are cautioned not to “politicize” tragedy. And indeed, if what that means is unhinged and racist attacks like the ones Donald Trump has been making in the last few days – renewing his call for a ban on entry to the United States by Muslims – that advice would be well taken.
“It is homophobic politicians, and their inciters and enablers elsewhere on the religious right, who are sowing what they have long reaped: a bloody harvest after years of constant and virulent attacks on LGBTQ people.”
But in another sense, we must politicize moments like this. We must mobilize support in our democratic system of government to protect the rights of LGBTQ people, who despite the victory for marriage equality, are unprotected from discrimination in employment and housing in all too many parts of the country, and disproportionately targeted for violence. We must enact common sense restrictions on certain kinds of lethal weapons, and who can buy and use them.
One great value of the DA community is that we can support and learn from one another, and we are a resource for those fighting for progressive change. We’ve listed below some links to what DA-supported organizations are doing and saying about human rights and gun violence, along with steps you can take to support the survivors of last weekend’s violence. Now, more than ever, all need your support.
To help those in Orlando:
- A general fund for the victims and families of the Orlando shooting which was established by Equality Florida and for events information around the country.
- CAIR Florida (Council on American-Islamic Relations in Florida) has launched a fund for the Muslim community to donate to support the victims.
- The Proteus Fund is setting up a pooled fund to support rapid response mobilization and organizing work that will need to happen in the face of the homophobia, Islamophobia and racism being vented in the wake of this tragedy.
What DA-supported organizations are saying and doing:
- Advancement Project stands in solidarity with the LGBTQ community following tragic night club shooting and warns against giving in to homophobia, Islamophobia, or xenophobia.
- Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden calls for action to keep guns out of the wrong hands. CAP journalist Igor Volsky calls out politicians who offered “thoughts and prayers” on Twitter by tweeting contributions they have received from the NRA.
- Statement from Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of ColorofChange, on the shooting.
- Demos President Heather McGhee reminds us that America’s greatest attribute is the diversity of its people.
- Media Matters for America monitors Donald Trump and the right-wing media that are using the tragedy to drum up anti-Muslim fear.
- Faith leaders with the PICO National Network express their support for the LGBTQ community and call for everyone to use this moment to embrace love and our shared humanity.
To support organizations working for LGBTQ rights:
- Freedom for All Americans
- Human Rights Campaign
- Movement Advancement Project
- National LGBTQ Task Force