In the wake of the tragedy in Orlando, the LGBT community can play a leading role in turning this tragic moment into a powerful movement that takes on the issue of gun safety once and for all.
As millions of people around the world are dealing with their immediate feelings of shock, disbelief and horror at the mass shooting that took place at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the question of how we, the LGBT community, can best respond has arisen. Once we process the immediate emotions, is there anything we can do to honour those who have died, those who’s lives have been changed forever and do all we can to ensure we never find ourselves in this situation again?
There are a number of facets to the events that unfolded. There is a terror element, with the perpetrator professing ties and allegiance to terror group ISIS. There is arguably a stronger and more pronounced hate element, with the perpetrator choosing a gay nightclub, and gay patrons, as his targets. And then there’s the element that enabled the perpetrator to combine terror and hatred into the tragedy that unfolded – guns.
Whether we like it or not, the LGBT community has found itself smack bang in the middle of the gun safety issue. How we act now has the potential to prevent another tragedy like this happening again. And if we’re truly looking for a way to honour those who have died, and to ensure they didn’t die in vain, perhaps this is one way we can do it.
The problem is huge and the sheer scale of it is massive. Each year, over 33,000 lives are lost in America due to gun violence. There have now been over two dozen mass shootings during President Obama’s term in office. And yet, nothing seems to be done about it.
In his remarks following the Orlando tragedy, President Obama’s comments had a sense of resignation about them.
“This massacre is, therefore, a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school or in a house of worship, or in a movie theater, or in a nightclub,” he said. “And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.”
– President Obama
– President Obama
We, the LGBT community can also choose to actively do nothing as well. And yes, while the global outpouring of grief seen in vigils and the lighting of monuments around the world is moving, the sad fact is that it won’t last. Whether it’s in a few weeks or a few months, what happened in Orlando will go from being a tragedy, to becoming a statistic and a symbol of a much greater, and still unresolved, issue.
What we can do is parlay the emotion and the willingness to overcome the helplessness many of us are feeling into doing something constructive, lasting and impactful. We can do something that channels the feelings so many of us around the world are feeling right now – anger, disbelief, sadness, fear – to create something that truly honours the people who’s lives ended or were permanently impacted that night. We can take on the issue of gun control.
The unfortunate truth seem to be that if we don’t do it, no one else will. If after the Sandy Hook massacre, when 20 six year old children were killed, the American government was unable to do anything, it begs that question – what will it take for something to get done? Maybe, just maybe, it’s this latest attack.
While the massacre of children is beyond comprehension, that tragedy didn’t trigger the same global response as what we’re seeing in response to the Orlando tragedy. What we’re seeing around the world is a very public display of unity, from a community that has for too long been ostracised, demonised and vilified.
But it’s the decades of discrimination and abuse that we have endured and survived that places us in the best position to be able to respond to this particular event and take on this very difficult issue.
From our experiences in mobilising a concerted and unified response to the AIDs crisis in the 80s and to the marriage equality debate over the last decade, we have the infrastructure in place to choose an issue and a goal, and pursue it aggressively until we achieve it.
We have the means to do this. Last year, the US supreme court enshrined marriage equality into law. It was a case of mission accomplished. But what happens to all the organisations and all the hard working, talented and motivated people who worked within the marriage equality movement? Where are they now? And are they interested in taking on the issue of gun safety?
Surely we can translate our progress in HIV/AIDS treatment and awareness and the marriage equality victory and apply the same tenacity, determination and grit to deal with the issue of guns in America. I know it’s not an easy issue, but that’s never stopped or scared us before.
The LGBT community has the resources to take on the issue of gun safety in the USA. The question is – do we have the will?