LGBTQ and Gun Violence-Prevention Groups Call for Hate and Terror to be Disarmed Following Orlando Shooting

June 16, 2016

As U.S. government leaders continue to grapple with addressing gun violence-prevention following last weekend’s homophobic massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, LGBTQ and gun violence-prevention advocates and activists are calling for more stringent checks to keep guns out of dangerous hands.

The Orlando tragedy, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, highlights how vulnerable LGBTQ communities are to hate-fueled violence, especially LGBTQ communities of color.

Hate violence has risen sharply in recent years, with a 20% increase in reported LGBTQ homicides in the U.S. between 2014 and 2015, according to a study released this week by The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP). Of the homicides reported last year, 62% were LGBTQ people of color.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) hate crime statistics tell us year after year that people are most frequently targeted for hate violence based on the personal characteristics related to race, religion, and sexual orientation. According to The Williams Institute, gay men report being victims of violent hate crimes at a higher rate than any other targeted group, and these crimes are more violent and result in hospitalization more often.

And yet we cannot ignore the fact that transgender people are at great risk of being victims of hate violence because of their gender identity and this reality is even worse for those who are also targeted on the basis of their race, ethnicity, class, and citizenship status. Fifty-four percent of all hate-violence related LGBTQ homicides were transgender women of color, according to the NCAVP study.

We recognize the need to address the bigotry that motivates acts of violence toward LGBTQ people, and we also recognize that such violence is far more deadly when carried out with firearms.

Any solutions to the problem of hate violence, including anti-LGBTQ violence, must address the alarmingly easy access that bigots have to such deadly weapons. For example, under current law, people convicted of violent hate crimes can legally buy and possess guns. This is unacceptable.

With each new massacre, most recently the one in Orlando, we hope the number of homicides has pushed Americans over the threshold of tolerance for hatred fueled by people who seek to divide the country; for weak gun laws that arm those with hate in their hearts; and for the more than 90 victims of gun killings nationwide each day, affecting people of all backgrounds, sexual orientations, and gender identities.

Assault-style weapons, like the Sig Sauer MCX rifle used in Sunday’s Pulse nightclub shooting, can be purchased legally in the state of Florida without a background check – as long as the purchase is made from an unlicensed seller.

Eighteen states have already taken steps to close this dangerous “unlicensed sale loophole.” But in the remaining states, including Florida, anyone can buy a gun from an unlicensed seller with no background check, no questions asked.

Under current U.S. federal law, people on terror watch lists can legally buy guns, exploiting this “terror gap.” Since 2004, more than 2,000 terror suspects have taken advantage of this loophole. But we also recognize how this screening mechanism has the dangerous potential to profile specific communities on the basis of their actual or perceived race, religion, national origin, and other attributes.

Orlando is the sixth mass shooting1 in the U.S. since January 2009 to be investigated as an act of terrorism by the FBI. Americans are 25 times more likely than people in other developed countries to fall victim to a gun homicide.

The federal background check system established in 1994 by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act has blocked more than 2.6 million gun sales to prohibited purchasers at licensed dealers; however, an estimated 40% of gun sales across the U.S. take place without a background check, primarily at gun shows and online.

We urge Congress to make a start towards stronger protections against gun violence nationwide by enacting laws to:

1. Prevent known and suspected terrorists and those convicted of violent hate crimes from legally buying guns.

2. Ensure that criminal background checks are required on all gun sales, including online and at gun shows.

Signed,

Listed alphabetically as of June 28, 2016


Affirmations
AIDS Alabama
AIDS CT
Americans for Responsible Solutions
American Military Partner Association
Arcus Foundation
Athlete Ally
Auburn Theological Seminary
Believe Out Loud
BiNet USA
Bisexual Resource Center
Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence United with The Million Mom March
Brooklyn Community Pride Center
Buddies of New Jersey
CAMP Rehoboth
Campaign To Unload
CARES of Southwest Michigan
Center on Halsted
Central Illinois Pride Health Center
The Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion at Pacific School of Religion
Congregation Beit Simchat Torah
Connecticut Against Gun Violence
The David Bohnett Foundation
The Enough Campaign
Equality Alabama
Equality California
Equality South Dakota
Equality Federation
Equality Florida
Equality Illinois
Equality New Mexico
Equality North Carolina
Equality Pennsylvania
Everytown for Gun Safety
Fair Wisconsin
Faith in America
Familia es Familia
Family Equality Council
Freedom to Work
Garden State Equality
Gay Men’s Health Crisis
Gay and Lesbian Center of Southern Nevada
Gays Against Guns
GLAAD
GLBT Latino History Project
GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders
The GLBT Community Center of Colorado
GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality
Global Health Living Foundation
GLSEN
GroundSpark/The Respect for All Project
Hispanic Health Network
Hudson Pride Connections Center
Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center
Human Rights Campaign
Immigration Equality
Indiana Youth Group
Interfaith Alliance of Iowa
Interfaith Council of Southwestern Connecticut
International Imperial Court System
Kalamazoo Gay and Lesbian Resource Center
Lambda Legal
Latino Commission on AIDS
Latinos in the Deep South
LGBT Caucus at the Democratic Party of Hawaii
LGBT Center Orange County
LGBT Detroit
LGBT Visitor Center on Miami Beach
LPAC
Lynchburg Diversity Center
Marriage Equality USA
Mazzoni Center
Michigan Coalition for HIV Health and Safety
Montrose Center in Houston
National Black Justice Coalition
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
National LGBTQ Task Force
National Religious Leadership Roundtable
Newark LGBTQ Community Center
New Yorkers Against Gun Violence
NMAC: National Minority AIDS Council
North Jersey Pride
Oasis, Latino LGBTS Wellness Center
One Colorado
One Iowa
one n ten
Open and Affirming Coalition of the United Church of Christ
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
Out & Proud Veterans of America
OutServe-SLDN
The Palette Fund
Phoenix Pride LGBT Center
Pride Action Tank
Pride at Work
Pride Center at Equality Park
Pride Center of the Capital Region
Pride Center of Staten Island
Pride Center of Vermont
Pridelines
Pride Fund to End Gun Violence
Proud Haven
Queerability
RAD Remedy
Rockland County Pride Center
Safe Schools Action Network
San Diego LGBT Community Center
San Fernando Valley LGBT Community Center
Sandy Hook Promise
Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)
Stonewall National Museum & Archives
SunServe
SWISH Ally Fund
Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund
The Trevor Project
Triangle Community Center
True Colors
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
Whitman-Walker Health
Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER)

Campaign hashtags
#DisarmHate
#WeAreOrlando

1The previous attacks were in Fort Hood, Texas (2009); Oak Creek, Wisconsin (2012); Charleston, South Carolina (2015); Chattanooga, Tennessee (2015); and San Bernardino, California (2015).