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Through Our Tears the Fight for Equality and Gun Control Goes On

Saturday night in Washington, DC we celebrated with a hundred thousand members of the LGBT community and our allies; mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers; children and adults of every gender, race, religion and creed cheering as we marched down the street. We partied late into the night and then woke Sunday morning to the horror of another massacre.

At 2:00 am on Latin night in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, 49 of our fellow human beings were slaughtered in the worst mass shooting in American history. 53 more were injured in what can only be described as senseless violence no matter what the cause. Terror is senseless and hate is senseless and this crime was both. It was an attack on LGBT Americans but also an attack on all Americans. It seems to have been carried out by one self-proclaimed radical jihadist who supported ISIS, hated the LGBT community, and had easy access to an assault weapon.

Americans will again debate who is to blame and how we stop the violence. One thing every rational human being must accept is whatever the cause of the gunman’s hatred; whatever motivated him to this horrific act; he was born here and bought his guns and ammunition here in the United States. He used an assault weapon that should never be allowed in the hands of any civilian.

The nation is mourning with the families and friends of those who died and praying for a speedy and full recovery for those who were injured. Their personal stories will be as diverse as our nation and the LGBT community itself. We are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and atheist; white, Black, Asian, Latino and have one thing in common; we are part of the LGBT family, my family.

As we mourn we must also act. Like it or not this dastardly act comes in the middle of a Presidential election. We cannot accept those who would continue to try to divide us and campaign against the very essence of our Democracy. We could stop every Muslim from entering our country as Trump has suggested and this American terrorist would still have gunned down these innocent people because he was here and he hated them. In his own way he was deranged as were the perpetrators of Columbine, Aurora, Charleston and Newtown.

The one thing all these mass murderers have in common is the ease with which they had access to or purchased a gun to commit their crimes.

It is my hope that my family, the LGBT family, will find a way to mourn and remember our brothers and sisters who were taken from us at Pulse Nightclub that will make a lasting difference in the world. The innocent souls of all the mass shooting victims who are now together in heaven need to know they gave their lives for something.

No one is asking to repeal the 2nd amendment but we need to stop the sale of assault weapons and make it more difficult to buy a handgun in our nation. 33,000 men and women die each year from guns and we could do something about this tomorrow if Congress had the will and guts to act.

Sunday after we witnessed another mass shooting and just like after every one of these massacres, rational people asked “how many more must die before we act?” We cannot change the world overnight, we can’t defeat ISIS overnight, we can’t end mental illness overnight, and we can’t end hate overnight. Yet overnight we do have the power to make it safer for our fellow Americans. For those enjoying a night at a gay nightclub; teaching in or attending school; going to a movie or bible study; or just walking the streets in their neighborhoods. We can pass sane gun control laws.

As we work to make the deaths of those who have died from guns mean something we must not become haters or condemn every one of the same religion as a Jihadist or terrorist. Let us not follow the people who want us to hate anyone who doesn’t look like, sound like, or have the same religion or sexual orientation as we do. Let us reject totally the presidential candidate of the political Party asking us to do that.

Instead we should pass sane gun control; the Equality Act; reform our criminal justice system; give women equal pay for equal work; and pass meaningful immigration reform. With those actions we will show the world ‘Love conquers Hate’.

A version of this column is in the Washington Blade.