LGBTQ and Gun Violence-Prevention Groups Call for Hate and Terror to be Disarmed Following Orlando Shooting
Washington DC, June 16, 2016 — The National LGBTQ Task Force has joined 52 other LGBTQ and gun-violence prevention groups in an open letter calling on Congress for tougher restrictions on gun access for known and suspected terrorists and those with hate crime convictions.
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 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 shooting 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.
Listed alphabetically as of June 16, 2016
1. AIDS Alabama
2. Americans for Responsible Solutions
3. The Arcus Foundation
4. Athlete Ally
5. Auburn Theological Seminary
6. Believe Out Loud
7. BiNet USA
8. Bisexual Resource Center
9. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence United with The Million Mom March
10. Campaign To Unload
11. Congregation Beit Simchat Torah
12. The David Bohnett Foundation
13. Equality Alabama
14. Equality Federation
15. Equality Florida
16. Equality Illinois
17. Equality New Mexico
18. Equality North Carolina
19. Equality Pennsylvania
20. Everytown for Gun Safety
21. Fair Wisconsin
22. Faith in America
23. Family Equality Council
24. Freedom to Work
25. Gay Men’s Health Crisis
27. GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders
28. GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality
30. GroundSpark/The Respect for All Project
31. GSA Network – Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network
32. International Imperial Court System
33. Lambda Legal
35. National Black Justice Coalition
36. National Center for Lesbian Rights
37. National Center for Transgender Equality
38. National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
39. National LGBTQ Task Force
40. NMAC: National Minority AIDS Council
41. National Religious Leadership Roundtable
42. New York City Anti-Violence Project
43. One Colorado
44. Open and Affirming Coalition of the United Church of Christ
45. Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
47. Pride at Work
48. Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)
49. Stonewall National Museum & Archives
50. Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund
51. The Trevor Project
52. United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
53. Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER)
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