Panelists Push Gun Control Laws

The government must introduce stricter gun-control laws in light of the June 12 Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting, according to a panel on LGBTQ issues Nov. 9 in the Healey Family Student Center.

In June, 50 people were killed at Pulse, a gay nightclub.

Lisbeth Melendez Rivera, the director of Latino and Catholic initiatives at the Human Rights Campaign, said President-elect Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton is concerning for the LGBTQ movement.

“I don’t know about many of you, but it hasn’t been an easy day and I want to acknowledge that off the bat because I know we’re about to have a difficult discussion that was hard yesterday and is terrifying today. At least that’s how I feel,” Rivera said.

Rivera said the Orlando shooting rocked the LGBTQ community and left many fearful of their and their friends’ safety.

“[When] a madman opened fire into an exiting crowd, it was a dwindling crowd at Pulse. It stopped those of us who have always seen the gay club, the lesbian club as a place of refuge,” Rivera said.

The Orlando shooting was the largest mass shooting in the country in the last 50 years. According to Rivera, the shooting inflicted deep wounds on the LGBTQ community.

“For me until today it’s a moment in which if I give it too much thought I still hear these echoes, right?” Rivera said. “I still hear the echoes of the horror, the images, but I also hear the lament of unanswered questions, the potential that was lost, the questions that will never be answered.”

Audrey Juarez, the legal project coordinator for the Center for American Progress, said the Orlando shooting proved that although progress has been made, the LGBTQ community still faces significant challenges.

“I have not been able to stop thinking about all of this because it’s a new reality, I think it’s a reality that has always existed,” Juarez said. “It has existed for all of the groups of people who have been victims and survivors of this sort of violence, but I think it was a particularly rude awakening for our community.”

According to Rivera, the Orlando shooting reveals how current laws fail to protect the LGBTQ community.

“It was a recognition, and I know what I’m about to say is a little bit controversial, that laws might not always protect us and as a matter of fact hardly they ever do, but they serve as recourse once we’ve been affected,” Rivera said.

Jason Lindsay, executive director of the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, an LGBTQ group advocating for gun control, said the public should not be able to buy military-grade firearms.
Lindsay served in the Army Reserve for 14 years and was deployed to Iraq.

“I am 100 percent convinced that the lethality and caliber of the weapons that I carried on the streets of Baghdad don’t belong on the streets of America,” Lindsay said.

Lindsay said he is confident that Pride Fund is able to successfully influence gun-control reform.

“We can and we will create change in the gun violence prevention arena,” Lindsay said. “We have the political infrastructure, we have the know-how, we have the finances that we can take on the gun lobby and we can win.”

However, Lindsay addressed the group’s significant opposition from Congress and gun-rights advocates, especially the National Rifle Association.

“The NRA and the gun lobby spent more this election cycle trying to defeat candidates who support gun reform than in their entire history,” Lindsay said.

Rivera said people should not focus on the possible religious motivations of the shooter but rather on the damage done to a community that is often marginalized and targeted.

“This is not because of religion,” Rivera said. “What most people start to talk about when they talk about this is what was the faith or practice of the person who perpetrated the crime. That might have or might have not had something to do with that, we’ll never know, he’s not here to answer that question.”

Rivera said the nation must focus a greater amount of attention on educating people in compassion.

“It’s incredibly important that we talk about how do we go about educating people,” Rivera said. “We need to think about how to move forward in a compassionate, intersectional way.”

Rosio Mondragon Reyes (SFS ’18), who attended the panel, said events like the panel are important in bringing the LGBTQ community together.

“The members on the panel were really good at accommodating for the topic, fixing that around what has happened in the last 24 hours and being flexible with that and being welcoming for the feelings that are present,” Mondragon Reyes said.

Steve Reyes (MSB ’17), also an attendee, said the panel was particularly important in light of Trump’s victory over Clinton.

“It was a great way for the community to come together especially after the results of this election,” Reyes said. “I thought it was good to just reflect and know that there are people there who support you and everyone is kind of together and coping with this result.”

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