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Daniel Hernandez: For Orlando, Our Prayers Aren't Enough

Daniel Hernandez: For Orlando, Our Prayers Aren't Enough

Daniel Hernandez: For Orlando, Our Prayers Aren't Enough

It's up to us to curb gun violence and end legalized discrimination, writes Daniel Hernandez, the out politician who survived a 2011 mass shooting in Arizona.

In 2011, as an intern for Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, I witnessed the horror of gun violence firsthand. In the aftermath of the Tucson shooting, as I was bolstered by the support of friends and family -- and the prayers of the entire nation -- I could only ask, "Why did six people have to lose their lives that day?"

Waking up to the tragic news of Sunday's shooting, knowing the terror everyone in that nightclub experienced, feeling the heartbreak of the victim's families, I again must ask why.

This Sunday's shooting has the horrible distinction of being both the largest mass shooting in American history and one of the nation's worst hate crimes.

As a survivor of gun violence and as a gay man, the attack at Pulse nightclub in Orlando hits especially close to home for me. But we must do more than offer support and prayers. Instead, we must unite and organize, as our community so often has, for long-term change.

In the 1970s, in the face of death threats, as one of the first openly gay elected officials, Harvey Milk famously said, "If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet shatter every closet door." It's likely no coincidence that Sunday's attack came during Pride Month, on a night when Pulse was celebrating Latinx members of the LGBT community. And that's exactly why we must come together not just to offer support, condolences, and prayers but to stand up not just for our rights, but for our safety.

The question should no longer be "Why?" but "How?" How do we, as LGBT people, not act when we are threatened every time a legislator pushes yet another bill giving permission to discriminate against us or let more deadly weapons onto the street to be used against us?

We must refuse to accept a reality where we can be gunned down due to lack of political will or legally discriminated against because of extremists. We must once again raise our voices. We must do it in memory of those who our movement has lost, and we must act now because our community can't afford another attack.

We must ask the hard questions of our candidates -- not only if they will march with us when it is Pride but if they will fight for equal protections at home and at work for all LGBTQ people.

We need to start with ensuring that we pass the Equality Act and also prevent ideologues from passing anti-trans legislation like the "bathroom bills" popping up all over the country.

It is much too easy to access to firearms in this country. We must close loopholes that allow people to purchase firearms without a background check. In light of Sunday's assault, by someone claiming allegiance to an international terrorist group, there is no excuse for the Republicans to block a bill that would stop those on the terror watch list who can't fly on a plane from being able to buy a gun.

In the 2016 election, we have no excuse for sitting back and not getting involved. We must register to vote and inform those in our community that sitting out is not an option. To prevent additional gun violence, people can join Everytown for Gun Safety or Americans for Responsible Solutions or in calling their senators' offices and urging action on guns. To ensure the Equality Act is passed, get involved with organizations like the National LGBTQ Task Force or the Human Rights Campaign. There is no shortage of groups to help, but find one and volunteer or give what you can to advance this work.

As we head to the polls in November, we must also elect strong allies like Hillary Clinton and people in other offices that share our values.

Daniel HernandezDANIEL HERNANDEZ JR. is a candidate for state House in Arizona. He is currently serving as president of the Sunnyside Unified School District Governing Board. He was a congressional intern for the office of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona. While assisting Congresswoman Giffords with a constituent event in Tucson on January 8, 2011, Daniel took actions for which he is widely credited with the saving the life of the congresswoman after a gunman shot her and 18 other people.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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