For a Gay Dad and Head of a Gun Safety Group, Orlando Was Personal

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I’m a gay dad. So for my husband and me, Orlando was personal.
 
And as the president of the country’s largest gun violence prevention group, I’m hearing from more LGBTQ Americans who feel the same way.
 
The worst mass shooting in America’s modern history, nearly a year to the day after the faithful were targeted and killed at a historic African-American church in Charleston, only made the danger starker. In a country where the access to firearms is all too easy — even if you’re a felon or you’ve been convicted of a hate crime — guns make hate lethal.
 
In the past five years, an estimated 43,000 hate crimes across America involved guns. LGBTQ people are disproportionately the targets of hate crimes — more than 20 percent of victims, according to the most recent data.
 
After Orlando, those realities are uniting gun safety and LGBTQ activists as never before.
 
So how will we win? The gun safety movement already owes a strategic debt to gay rights activists, who know a thing or two about winning on an issue that at first proved divisive.
 
Every campaign needs its generals. AIDS and marriage equality, though, showed how essential it is to have an army — the activists who share their stories, create urgency, and move more people to join the cause.
 
The organization I lead, Everytown for Gun Safety, has 3.5 million supporters and volunteers in all 50 states. Gun violence survivors and our Moms Demand Action volunteers are our vanguard. They’re the everyday Americans who — by turning the personal into the political — have transformed into advocates. They’re our movement’s heart and soul.
 
Together, we’re charting the same political course as marriage equality. Rack up wins in the states. Swell the chorus. And, eventually, D.C. will hear us loud and clear.
 
We’ve adopted marriage’s state-by-state strategy, with great success. With Congress gridlocked, in the past three years six states have enacted background check laws — the single most effective way to keep guns out of dangerous hands. Nevada and Maine can join them when ballot initiatives win in November.
 
We haven’t only admired marriage advocates from afar, either. We’ve asked them to join us and replicate their success in their respective states. The networks they founded and cultivated for marriage are still strong and ready to mobilize.
 
Throughout Pride Month, we’ve been marching together — under the #DisarmHate banner — in New York, San Francisco, Denver, Houston, and many more.
 
We’ve joined dozens of LGBTQ groups — including the National LGBTQ Task Force, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and Equality Florida — both in mourning and in calling for action, and we’re in conversation with many more.
 
Our next step? Translating this new solidarity into lasting change and writing the basic protection of our safety and security into the books of law.
 
It’ll take time for the people’s will on gun safety to become the political will that changes history. Already, though, our new post-Orlando coalition is demonstrating power in the halls of Congress. Even as gun safety bills have stalled, an historic Senate filibuster and unprecedented House sit-in show that our leaders are hearing us.
 
Our message is simple.
 
We’re in this together. Americans don’t want to live in a country where the gun murder rate is 25 times that of other developed nations, or where lax gun laws allow the most hateful to wreak havoc.
 
Guns make hate deadly. With common sense, constitutional gun laws, lawmakers can disarm hate and save lives.
 
JOHN FEINBLATT is the president of Everytown for Gun Safety.

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