In the early hours on June 12, 2016 a man walked into the Pulse nightclub, a popular gay club in Orlando, and opened fire on clubgoers who were having fun and dancing the night away. Armed with a SIG Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle and a 9mm Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol, he took the lives of 49 innocent victims, left 53 injured, and countless others emotionally scarred. This act of hatred is only one incident of many that have deeply affected the LGBTQ community -- a community that experiences more hate crimes and is more at risk for gun violence than any other protected group, which makes our voice critical in the fight for gun reform and is why we need your help.
This is why I created Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, America's only national LGBTQ organization solely focused on gun violence prevention. As a gay man hearing the news coming out of Orlando on June 12, 2016, I felt targeted and realized that the only way to prevent future tragedies like this and stop the carnage was to make sure the right leaders are elected.
That is what Pride Fund does -- we support candidates at the state and federal level who will act on sensible gun policy reforms while championing LGBTQ safety and equality. We seek to create policy change by raising funds to elect pro-LGBTQ candidates who support common sense gun safety reforms; mobilizing our network of grassroots activists; running targeted digital campaigns, and advocating for legislation at the state and federal levels. Our board members include the the owner of Pulse nightclub, survivors of the shooting, and family members of victims who perished in the shooting.
Similarly to the response the Pulse community received, victims of recent shootings have been offered support in the form of thoughts and prayers from NRA-backed Republicans. We need a comprehensive approach to solve America's unique gun violence epidemic -- thoughts and prayers alone will not stop our country's gun violence problem, but sensible gun laws can.
Simply put, I know guns; I served in the U.S. Army Reserves for 14 years and was deployed to Iraq in 2003. There, I witnessed first hand the destructive and devastating impacts of powerful assault weapons. After my deployment, I began working in government and politics, focusing on important issues and ensuring that our elected officials reflect the values of Americans.
I am well aware that no single policy alone will stop every mass shooting or save every life, but a combination of commonsense solutions -- solutions that the majority of Americans support, like an assault weapons ban, can save lives. We must demand that our leaders in Congress take action on gun reform. We must demand that our leaders prioritize our safety, and our children's safety, over the profits of gun manufacturers. If they don't we must defeat them at the ballot box.
Since our inception, Pride Fund has been influential in elections across the country. Our first endorsement and a candidate we helped elect to Congress, Stephanie Murphy, introduced legislation to allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study America's gun violence epidemic, which has garnered significant traction. Virginia governor Ralph Northam, who made an assault weapons ban a focal point of his gubernatorial campaign, was one of Pride Fund's top-targeted races in the 2017 elections. That's the goal of Pride Fund, to defeat NRA-backed leaders who refuse to take action and replace them with true advocates who prioritize public safety over the profits of gun manufacturers.
As a grassroots organization taking on the gun lobby, I'm asking for your help. The best way we can honor the 49 lives lost at Pulse two years ago is to do everything in our power to prevent another mass shooting like that one. Working together, we can save lives from gun violence, and for that, we need you to get involved in the fight for gun reform. To get involved, volunteer, or donate to help enact real gun reform, visit our website at PrideFund.org. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @Pride_Fund.
JASON LINDSAY is founder and executive director of Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, a political action committee (PAC) that supports state and federal candidates who will act on sensible gun policy reforms and champion LGBTQ equality. Lindsay is a seasoned political operative with 14 years of experience working in politics, government, and campaigns. He also served for 14 years in the U.S. Army Reserve and was deployed to Iraq in 2003.