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LGBT organization throws support behind gun control


One of the country’s largest statewide LGBT

(lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) advocacy

organizations recently announced its support at Los

Angeles City Hall for a gun control package proposed

by state lawmakers, and vowed to push for

national gun legislation, following the recent mass

shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality

California, promised that over the next few

months, the group will lobby members of Congress

and the state Legislature, and put the “full weight”

of the organization’s “legislative electoral and education

programs behind the lifesaving gun safety

and violence prevention laws.”

“We will work to mobilize our 800,000 members

and organization’s leaders, and leaders of the

LGBT community and our allies, to make gun safety

a key LGBT community priority,” Zbur said. “We

must act now to make sure another Orlando cannot

occur again anywhere, ever.”

Zbur characterized the Orlando shooting as “an

act of hate directed toward the LGBT community”

and pointed to statistics that indicate people who

identify as LGBT are “disproportionately harmed

by gun violence.”

Zbur said the Los Angeles-based organization,

which has primarily focused on state legislation

around LGBT issues, is launching a “Safe and

Equal” initiative to push for stronger gun control

laws. The group is also known for its endorsements

of candidates for local, state and federal offices, and

puts out scorecards grading state elected officials’

stances on LGBT rights issues.

The group will be pushing Congress to pass

laws that include banning military-style assault

weapons and large-capacity magazines, closing

background check loopholes at gun shows and

requiring stricter background checks and wait periods

for gun purchases.

Equality California was joined by a bevy of

state and city leaders, including Mayor Eric

Garcetti, Police Chief Charlie Beck and state Senate

President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, who is leading

an effort to pass stronger gun control measures

for California.

De Leon noted that “the deadliest mass shooting

in our nation’s history was a hate crime,” with

members of the LGBT community “once again a

target of a murderous attack.”

But he made a connection to other communities,

saying “this was an attack against Latinos,

against African Americans, against immigrants,

against Puerto Ricans and Dominicans and other

shades of brown at the Pulse club that evening.”

Zbur told City News Service that Equality

California had already been tackling the gun issue

“in a more modest way … but really what happened

in Orlando was a call to action for us.”

“Our community has been grieving over what

happened in Orlando,” he said. “It’s really important

to direct that energy to things that are positive

and that are really going to address what’s going to

happen, and that’s one of the things we are trying

to do today.”

Forty-nine people were killed and another 53

were wounded in the shooting this month at the

Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the deadliest mass

shooting in U.S. history. The gunman, Omar

Mateen, was killed by SWAT officers.

Equality California’s announcement comes after

some at Los Angeles City Hall speculated that the

shooting would motivate LGBT activists to throw

their organizing power behind gun control efforts.

Councilman Mike Bonin said that “the LGBT

community, I am absolutely confident, is going to

be the biggest ally and the biggest shot of adrenaline

into the gun control movement this country

has ever seen.”

The activists who “chain themselves to the

White House and disrupt Congressional hearings

because of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and because of

DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act), are going to

work on this issue” by joining with others who have

been calling for gun control laws, Bonin said.

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell echoed the organizing

call, saying that “if the NRA, if the National

Shooting Sports Foundation, if the California Rifle

and Pistol Association and the gun lobby in general

does not think that we’re going to start going after

them and those who aid and abet terrorism across

the country by supporting mass killing machines

and automatic weaponry and the ammunition that

feeds them, then they’ve got another thing coming.”

“Orlando is this generation’s Stonewall and it is

time once and for all to do all that we can to make

sure this carnage gets under control in this great

country of ours,” O’Farrell said.

In a response to the council members’ statements,

Chuck Michel, president of the California

Rifle and Pistol Association, said the Orlando

shooting should not be used as a springboard for

politicians to seek over-reaching gun-control laws.

“The response to the violence should be to support

legislation and policies that allow for every

American to have the chance to protect themselves,”

he said. “We cannot continue to let the gungrabbers

use tragedies to push their own agenda

without pointing out that it does nothing to

increase safety.

“This is why CRPA will not be bullied into giving

up the fight to defend our Second Amendment

rights,” he said.