Washington, D.C. — Next week marks the anniversary of two horrific mass shootings that are prominently and permanently etched into America’s long, ugly history of hate crimes, white supremacist violence, and gun violence. June 12 will mark five years since the massacre that claimed the lives of 49 people at Pulse, a popular gathering place for young LGBTQ people of color in Orlando, Florida. June 17 will be the six-year marker of the racially motivated murder of nine Black parishioners during a Bible study at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
In recognition of these dark chapters in a month otherwise associated with Pride and joy, Winnie Stachelberg, executive vice president of External Affairs at the Center for American Progress, released the following statement:
We pause this week to remember and mourn the lives brutally taken in two of the most horrific hate-motivated mass shootings in recent U.S. history: the murder in 2015 of Black worshippers at the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston by a stranger they had welcomed to join their Bible study, and the attack on the Latinx LGBTQ community at the Pulse nightclub just a year later. These attacks caused concentric circles of grief, pain, and trauma for the victims, their families, the survivors, the communities in which they occurred, and the communities of individuals who have been targeted for hate crimes for centuries. Both of these attacks targeted places that were intended to provide safe haven, and the impact of these events reverberates still.
But as we pause to remember and recognize the lives taken at Pulse and in Charleston, we cannot pause in our ongoing efforts to disrupt the continuing attacks on historically targeted communities and to root out white supremacist violence.
Both massacres were made possible in part by the proliferation of dangerous firearms, and by decades of inaction by lawmakers who have prioritized the rights of the gun industry over the lives of marginalized communities. The need for Congress to act to close dangerous gaps in the nation’s gun laws has become even more urgent, as 2020 saw a historic surge in gun sales and millions of new guns have entered American homes and communities.
Our communities cannot afford to continue to wait for Congress to take meaningful action to address hate crimes, white supremacist violence, and gun violence. The passage of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, and its inclusion of the NO HATE Act, was a step in the right direction. However, more action is needed. The LGBTQ community has waited far too long for the Equality Act, which would expand protections on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation for millions of Americans as well as strengthen religious freedom and other civil rights protections for millions more. Communities of color are owed legislative solutions to the scourges of institutionalized racism and violent white supremacy. And all Americans are entitled to commonsense reforms such as universal background checks, an assault weapons ban, and other protections from gun violence.
For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Adam Peck gro.ssergorpnacirema@kcepa.