By Jason Lindsay, Executive Director and CEO, Pride Fund to End Gun Violence
Last weekend, America endured yet another mass shooting, this time in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where 11 people were killed and 6 others were injured. Once again our nation reflects on the senseless loss of lives from gun violence. This is nothing new. It happens after each high profile gun tragedy. The public calls for action, Democrats in Congress try to push legislation for common-sense gun reform, and Republicans in control of Congress won’t even allow debate on the issue. That’s right, Republicans won’t even allow a discussion on gun violence in our elected Congress.
It is easy to understand why, when most Republicans are bought and paid for by the NRA, by way of campaign contributions and outside spending to help win their elections. In return, they do the NRA’s bidding by blocking all efforts at gun reform, and actually attempt to remove some current gun restrictions. In early 2017, just months after the tragedy at Pulse in Orlando, Republicans introduced the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which allows concealed guns to be carried across state lines, weakening the laws of states who have made gun safety a priority. NRA members make up 1.5% of the population, but their organization, funded by the profits of the gun manufacturers in addition to annual membership fees, holds more power in the eyes of Republicans than the 75% of Americans in favor of common-sense gun policy.
Polls taken after the high school shooting in Parkland showed that 65% of Americans supported stricter gun laws — and over half of these supporters were Republicans. The same polls found that there was overwhelming support for common-sense gun reform measures. Over 75% of those polled agreed that: guns need to be kept out of the hands of the mentally ill and those convicted of violent crimes; there should be three-day waiting periods after gun purchases; and a ban should be placed on bump stocks, like those used in the Las Vegas massacre in 2017.
Public support for gun reform is at an all-time high, but the only politicians that are consistently willing to stand up to the gun lobby and fight for laws to make us safer from guns are Democrats. The national Democratic platform has a strong agenda for addressing the gun violence epidemic that takes the lives of 38,000 Americans each year. In Congress, Democrats have held sit-ins and filibusters to try and get Republicans to act. It is clear the only way we will change our nation’s gun laws is if we change the people we elect to Congress. By electing more Democrats, we have a chance at real gun reforms.
The candidates supported by the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence recognize the fear that parents of schoolchildren, LGBTQ Americans, women of color, and indeed all of our communities feel, surrounding the gun violence epidemic. Each candidate is running on the issue of gun safety, even though in many districts it’s a political risk to do so. Some examples of these courageous leaders include Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26), Jennifer Wexton (VA-10), Elaine Luria (VA-02) and Stephanie Murphy (FL-7).
Gun violence prevention, while not at the front of Republicans’ minds this November, is critical to groups at higher risk of gun violence. In a recent poll of LGBTQ Americans conducted by Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, we found that gun reform was the top issue for LGBTQ voters, above healthcare, the economy and even LGBTQ rights issues. A survey of American women, conducted by the women’s advocacy group, YWCA USA, found that gun violence was the top concern of millenial women and black women. On top of this, a Henry J. Kaiser Foundation poll recently found that gun reform was a critical issue in supporting candidates for 60% of Americans.
In a few days, Americans have an opportunity to cast their ballots and elect a Congress that will finally stand up to the gun lobby and move forward with gun reform. America’s gun violence epidemic is going to continue to get worse unless there is meaningful action taken in Congress. The unwillingness of Republicans to enact any substantive gun reform measures in the wake of our nation’s deadliest mass shootings is reason enough to usher in new leadership dedicated to the safety of American families and communities. Voters understand the seriousness of this issue, and will not be forgetting it on election day. Republicans should take note.
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.
To get involved, volunteer, or donate to help enact real gun reform, visit our website at www.PrideFund.org.