Despite Orlando Massacre, U.S. Senate Votes Down Commonsense Gun Violence Prevention Legislation

by Stephen Peters

WASHINGTON -- Today, the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, responded to the U.S. Senate voting down two gun violence prevention amendments that would have struck the balance Americans are seeking in our nation’s laws regulating the sale and ownership of guns. The unconscionable vote to stop these gun violence prevention measures comes just a week after 49 LGBTQ and allied people were massacred -- and 53 others were injured -- in an attack on a club in Orlando on Latin night.

The amendments to the FY 17 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Act (H.R. 2578) were introduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein and Chris Murphy. Senator Feinstein’s proposal, backed by the Department of Justice, would have ensured that the Department of Justice had the authority to deny gun sales to individuals the Department had a reasonable suspicion was involved in terrorism. Senator Murphy’s proposal would have closed the unlicensed seller loophole by requiring criminal background checks on all sales while maintaining reasonable exceptions for family, hunting, and emergency self-defense.

“We are deeply disappointed in each and every Senator who failed to stand up today for commonsense gun violence prevention legislation,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy. “For decades, LGBTQ people have been a target for bias-motivated violence, and easy access to deadly weapons has compounded this threat. The volatile combination of animosity towards the LGBTQ community and easy access to deadly weapons exacerbates the climate of fear and the dangers faced by LGBTQ people. Reasonable gun violence prevention measures are part of the solution to bias-motivated violence, and it’s critical that Congress pass commonsense legislation.”

In a letter sent prior to the vote, HRC urged Senators to vote in favor of the critical legislation. Just over one week ago, a violent individual with easy access to guns was responsible for the most deadly mass shooting in our nation’s history, opening fire on an LGBTQ club on Latin night. Though details continue to emerge, and exact motives may never be known, it is clear that the murderer intentionally chose to target LGBTQ people out of deep-seated hate toward our community. The scale of devastation and horror wrought in the Orlando massacre may have been unique but, unfortunately, hate-motivated violence and murder has plagued our community for decades. According to the most recent FBI statistics, more than 20 percent of all reported hate crimes target people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity -- and we know that federal data vastly underestimates the true extent of this epidemic.

The degree of bloodshed at Pulse nightclub and many other recent mass shootings may have been avoided if the perpetrators had faced reasonable restrictions on their ability to own a gun. In most states across the country, troubled individuals intent on carrying out violence can purchase assault-type weapons without a background check from an unlicensed seller, no questions asked, including in Florida. A supermajority of Americans support common sense solutions to gun violence including expanded background checks.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work, and in every community.


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