On November 8, I woke up to the news of yet another mass shooting. As routine as these news updates have become, it still breaks my heart every time I see the headline and know that more Americans have lost their lives to senseless gun violence. This time, the tragedy took place in Thousand Oaks, California, where a man entered the Borderline Bar & Grill on “college country night” and opened fire with a .45-caliber handgun. 13 people were killed, including the shooter and Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus. Many of the victims were college-aged. One of them was a man who had survived the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, only to be gunned down in yet another mass shooting. At least a dozen others were injured.
This event was horrific, but unfortunately, not unusual in America. Since 2015, Americans have seen five of our nation’s top ten deadliest mass shootings. A mass shooting happens in our country eight out of every nine days. This uniquely American epidemic costs us 38,000 lives per year. The majority of Americans are fed up with this constant carnage and are ready for change. We want to see changes to our gun laws, we want to ban assault-style weapons, we want guns to be harder to get with waiting periods, and we want improved mental health care.
However, with every major shooting in this country, we see a distinct pattern in the rhetoric that follows: the public calls for stricter gun laws, Republicans offer “thoughts and prayers,” and then a few days later, we’re back to being complicit in the senseless violence. The NRA and Congressional Republicans rely on Americans to do what we do best: get distracted, move on, and forget. Soon enough, “gone but not forgotten” becomes just “gone.”
But this Republican strategy is no longer working. In recent years there has been a growing shift in political activism and public support for gun reform. Support for changes to our gun laws is at an all-time high and recent polling shows that this is one of the most important topics on Americans’ minds. The public is demanding action. While Republican leaders in Congress refuse to even discuss gun violence in any way, Democrats are ready to lead on the issue.
On Election Day, voters sent many NRA-backed Republicans packing. Voters sent a clear message that if candidates stand with the NRA and the gun lobby over American safety, they will be voted out of office. Gun reform groups such as Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, Giffords, and Everytown for Gun Safety spent a record-breaking amount of money on electing gun reform champions and defeating gun-lobby backed candidates. For the first time, gun reform groups spent more than the NRA during an election cycle. But the true power now lies with the public to demand their elected officials take action. Polling shows that the support is there, but now we have to see if the follow-through with sustained action is just as strong.
Exit polling done by CNN and NBC found that gun reform was very important to voters this election day. The poll found that 10% of voters considered gun reform to be the most important issue facing the nation, placing it in the top 4 issues on voters’ minds. The same poll found that gun reform was the 2nd most important issue for Democratic voters, following only behind healthcare. Another exit poll found that 60% of voters were in favor of stronger gun reform. These polls confirm what we already knew to be true: gun reform is at the forefront of Americans’ minds and the overwhelming majority supports changes to our gun laws.
In a groundbreaking poll released this summer by the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, gun reform was identified as the number one issue to LGBTQ voters going into the election. Ranked above healthcare, the economy, and even LGBTQ-specific issues, more LGBTQ voters said they would decide their vote on a candidate’s gun reform platform than on any other issue. Overall, 75 percent said that a candidate’s position on gun reform was likely to impact their vote. This groundbreaking poll was the first of its kind to specifically look at the positions of the LGBTQ community surrounding gun issues. The LGBTQ community has the population and the political participation to significantly impact elections over this issue and hold elected leaders accountable for their actions on gun reform.
I know that, working together, we can stop the senseless bloodshed. We all must roll up our sleeves and work hard on this issue to make a difference.
It doesn’t have to be this way, which is why our mission here at Pride Fund is to pass gun safety legislation through advocacy, lobbying, and our critical election work to defeat NRA-backed politicians at the ballot box and elect gun reform champions in their places. Even though the election is over, our advocacy, education, and lobbying work continues in full force, and will until the gun violence epidemic is effectively brought to an end in this country.
Pride Fund’s strategy is working. This election cycle, Pride Fund endorsed 22 candidates across 11 states who are fierce advocates for gun reform and champion LGBTQ equality. Several races are still too close to call, but of the races that have been decided so far, 17 of our candidates won, including all 4 of our Spotlight Candidates who were running in the country’s most critical, competitive races. Of the decided races so far, we have an 85% win ratio.
In the months leading up to the election, polling consistently showed high levels of support for gun reform. Exit polls on Election Day further drove home the point that the public is fired up on this issue and ready for change. The most important thing for people to remember now is not to get frustrated or discouraged: this is a marathon, not a sprint. We just elected a new wave of Democratic candidates to Congress who have pledged to act on gun reform. But we must remember that with a Republican-controlled Senate and NRA-ally Donald Trump in the White House, we face an uphill battle at the federal level. That means we have to work hard and do everything we can to show Republicans we mean business and that if they don’t act, we are coming for them in full force in the 2020 elections. Meanwhile, we have other opportunities to fight for change at the state level which can happen faster, depending on the state. But one thing is certain, we MUST continue to be loud, proud, and demand action. Too many people have died from gun violence for us to sit on the sidelines.
Hillary Clinton said it best when she urged us all to, “Resist, Insist, Persist.” That is what it is going to take to win this fight.
To get involved, volunteer, or donate to help enact real gun reform, visit our website at PrideFund.org.