Roberta Flack’s Vietnam War era song now hangs like a moral pall over America: “Business goes on as usual, except that my baby is dead.”
Once again, despite the proclamations of solidarity with the LGBT and Latino communities after the worst mass shooting in U.S. history at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the Republican-controlled Senate on Monday, June 20, voted down two Democratic commonsense gun control proposals and two GOP alternatives that would have expanded background checks and kept suspected terrorists on the FBI’s no fly list from purchasing assault weapons at “private sale” gun shows.
And on Tuesday, Port Authority police arrested two men in their 50s and a woman in her 20s near the Holland Tunnel in New Jersey after finding a cache of weapons — including rifles, handguns, ballistic vests and a camouflage helmet in their vehicle. They were pulled over at a toll plaza for having a cracked windshield.
Gun cache seized by the New York Port Authority
“NBC 4 New York reported that two senior law enforcement officials said the three suspects are ‘gun enthusiasts’ and that there was no known threat,” Reuters reported. The Joint Terrorism Task Force is assisting the investigation but the destination of the threesome is unclear. Though there is no direct correlation as of now, it is interesting to note that New York celebrates LGBT Pride on Sunday, June 26, two weeks after the Orlando massacre.
“Slightly more than a week has elapsed since the worst mass shooting in history, in a country where the regularity of mass shootings horrifies the world. The U.S. Senate has followed the now-predictable pattern of proclaiming that their ‘thoughts and prayers’ are with the victims, while denying those same victims any meaningful action on their behalf,” said Equality California President Rick Zbur. “They did not act on behalf of the six year olds gunned downed in Newtown. They did not act on behalf of social workers gunned down in San Bernardino. And once again, they have refused to act when 102 young, mostly Latino, mostly LGBT people were gunned down in Orlando.
“We had tangible hope that thoughts and prayers would this time result in real protections,” Zbur continued, “for the LGBT community, which has suffered staggering rates of violence long before Orlando – and for all Americans who want to be able to leave home to see a movie or send their child to school without fear that that kiss goodbye will be final. We are disappointed. Orlando is a call to action, for Equality California and for the LGBT community as a whole, to mobilize in support of meaningful gun safety reforms that will protect the LGBT community, our families and the broader communities we call home.”
According to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll, about 71 percent of Americans—including eight out of 10 Democrats and nearly six out of 10 Republicans—favor at least moderate regulations and restrictions on guns. That’s up from 60 percent in late 2014.
“We are not going to be a cheap date on this one,” Democratic leader Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada told the New York Times last week
“What am I going to tell 49 grieving families?” Democratic Florida Sen. Bill Nelson emotionally asked after the vote. “I am going to tell them the N.R.A. won again.”
For what now seems like a fleeting minute, Democrats took the forced floor vote itself as something of a victory after a 15-hour filibuster by Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy and others. Murphy represents Newtown, location of the 2012 murders of school children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School that many hoped would finally result in gun control legislation. But, as the families of the Sandy Hook victims sat in the gallery and watched, the Senate voted down a gun control measure similar to Monday’s defeated bill introduced by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
“We are at least going to get to see where people stand on some pretty simple concepts,” Murphy said after the vote.
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Patrick J. Toomey—who is up for a difficult re-election in November—said after the vote. “That is what is so maddening about this.”
What’s also so maddening is that even if one of the measures had been approved by the Senate, it would have been dead-on-arrival at the ideologically pure NRA/Second Amendment-enthusiasts in the House of Representatives.
But gun violence is now a top policy and legislative priority for Equality California and the Human Rights Campaign, as well as other Equality groups and LGBT centers around the country. One way to ensure that commonsense gun control measure become law is to vote for change in November.
Meanwhile, business goes on as usual for the courageously defiant LGBT community that insists on love, authenticity and visibility during Pride month. But amid the celebrations, there are still moments of mourning the 49 dead and the 53 wounded in Orlando. For instance, Monday night, longtime lesbian politico Gloria Nieto helped organize a memorial service in Santa Cruz.
Monday night memorial in Santa Cruz
“We raised the rainbow flag on a city flag pole at the entrance to the Municipal Wharf,” Nieto said. “I had asked Latinos to read the names of the murdered, along with their ages. In a Latino tradition, after each name was spoken, the crowd responded “presente”, signifying the dead were there, present with us at the ceremony. A piece of paper with each person’s name was then taped to the flagpole underneath the rainbow flag. At the conclusion, some local musicians sang an amazing version of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow,’ Hawaiian style. I played back up ukulele.”