Gun control ‘breakthrough’ on anniversary of Pulse shooting is ‘major step’ – but more to be done

People wearing all white hold up signs of mass shooting victims, including Pulse

Campaigners have welcomed a bipartisan deal on limited gun controls struck on the sixth anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting – but have warned there is much more to be done.

On Sunday (12 June), Senate negotiators announced a deal for a narrow set of gun safety measures that they say has enough support to pass through the deeply divided Congress.

The agreement, struck by 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats, includes stronger background checks for under-21s and banning domestic abusers from purchasing guns.

It came six years to the day after a 29-year-old man killed 49 people and wounded 53 more in a mass shooting at Pulse, a queer nightclub in Orlando, Florida, something that was not lost on gun control campaigners.

Gays Against Guns, a non-violent direct action group, welcomed action being taken, but warned that the package is still “nowhere near enough”.

“It’s very meaningful that the announcement of a tentative deal was announced on 12 June, six years to the day after the Pulse Nightclub massacre,” the group told PinkNews.

“But the substance of the deal is sorely lacking. Nothing short of an outright assault weapons ban, as we had from 1994 to 2004, will make a dent in these massacres like Pulse, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Buffalo, Uvalde, and so many others.

“That will be a major focus of Gays Against Guns’s activism for the foreseeable future.”

The group joined March for Our Lives and Rise and Resist to organise a protest on Sunday memorialising the 49 victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting, and jointly calling for “real action” to combat mass shootings.

Wearing white veils, demonstrators gathered around a disco ball while holding signs bearing the faces of those fatally shot in Pulse, as well as others killed in other mass shootings.

Gays Against Guns honoured the victims of gun violence in New York City. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Among the protesters were volunteers from Moms Demand Action, a gun-control advocacy organisation.

“We refuse to accept hate-fueled violence or legislative attacks on LGBTQ+ people as normal,” Moms Demand Action tweeted in response to the deal.

March For Our Lives agreed. “This package is NOT perfect, but it’s a major step forward and the first gun reform package likely to pass both chambers of Congress in 30 years,” said the youth-led movement in support of gun control legislation.

“This will not put an end to gun violence, but this is a first step and we’ll continue to push for more aggressive policies.”

Senators drew up the agreement in response to the chilling massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas in May. 19 children and two teachers were killed in what was the deadliest mass shooting in the US so far this year.

It was the latest in at least 246 shootings – defined as one in which four or more people were killed or injured – this year, according to the monitoring group the Gun Violence Archive.

Officials have long refused to reckon with the hundreds of shootings that take place each year. Often shrugging off calls for the kind of tightened gun laws seen in other countries like Britain and Australia.

Studies have shown that after both countries limited who could own firearms, fewer incidents of gun violence took place. This, some activists say, is simply common sense.

But senators may have finally thawed the years-long congressional inaction on the issue.

For many gun safety campaigners, the senators’ agreement falls short. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Their proposal also includes support for state crisis intervention orders, funding for school safety resources, increased scrutiny for buyers under the age of 21 and penalties for straw purchases. Tightened federal laws may also put a stop to gun trafficking and ensure all commercial sellers are carrying out background checks.

The deal would also provide “resources to states and tribes to create and administer laws that help ensure deadly weapons are kept out of the hands of individuals whom a court has determined to be a significant danger to themselves or others”, the senators said in a statement.

It still faces a perilous path ahead in Congress, however, and must still scale what has long been the biggest hurdle in passing gun control laws – the 60 votes necessary to break the 60-vote-strong filibuster.

The LGBTQ+ community suffers, in particular, more hate crimes than any other protected group in America, the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence says.

The group warns that gun violence is a significant problem for the community, with the mass shooting at Pulse remaining the single deadliest attack on the queer community in US history.

Trans and gender-nonconforming people, in particular, face increased rates of violence at the hands of firearms. Since 2013, two-thirds of fatal violence towards the trans community has involved a gun, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

“We will never forget the lives lost at Pulse — beloved friends, siblings, partners and parents who were dancing in community and celebration only to be struck down in an act of terrible violence against the LGBTQ+ community,” says HRC interim president Joni Madison to PinkNews.

“Compounding this tragedy is the fact that in the six years since Pulse, we have been unable to advance meaningful federal gun reform legislation.”

For Madison, public officials need to get their priorities straight. Republican lawmakers, only weeks after the tragedy in Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, decided now was the time to ban children from drag shows.

These very same politicians are those who say ‘thoughts and prayers’ on social media and from behind speech podiums.

“We are facing a rising tide of hate violence against our communities, attacks fueled by racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism,” says Madison.

“Today and every day, together we are calling for immediate, measurable action towards this transformation,” he adds, “action that must include common-sense gun reform.”