Throughout the month of June, Psychology Benefits Society is featuring blog posts by psychologists who are leading the charge against violence in all its forms, with a focus on gun violence. For more information on APA’s efforts to end gun violence, go to our Advocacy page on Gun Violence.
By Nicholas Grant, PhD (Clinical Psychologist)
Today, we remember the 49 people lost two years ago on this day in a senseless act of gun violence during the Pulse Nightclub shooting. Most of those lost that night were young, Latinx members of the LGBTQ community simply enjoying a night out with their friends and loved ones, and yet, somehow there are still conversations going on across America questioning whether gun control should be an LGBTQ priority.
The mass shooting that took place at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida resulted in the death of 49 innocent people and injuries sustained by 58 other patrons in attendance that night. It has been called the most violent attack against LGBTQ people in recent American history.
Today, there are multiple local and national organizations engaging in efforts to bring their local communities together to honor those who were taken from us that night. For example, in Washington, DC the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is organizing a public reading of the victim’s names along with observance of a moment of silence at noon outside their offices at noon. In Orlando, there are a number of community events being organized to both honor those lost and provide support to the local community.
There is no one correct word or phrase to describe the appalling events that occurred that evening. It is hard to try to make sense of the exact reasoning it even happened. However, it does provide those both within and outside the LGBTQ community with a salient, although enraging, memory of a major instance of gun violence against LGBTQ people. The resulting efforts of dozens of LGBTQ groups joining together with gun violence prevention groups to advocate for stronger protections against gun violence also highlights our communities’ ability to organize around the issues that matter the most to us.
It has been said that after achieving marriage equality, the LGBTQ movement has continued to be active but has not yet identified a goal to organize around with the same passion and resources used to reach the outcome from the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. Of course, we have seen some improvements, and more recently some attempts to roll back such improvements, in the rights of transgender people, nondiscrimination protections, and the ability for sexual and gender minorities to serve openly in the armed forces. Working to ensure the safety of all people in the United States, including LGBTQ individuals, through commonsense gun control legislation, be it at the state or federal level, is a clear and worthy goal of our community.
The Pulse Nightclub shooting is, again, a salient memory but not the only time the LGBTQ community has come face-to-face with gun violence. There is a long history of queer spaces being raided by police and members of our community being attacked and even murdered for simply being who they are. Data show that LGBT individuals are more likely to be targeted by hate crimes than any other minority group. We have seen gun violence impact LGBTQ people at a rate disproportionate to the general population, especially for transgender women and LGBTQ people of color. If the LGBTQ movement focused its energy on gun control there is no telling how big of an impact it could have in making a positive change.
Here are just a few commonsense gun control advocacy issues to consider:
- Reinstatement of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) which expired in September 2004 due to a sunset provision in the original legislation
- Bans on the purchase of guns for those who have been convicted of violent crimes such as domestic abuse or hate crimes
- Increased funding for gun control research
- Implementation of universal background checks
- Bans on high-capacity magazines (as seen in the AWB)
Whether you are a member of the LGBTQ community, have someone you care for in the LGBTQ community, are a psychologist, or, like me, can identify with all three categories, you can do something to help protect against gun violence.
Here are a few ways to get started:
- Tell Members of Congress to support a public health approach to gun violence
- Commit to voting for gun safety and reading specifically about how your local and congressional representatives stand on the issue
- Contact those representatives with any concerns you have about their relationships with the NRA
- Talk about the importance of voting with the people in your community
- Consider making a donation, if that is an option for you, to organizations such as March for Our Lives
- Engage in Gun Violence Awareness Month and related activities throughout LGBT Pride Month (both are the month of June!)
Perhaps the most important thing anyone can do has to do with education on the issue and possible commonsense solutions. It would be inappropriate to simply encourage any reader to “educate yourself” because as we know, education is a privilege in our country that not everyone has access to. Instead, I encourage you to disseminate education on gun violence, its impact, and possible solutions when it is available to you. Engage in conversations around this issue. Whether you consider yourself a member of the LGBTQ community or not, ask a community member what their thoughts are. Diverse identities can provide diverse perspectives, and with those, we may be able to identify a real solution to this problem.
Nick Grant, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, licensed in Washington, DC. He completed his doctoral studies at Palo Alto University, where he worked as a research assistant with the Center for LGBTQ Evidence-based Applied Research (CLEAR). He is also an alumnus of the LGBT Health Policy & Practice Graduate Certificate Program at The George Washington University. Nick completed his pre-doctoral internship at Tulane University’s School of Medicine and a postdoctoral fellowship focused on LGBT mental health in the Clinical Psychology Postdoctoral Residency Program at the VA San Diego Healthcare System/University of California, San Diego. Following his residency, he served as an American Psychological Association William A. Bailey Health and Behavior Congressional Fellow through the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellowship Program. Currently Nick is employed with the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine as a Research Behavioral Health Assessor. Additionally, he is involved in the APA Health Equity Ambassador Program, serves as the Vice President for External Affairs for GLMA: Healthcare Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality, and is a current co-chair for the Public Policy Committee for APA’s Division 44, the Society for the Psychological of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity.