I started working with the gun violence prevention movement after Sandy Hook — a mass shooting that stole the lives of 20 first graders and six educators in the sanctity of an elementary school. The carnage — which happened in just seconds — seemed unimaginable at the time.
But America’s gun violence crisis is all too real. In fact, there have been at least 150 mass shootings in the United States since 2009. And yesterday, less than four years since Sandy Hook, America is reeling from the worst mass shooting in the nation’s history — and the ninth this year.
Early Sunday in an Orlando nightclub, a man with an AR-15 and a handgun shot and killed 49 Americans and injured dozens more. We are still learning what happened and why, but it appears the shooter targeted members of the LGBTQ community, and officials are calling it an act of domestic terrorism.
Mass shooters often target specific communities in America: College students in their classrooms; black Americans gathered for a Bible study in a church; people at a Planned Parenthood. And now, the LGBTQ community has been targeted at a gay nightclub.
Make no mistake: These acts of violence are spawned by hate. Even though this mass shooting appears to have involved terrorism, the common denominator in all of these crimes is easy, unfettered access to guns, It is an uniquely American problem with deadly outcomes.
There is only one reason our nation has 25 times more gun homicides than any other developed country in the world: Because we make it far too easy for dangerous people and criminals to get their hands on guns.
As the mother of a gay teen, I am heartbroken, shocked and furious about what happened at the Pulse. I am angry that Congress is not coming up with a national solution to this national crisis. I am outraged that, despite 150 mass shootings since 2009, our federal lawmakers have done exactly nothing in response.
Yet with every new gun violence tragedy, we respond in a similar fashion. We mourn. We send our thoughts and prayers. But in the days and weeks ahead, we must continue our fight for common-sense measures that will prevent future tragedies from happening.
As we pray for the victims who have been shot, their families and all of the communities affected, we must also act. Thoughts and prayers — particularly from our lawmakers — are simply not enough.
People full of hatred come in many forms. And they can come after any person or community for any reason. But it’s on us—all Americans — to make sure those people do not have easy access to firearms.
To reduce the gun violence that kills more than 90 Americans and injures hundreds more each day, we must demand our lawmakers act and work to keep guns out of dangerous hands by making sure that every gun sale includes a background check. Congress must work to implement common-sense gun reforms, including closing the terror gap and making sure that people convicted of hate crimes can't pass a background check.
It's high time that our lawmakers finally act to prevent gun violence. We have to honor the victims with action.
Watts is the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America