LGBTQ gun violence survivor says Congress must act
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On Sunday morning, I woke up to news that the worst mass shooting in our nation's history had taken place at Pulse – an Orlando gay nightclub I’ve visited several times. I immediately began ​reaching out to my friends in the area, grateful and relieved as responses trickled in.

I am a survivor of gun violence. I am also a gay man. And while every shooting hurts, this one hit particularly close to home. The LGBTQ community is no stranger to vitriol and hatred – but to have something so terrible happen in a place that was so safe and filled with joy makes it all the more painful.


Hearing about the attack also brought me back to October 10, 2012, when gun violence almost took my life. As I walked across my lawn in Mobile, Alabama that night, I heard a popping sound, and then another. Things happened quickly from there; I spotted two men walking down the sidewalk, felt the pain of two gunshots and collapsed.

The men came closer, and as I raised a hand to defend myself, I was shot a third time just under my armpit. Somehow, I dragged myself inside my house.

I survived the attack. But many, however, are not as lucky. More than 90 Americans are killed by gun violence every day and hundreds more are injured.

Days like Sunday force us to confront this fact. They remind us, too, that readily accessible guns have become the weapon of choice for dangerous and hate-filled people who want to inflict maximum damage quickly. Last summer it was a black congregation in Charleston. In the fall it was a Colorado Planned Parenthood. And now it’s a gay bar during Pride Month. 

Our communities are being attacked and the common thread between these terrifying attacks is that we have made it far too easy for dangerous people – such as people on the terrorist watch list, felons, domestic abusers and people with dangerous mental illnesses – to legally buy guns.

That is why I am asking Congress to honor the 49 shot and killed at Pulse – and the more than 90 Americans killed by gun violence every day – with action. Thoughts and prayers are not enough.

On Monday, Senator Robert CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyWhy Congress needs to bring back tax deduction for worker expenses Biden cements spot as 2020 front-runner The Hill's Morning Report - Biden's bid gets under Trump's skin MORE (D-PA) introduced legislation that would prohibit people convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from possessing or purchasing guns. Congress should pass that bill. Congress should also close the Terror Gap. Current law allows suspected terrorists who are prohibited from boarding a plane to legally buy guns. That’s absurdly irresponsible. Finally, every gun sale should include a background check – that’s the easiest, most effective way to keep guns out of dangerous hands.

The gay community is no stranger to fighting oppression. We fought back at Stonewall in 1969. We mourned 32 lives killed by arson at a gay bar in New Orleans in 1973. In the 80s, we did everything we could to stop the spread of AIDS as politicians ignored us time and again. We mourned the death of Matthew Shepard in 1998 and we continue to experience the deep rage and sadness that comes every time a member of our community is terrorized by a hate crime. We mobilize to stand with the trans community as they continue to experience a particularly terrifying form of bigotry.

But now our attackers aim at us with guns meant for battlefields. I cannot believe we are here again – after so much progress – mourning such a huge loss for this community that has fought through so much.

I know what it feels like to collapse from bullet wounds, unsure if you’ll survive. I am outraged for the 49 victims of gun violence from Pulse who died in this terrifying way, and the more than 50 people injured, many of whom are fighting for their lives. It does not have to be this way.

We need lawmakers to stand up against hate. We need lawmakers to make sure that possible terrorists and people convicted of hate crimes cannot buy guns. Lawmakers have turned their backs on the LGBTQ community many times before. We won’t let them get away with it this time.

Allen Wayne McNeil is an Alabama-based gun violence survivor and a volunteer leader with the Everytown Survivor Network.