Today, our hearts are heavy. We are at a loss for words not because this loss is unfamiliar, but because it is all too familiar. The massacre by one person with an assault weapon of forty-nine people and more than 53 injured, mostly LGBTQ Latinos, Latinas and their friends under 30 years old, is shocking in its scope.  And we all know about Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Charleston, …and the seemingly endless list of these mass shootings. American history is filled with “race” riots and mass killings of people of color. There is a long history of violence against LGBTQ people on the street and in the places they gather to be together and feel safe being their true selves. In many of Boston’s neighborhoods, particularly in communities of color, people do not feel safe walking down the street. Every day in Boston, there are incidents of gun violence and we know that people of color and poorer folk are most often the victims of these shootings. Just last week, 17 year old Raekwon Brown was murdered and three others injured by gun shots in front of Jeremiah Burke High School in Dorchester.

There are many theories about the causes of violence and the complex motivations of the shooters. These are questions that should and will be debated. However, one thing we know for sure, is that the easy access to guns by almost anyone, including access to assault weapons designed for military use, is one reason that gun-related deaths, both homicide and suicide, are so much higher in the United States than any other nation.

Violence Policy Center Executive Director Josh Sugarmann has stated:

The future that was feared is now. Lethal mass shootings now occur in our nation with a regularity that is as stunning as it is grotesque. And the lethal thread that binds them all no matter the motive is always the same: a semiautomatic firearm with a high-capacity ammunition magazine, often an assault weapon, used to destroy as many lives as possible. All that changes now is the number of innocent victims of each horrific event. Assault weapons like the AR-15 used in the Orlando shooting were designed for a simple purpose: to kill as many people as quickly and efficiently as possible. These semi-automatic military-bred firearms, and the high-capacity detachable ammunition magazines that enhance their firepower, should not be sold in any nation that considers itself civilized.

And one thing we can do right now is to advocate for sensible gun control laws and, specifically, reinstating the ban on the sale of assault weapons, like those used in Orlando and elsewhere. This ban was allowed to lapse in 2004 and Congress has refused to reinstate it. We urge you to sign this petition below.

In the meantime, we at the Boston Alliance for Community Health ask you to join us in remaining committed to resisting divisiveness, fear, and discrimination, which will never be a road to peace and safety.  We must carry the message that violence is predictable and preventable. Moving toward peace and safety will require us to break down the barriers and inequalities that divide us— racism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia,—and we must pursue opportunities to heal our communities that have suffered undue burdens of violence, trauma, and discrimination.

We have the power to act—to trade hate, fear, and misunderstanding for love, acceptance, and community, just as we see so many people coming together to comfort and support one another in Orlando and across the country.

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