Early in the morning of June 12, 2016, the LGBTQ community was targeted. A deranged individual walked into Pulse nightclub in Orlando with a weapon of war and the intent to kill as many members and allies of our LGBTQ community as possible. Fifty-three people were injured; 49 others were killed, including 18-year-old Akyra Murray from Philadelphia. Akyra was out enjoying a night with her cousin and friend when her life was cut short by a hate-filled man who should never have had access to the military-style weapon he used. Akyra had just graduated from West Catholic High School. She was getting ready to start college and play basketball at Mercyhurst University in Erie. She was the youngest of the 49 killed that night.
We’ve had enough of this violence and enough of this loss. Children and teachers in their classrooms. Church-goers mid-prayer. Theater patrons enjoying a new movie. Students on their college campuses. Peaceful protesters and police officers. Friends and families dancing and celebrating at a nightclub during Pride Month.
It’s time for Pennsylvanians to demand a Congress that actually makes the changes we are all desperate to see. It’s time for Pennsylvanians to demand a Congress that makes the safety of the American people — not the special interests that bankroll campaigns — a priority. Preventing gun violence is on the ballot this year, and unless we vote for the candidates who are willing to stand up for the safety of all Americans — no matter their race, religion, background or the person they love — we will continue to see the shootings, the mass murders and the massacres that have torn our communities apart.
Pride Fund to End Gun Violence is taking action and we hope Pennsylvanians will too. By electing candidates like Katie McGinty — who will champion LGBTQ equality and safety, and who are passionate about reforming our gun laws — we can achieve long-lasting, meaningful gun reforms that will keep all Americans safe. Katie comes from a family of hunters and sportsmen, so she understands and wants to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens to own a gun. But she also supports universal background checks, closing the terror loophole and a ban on civilian sales of the military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines that were used at the nightclub in Orlando.
In this election, lives are at stake. Katie McGinty will be steadfast in her support for reforms and the LGBT community. She will not waiver, unlike her opponent Pat Toomey. She will not give up, unlike her opponent, who lent his name to a bill three years ago and did little to try and get it passed. She will not abdicate her responsibility to her constituents, unlike her opponent, who has done absolutely nothing to move forward on gun-safety reforms.
In the wake of the Orlando massacre, as Philadelphia mourned the untimely and tragic death of 18-year-old Akyra, Pat Toomey made it very clear that he is done working to address the scourge of gun violence. He voted against the safety of his constituents and against justice for the 49 innocent people killed that night. He voted against prohibiting suspected terrorists from buying guns, and instead supported legislation to make it easier for people to buy deadly weapons. Pat Toomey has failed in his duties to make the people of Pennsylvania safer and he doesn’t deserve to keep his job.
We cannot allow senseless acts of gun violence and terror to become the norm in the country. We must take action to disarm hate, and that action starts at the ballot box by electing Katie McGinty to the Senate Nov. 8.
Join the movement and spread the word by visiting www.PrideFund.org. Help us end this cycle of senseless gun violence.
Craig Cassey Jr. is Pride Fund Director of Outreach and a Pennsylvania native, Delco born and raised.