The Agenda

LGBTQ Candidates Amplify Student Voices Post-Parkland

Today marks the one month anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in the shooting that left 17 people dead and 15 wounded. Today, students walked out of classrooms at 10 o’clock local time at over 3,000 high schools across the country. Some of the things students are calling for include universal background checks, raising the minimum age to buy a gun to 21, and making it easier to take guns away from individuals identified as potentially dangerous.

This is just the lead-up to the national march on March 24 and further actions on April 20th, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings. Student organizers plan to walk out of class on that anniversary and they are deliberately planning actions months after the Parkland shooting to prevent the public from moving on rather than quickly letting the news cycle recycle until yet another tragedy.

Victory Fund candidates past and present are amplifying their voices at all levels of government and LGBTQ elected officials at the forefront of the national conversation.

“It’s not too soon to talk about gun violence,” Congressman Mark Takano (CA-41) tweeted in response those who argued the timing of gun control calls. “For so many families it’s way too late.”

Others chimed in on Congress’ ineptness when it comes to acting on gun violence. Katie Hill, our congressional candidate for California’s 25th district, tweeted out that “now is the time for real action to reduce gun violence. If Congress won’t act, it’s up to us.”

The conversation about gun control is quickly becoming a leading issue for congressional races ahead of this year’s mid-term elections, particularly for LGBTQ candidates running for seats in Florida – both the Parkland and Pulse shootings occurred in the state.

State Rep. David Richardson, a candidate for Florida’s 27th congressional district, has been advocating for reform since the Pulse shooting but believes that there is a stronger inclination towards it following Parkland, stating that the “big difference is that these are school children versus LGBT folks in a night club.”

Lauren Baer, a former Obama administration official and candidate for Florida’s 18th congressional district, told the Washington Blade that solutions such as universal background checks and restricting of assault weapons “are common-sense steps that we can take in our communities and members of Congress can take in order to curb gun violence and keep our children safe.” These type of regulatory proposals are generally agreed upon by both gun rights and gun control advocates.

Just a week after the February 14th shooting, Oregon took the initiative and passed legislation banning convicted stalkers, domestic abusers, and people who are under a restraining order from purchasing or owning firearms and ammunition.

Governor Kate Brown vigorously lobbied the legislation and appeared before the state Senate to stress the significance of the measure, citing the Parkland shooting. Gov. Brown is expected to sign the bill into law.

While lawmakers at both the federal and state level debate possible reforms, large corporations are taking matters into their own hands. Dick’s Sporting Goods, alongside other retail stores such as Walmart, have announced that they would be implementing their own regulations on gun sales. Dick’s not only announced that they would no longer sell any weapons or ammunition to anyone under 21, but they have also stated that they will no longer be selling assault-style weapons in their stores.

It’s not just gun sales that are being targeted – numerous corporations have announced that they would be ending discount programs for members of the NRA. Among those corporations is Delta Airlines, whose announcement has been in the spotlight due to retaliation from the state of Georgia. With both the Georgia state House and Senate being in Republican control, lawmakers passed an amendment to the pending tax bill that would end tax breaks on jet fuel.

“Delta’s intent was to remain neutral, some elected officials in Georgia tied our decision to a pending jet fuel tax exemption, threatening to eliminate it unless we reversed course,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian wrote in response to Georgia lawmakers. “Our decision was not made for economic gain and our values are not for sale.”

Meanwhile, instead of focusing their time and resources on passing a bipartisan agreement on gun regulations or even the state’s healthcare challenges, Georgia lawmakers are working on “a law that would allow state-funded adoption agencies to turn away LGBTQ.”

But the shift in how retailers will be handling the NRA plays a significant role in bringing about gun reform. “It’s often private sector companies that lead Congress to make big changes,” U.S. Senator Chris Murphy stated in an interview with NPR. “Take a look at the fight for marriage equality – it was Fortune 500 companies that decided to treat their employees the same regardless of sexual orientation that finally lead state legislatures and the Supreme Court to make the same decision.”

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