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Eight Years after Pulse, We’re Still Fighting to Disarm Hate

In communities across Florida, Pride Month is a joyful time for the LGBTQ+ community.

It’s a time to celebrate one another, to recognize the progress made in the fight for equality, and to remember those who fought stigmas and broke barriers so that others could live as their full selves. It’s a beautiful tradition that empowers people of all stripes to embrace their individuality and celebrate what makes each of us unique as individuals. 

Tragically, an undercurrent of Pride celebrations everywhere is the ever-present threat of gun violence. In a country where hateful and violent people have such easy access to weapons of war, the specter of mass violence is a constant. Thanks to decades of weak laws flooding our streets with guns, no gathering in the United States—whether it’s a Pride celebration, wedding, concert, or religious service—is immune from the threat of gun violence.

On June 12, 2016, a hate-motivated terrorist armed with an assault weapon and a handgun entered Latin Night at Pulse, a prominent gay nightclub in Orlando, just before closing. He shot more than 100 innocent people, killing 49 and injuring 53 others in what was, at that time, the deadliest shooting in American history. Dozens more were traumatized as they narrowly escaped the chaos, were rescued by police, or watched their friends die.

As President Obama said at the time, “We know enough to say this was an act of terror and act of hate… This is an especially heartbreaking day for our friends who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.”

All gun violence inflicts unimaginable physical and emotional pain on victims, survivors, their families, and their communities. Yet, like all terrorism, hate-fueled gun violence has the added effect of instilling fear that further danger lurks for members of a given group, race, religion, sexual orientation, or other identity. The tragic 2016 shooting at Pulse put Hispanic and LGBTQ+ communities on edge—not just in Florida, but across the country—and those tensions have not gone away. It’s easy to understand why.

Hatred and violence remain a grave threat to LGBTQ+ Americans:

  • Hate crimes overall targeting LGBTQ+ Americans rose 70% from 2020 to 2021, the second-largest increase after hate crimes targeting Asian Americans. From 2020 to 2022, hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people jumped 82%.
  • 39% of all LGBTQ+ young people seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year.

As GIFFORDS has covered before, gun violence presents a consistent danger to Latino and Hispanic communities in the United States. Consider:

  • 11 Hispanic people die from gun violence on an average day. 
  • The Hispanic firearm homicide rate is more than double the non-Hispanic white firearm homicide rate.
  • Gun violence is the leading cause of death for Hispanic males ages 15 to 19 and the third-leading cause of death for Hispanic men ages 20 to 44.
  • Gun deaths among Hispanic people have increased at nearly twice the rate of gun deaths nationally. Since 2014, the number of Hispanic gun deaths has nearly doubled; comparatively, the number of gun deaths nationally has risen 43% during the same time period.

Furthermore, rightwing politicians and media influencers have used lies and false tropes to rile up their supporters by demonizing Hispanic and LGBTQ+ people, among other groups. It’s a tired playbook that had devastating real-life consequences—sometimes deadly ones. 

More than 28 hate crimes involving a firearm occur daily in the US. For instance, a deadly attack against another gay nightclub, Club Q, in Colorado Springs in 2022 killed five people and injured 18 more. In 2019 in El Paso, a young man radicalized by the toxic rhetoric about an “invasion” of immigrants targeted Latinos in a shooting that killed 23. The right’s dangerous rhetoric about the Latino and LGBTQ+ communities has only increased in recent years as extremist politicians and right wing pundits have inflamed hatred to aid their unhinged attacks against President Joe Biden, who has done more to protect Americans from gun violence than any president in 30 years. 

Every year, GIFFORDS Law Center releases its Annual Gun Law Scorecard, grading and ranking states on gun safety. Florida’s latest score was a D+, a drop from the previous year due to the new permitless carry bill passed by its legislature in 2023. Thousands die from shootings every year in Florida, and one look at our state’s weak gun laws tells us why. 

We all deserve to live in a world free from hate-fueled violence, but getting there will take work. We must love one another and fight back against those who traffic in hate. We must elect people we can trust to stand up for our friends and neighbors who may look, sound, love, or worship differently than us. And while we may never fully extinguish the flames of hatred, we must do all we can to keep guns away from those intent on hurting or killing others by enacting commonsense gun safety policies, like background checks on all gun sales and disarm hate laws. We know how to save lives from shootings like Pulse—we just need leaders with the courage to do it.


The gun safety movement is on the march: Americans from different background are united in standing up for safer schools and communities. Join us to make your voice heard and power our next wave of victories.