Metro Weekly

Vegas Shootings: LGBTQ community demands gun control

HRC slams politicians for failing to prevent another mass shooting after Pulse nightclub in 2016

The Mandalay Bay on the Las Vegas Strip. The dark lot to the right is the location of the Route 91 Harvest concert. Photo: Wiki Commons

At least 58 people have been killed and more than 500 injured in a mass shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday. It has overtaken the Pulse nightclub shooting as the deadliest in modern U.S. history.

According to CNN, 64-year old Nevada resident Stephen Paddock opened fire on crowds attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival in the city. Paddock used the vantage point of his 32nd floor room in the adjacent Mandalay Bay hotel to carry out the attack.

Eyewitness Rachel de Kerf told CNN that the shooting “lasted for 10 to 15 minutes. It didn’t stop.”

As the 22,000-strong crowd ran for their lives, another eyewitness directly contrasted the chaos with the Pulse nightclub shooting in June 2016, when a lone gunman entered an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and opened fire on those inside, killing 49 people and injuring 53.

Brian Claypool told Good Morning America that he and about twenty others crammed into a production room after the shooting started.

“I thought at the moment of the Orlando shooting, because we were in this room,” he said. “We didn’t know where the shooter was. We thought he was going to jump the fence and come in this room and shoot us all…. I’m thinking, ‘Am I going to die in this room?’

“Then the shooting stopped,” he continued, “And I peeked out the front of the door, I peek my head out, police officers scream, ‘Go! Go!’”

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval called the attack a “tragic & heinous act of violence” on Twitter.

President Trump tweeted his “warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families.”

LGBTQ groups, who helped rally the community after last year’s Pulse shooting, also offered their condolences, but framed them around the need to do more to crackdown on access to the sort of weaponry being used in mass shootings.

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin noted the number of times his organization and the nation as a whole have demanded greater gun control.

“After Newtown, our nation called for action. After Tucson, Virginia Tech, Aurora, San Bernardino, Charleston, and Alexandria, we called for action. After the shooting at Pulse Nightclub a little more than a year ago, we called for action,” he said in a statement. “Yet, in the face of these mounting tragedies, many of our lawmakers have refused to act on meaningful gun safety legislation.

“As these politicians fail to act, more than 50 people in Las Vegas were killed last night, while hundreds more have been injured. It’s time for Congress and the White House to act. We need leadership now, and we must continue to demand it until our lawmakers either hear us — or we have new lawmakers.”

Jason Lindsay, Executive Director of Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, called the shooting an “unimagined horror” and “another reminder that no one is safe when access to guns is so easy.” Pride Fund to End Gun Violence was established in the aftermath of the Pulse shooting to help fund pro-LGBTQ, pro-common sense gun reform candidates running for office.

“90 percent of Americans support commonsense gun reforms like expanding universal background checks,” Lindsay said in a statement. “However, lawmakers in Congress have prioritized the special interests of the gun lobby at the expense of American lives. The death toll in Las Vegas is now up to 58 dead and over 500 injured. We hope that this will be enough to motivate Congress to finally take action on the gun violence epidemic.

“The Pulse massacre in Orlando last year brought into clear focus how the easy availability of weapons and ammunition intended for the battlefield is impacting everyday life in America,” Lindsay continued. “It’s time for it to stop. While critics will say now is not the time to discuss gun reform, we disagree — now is the perfect time for such a discussion.”

Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, said she had hoped no other community would have to face a tragedy like the one that occurred at Pulse nightclub.

“We are deeply shocked and saddened by last night’s mass murder in Las Vegas. Our hearts go out to the victims, their families, first responders and everyone impacted by the tragedy,” Carey said in a statement. “It was just over one year ago that a gunman murdered 49 people, and injured many more, at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida in June 2016. We had hoped that no community would ever have to face that kind of tragedy again.

“The National LGBTQ Task Force is actively working to prevent gun violence. This type of tragedy can, and must be, avoided.”

Gays Against Guns, an organization set up in the wake of the Pulse attack to fight for stronger gun laws, said they were “heartbroken” after news of the Vegas shooting broke.

“We are heartbroken and outraged by the Las Vegas shooting. News is still coming out about the deadliest shooting in US history…. What we do know is that 50 lives (possibly more) have been lost and nearly 200+ people were wounded,” the group wrote on Facebook. “The families, lovers, friends, coworkers, and communities of the 50 lives lost and 200+ affected will suffer profoundly as a result of gun violence. The psychic trauma of this massacre will affect many more than that.

“Gun violence continues to increase. There have been more gun violence incidents this year than in years passed. The Pulse massacre where 49 lives were lost happened on June 12th 2016. A year and several months later our country finds itself suffering again. This country is becoming less and less safe as a result of the contagion of gun violence. This infection continues to get worse, more virulent. We will continue to fight it. We will continue to honor them with action. Our love and support to all those affected by this unnecessary act of hate and gun violence.”

The Orlando Police Department, widely praised for their actions during the Pulse shooting, stood in solidarity with their counterparts in Vegas.

“We are thinking of all of those affected by the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas,” Police Chief John Mina said in a statement. “This community, and the men and women of OPD, know all too well the anguish that is gripping the residents, visitors and law enforcement community in Las Vegas.

“We grieve with the people of Las Vegas, and stand firmly with our brothers and sisters in law enforcement who are dealing with this tragedy. Our condolences and prayers go out to the families of all those affected, and we grieve with LVMPD, who lost an off-duty officer who was attending the concert and was shot and killed.”

Terry DeCarlo, director of Orlando’s LGBTQ-focused The Center, said they were providing extra staff to help anyone in the city affected by the Pulse shooting who needed help.

“Know that The Center has counselors on the way to our offices, if you need to speak to someone after this morning’s horrific events in Las Vegas, they are available to you,” he posted on Facebook. He told Orlando’s WESH 2 that the Center has already reached out to leaders in Vegas, saying, “We stand ready to support them the way they mobilized for us.”

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include a statement from Pride Fund to End Gun Violence.

Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.