June 12 marks one year since the Pulse Nightclub shooting, where 49 men and women were killed in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Maria and Fred Wright lost their son Jerry during the massacre. Here, they speak out against gun violence, in memory of their son.
Last year on June 12, our son Jerry and 48 others were shot and killed during a night out at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. The shooting was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. It was also the largest targeted mass killing of LGBTQ people in America and, according to the Hispanic Federation, about 90% of the victims were Latinx.
It’s impossible to describe just how special Jerry was. He would do anything for his friends and loved ones. He always went the extra 10 miles, and he never expected anything in return. Every morning and every night, he would call us. We couldn’t have asked for a better son.
Barely a year before the massacre at Pulse that stole those 49 beautiful souls from their families, nine people were shot and killed during a racist attack on Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
The common factor in these tragedies, and many more in America, is that it is far too easy for hateful people to get guns in our country.
It is far too easy for hate-filled individuals to get access to guns in America.
These two massacres rightfully garnered national media attention, but this is not always the case for gun violence and hate crimes in our country. Most attacks are not even mentioned by the media. Hate crimes, by their very nature, disproportionately target and hurt communities of color and other minority groups. In today’s divisive political climate, the discussion of misogyny, racism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-immigration, and religious intolerance is more prevalent than ever before. We need to make sure that gun violence is a part of these vital conversations.
It is far too easy for hate-filled individuals to get access to guns in America, and when they do, the stakes are never higher because the cost is human life. We, as Americans, must come together to do more and demand that our elected leaders do more to disarm hate.
Most hate shootings don’t look like Orlando or Charleston, and most don’t capture the nation’s or media's attention. They happen every day because our country allows people filled with hate to have easy access to guns even when, in many cases, there are steps we could have taken to prevent this violence.
The statistics and the heart-wrenching stories are overwhelming, but that means we need to do more. No parent should ever have to bury a child. No grandmother should die during a church Bible group meeting. No couple should have a joint funeral instead of a wedding. And no woman should survive cancer twice only to be shot and killed during a night of dancing.
Remembering our Jerry, as well as all those who were killed in Orlando, Charleston, and many other nameless, faceless attacks, we are joining Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America for #DisarmHate week from June 12 to 18 — to honor those killed in hate-fueled gun violence tragedies and to demand that our leaders do more to prevent the hate crimes that occur in America every day.
We must demand our lawmakers take action to #DisarmHate and keep guns out of dangerous hands. And there is much more each and every one of us can do, too.
1. We can support legislation, introduced this week by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Representative David Cicilline: The Disarm Hate Act would prohibit people convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from buying or possessing guns.
2. Oppose the Hearing Protection Act that would make it easier to buy silencers. In hateful hands, silencers create serious public safety risks.
3. Support closing the background-check loophole that allows people to purchase guns in unlicensed sales, often online or at a gun show, with no background checks and no questions asked.
All Americans should aspire to live in a country where we can exist in peace and without fear. Together, we must disarm hate.
Maria and Fred Wright live in Miami and are the parents of Jerry Wright, who was killed in the shooting at Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016. They are members of the Everytown Survivor Network.