State, local and LGBT leaders call for gun control after Orlando attack

Transgender activist Maria Roman, with her fiance, Jason Taylorson, left, addresses the media during an Equality California press conference at Los Angeles City Hall on Friday.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

A coalition of state and local lawmakers, LGBT advocates and police officers gathered in Los Angeles on Friday and called for tougher gun safety laws in the wake of the massacre at a gay nightclub in Florida that killed 49 people.

Gun control is now a priority for the LGBT community, they said at a news conference on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall.

“Let me be very clear, this is part of the gay agenda,” said Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), a member of the California Legislative Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus. “The gay agenda is now firearm safety and ensuring that we will continue to advocate for the rights and the dignity of our humanity.”

Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, said one of his group’s board members is a cousin of a woman who was shot at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday and remained in serious condition.

“This horrific shooting is a call to action for the entire LGBT community ... to end gun violence and to do everything we can to prevent guns from getting into the hands of criminals, people who hate and other disturbed individuals,” Zbur said.


The coalition, organized by Equality California, announced its support for – and intention to aggressively lobby for -- a package of gun control legislation at the state level.

The bills included measures that would ban possession of large-capacity magazines, mandate background checks for Californians buying ammunition and mandate that gun owners report lost or stolen guns to law enforcement within five days. Supported legislation also would require owners of homemade guns to get a serial number for their firearms and register them with the state.

Other laws would prohibit the sale of semiautomatic, centerfire rifles with a “bullet button,” a recessed button that allows removal of the magazine. The bill’s supporters call it a loophole in California’s assault weapons ban because such guns are legal since a small tool or pointed object, rather than a finger, must be used to release the magazine and insert another.

Let me be very clear, this is part of the gay agenda. The gay agenda is now firearm safety.— California Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell)

California Senate leader Kevin de León said that in addition to targeting the LGBT community, the Orlando shooting “was an attack against Latinos, against African Americans, against immigrants, against Puerto Ricans and Dominicans and other shades of brown at that Pulse club that evening.”

De León said military-grade assault weapons were designed for the battlefield and “have no place on our streets.”

“This is not a debate about gun ownership,” he said. “This is a debate about who should be able to access weapons and ammunition and what types of weapons the public should have access to. We could keep the most dangerous weapons off the streets without infringing on the 2nd Amendment.”

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Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said he had reviewed all of the bills the group advocated and that he too supported them. Beck said he thought assault-style weapons with quickly detachable magazines should be banned, as are other assault weapons.

“Bullet button guns, no matter what anybody says, are quickly-detachable magazines; it just takes a little dexterity,” Beck said.

The chief said 1,000 people were shot in Los Angeles last year and that 210 were fatally shot. The city, he said, is “on pace to achieve the same numbers this year.”

“It’s not just Orlando. It’s not just Florida. The United States has a gun problem,” Beck said.

LGBT advocates said the Orlando attack came as the community is fighting a wave of legislation nationwide that they say is dangerous to them – including laws banning transgender people from using restrooms that correspond with their gender identity and so-called religious freedom laws that allow businesses and individuals to refuse service to LGBT people.

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Maria Roman, a member of the TransLatin@ Coalition, said that in 2011 she was attacked in a restroom in a Nevada nightclub, kicked and beaten as she was told she was a man and did not belong in that restroom.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” she said. “I survived an attack that was fueled by hate. … Orlando is an example [of] hate armed with fire, firepower that no American should have access to.”

In West Hollywood this week, a proliferation of signs and posters featuring a rainbow-colored version of the Gadsden flag and the hashtag #ShootBack has caused concern in the city with a famously large LGBT population.

The Abbey Food & Bar, a well-known West Hollywood gay lounge, is considering making armed guards a regular presence. The bar had armed guards at all entrances during Sunday’s LGBT Pride parade, just hours after the Orlando attack.

On Friday night, a vigil and rally calling for an end to violence has been scheduled by LGBT Latino leaders from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights.

Twitter: @haileybranson


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