The horrors of Orlando

It is with heavy hearts that we march in this year’s Gay Pride Parade. 49 women and men were murdered by a madman in Orlando in the largest mass shooting in modern American history. Whether the assailant was a supporter of ISIS or another young man with a dangerous, untreated mental illness who could too easily access an assault rifle that shot 30 rounds per minute, his terror has devastated our nation.

Nurses, doctors, and other first responders carried light into a dark night for our nation when they saved countless lives with their quick action and tireless care. The LA Times reported that “an army of nurses” awoke in the night, picked up their phones even though they were off duty, and then arrived at the hospital in droves to care for the shooting victims. One healthcare worker described a “war scene” at the hospital as victims were brought in on stretchers, many with life-threatening wounds.

Help nearby

A key reason caregivers were able to keep so many patients alive is that the nearest hospital was a mere three blocks from the nightclub where the massacre took place. Nurses know that in a crisis every minute matters, and in Orlando first responders were able to give victims the care they needed without having to shuttle imperiled patients across town.

Sadly, in addition to vital primary care and life-saving medical treatments, when we discuss the closure of hospitals in our communities, we must now also consider the importance of having a well-staffed healthcare facility nearby to respond to the horrific mass shootings that have become so common in our country.

Stopping gun violence

Not long ago this column addressed the devastating impact our country’s lack of rational gun laws has had on our safety. But today I want to write about new hope on the horizon.

A group of lawmakers recently held a 25-hour sit-in in the House of Representatives to push for reforms in our nation’s gun laws, including expanded background checks. While the legislation they were supporting wasn’t without flaws, the lawmakers’ commitment to its passage showed growing momentum to stop weapons from getting into the hands of dangerous people.

The majority of Americans support common-sense gun laws. But the National Rifle Association continues to put our nation in danger by fighting tooth and nail, through relentless lobbying and bullying, to stop any restrictions on guns whatsoever, even if that means allowing terrorists, criminals, or the severely mentally ill to buy guns.

Now, the tide is turning, and some lawmakers are bravely standing up for our safety.

Representative John Lewis, a leader in the Civil Rights Movement, initiated the occupation of the house floor on June 22.

“We will be silent no more,” said Representative Lewis. “We have lost hundreds and thousands of innocent people to gun violence. Tiny little children, babies, students and teachers, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons, friends and neighbors. And what has this body done? Mr. Speaker, not one thing.”

House Democrats sang “We Shall Overcome” just as NYSNA nurses did at our own tribute to the victims of the Orlando shooting (see pg. 3 for more about NYSNA’s tribute).

We are standing with members of Congress and demanding reforms to the lax gun laws that are making America the most dangerous industrialized nation in the world.

Choosing love

Hate is a disease that hurts all of us, but it is no coincidence that the Orlando killer targeted a gay bar that was a haven for the Orlando LGBT community. Lesbian, gay, and transgender people are most likely to be victims of hate crimes in America, according to a recent New York Times analysis of FBI data. LGBT people of color are even more frequently targeted. The Orlando shooting occurred on a Latino-themed night at the club and the vast majority of victims were people of color. This attack created terror in what was previously a safe space for a community that already lives in fear of all-too-real threats of hatred and violence.

Our country is at risk of being taken over by politics of hate and fear. Certain politicians respond to tragedies like Orlando by propagating more hatred, by proposing to build walls and ban all members of a faith adhered to by nearly a third of the world’s population from our country.

The only way to combat fear and hatred is with action inspired by love and compassion. We will continue to fight to stop gun violence. But we will fight with love in our hearts, because it is love and not hate that will help us to build a better world for our patients and our communities.

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