The shooting that occurred at Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub on Sunday has shaken our nation to its core. Never before has our country witnessed a mass shooting of this proportion, and it has forced us to acknowledge and confront the outrageous prevalence of both gun violence and anti-LGBT hate crimes in the U.S.
The response to the tragedy has been widespread and powerful. The shooting has received extensive news coverage across networks and has been addressed by President Obama, who arrived on Thursday in Orlando to meet with the families of the shooting’s victims and survivors. Additionally, thousands of people have taken to social media outlets to share messages of love, support and hope for the victims of the shooting, their families and the LGBT community at large.
But posting to social media—although an effective way of spreading information and expressing support—is not enough. We can and must go a step beyond. In this moment especially, we must transition from words to action.
Here are some ways that you can actively make a difference and provide help in the wake of the Orlando massacre. (And please do leave more suggestions, links, and ideas in the comments!)
In times like these, generosity can have an extremely powerful impact. Donate to relief funds set up for the victims and their families on sites such as GoFundMe and CrowdRise to cover victims’ medical and funeral costs and provide financial support to them and their families. Contribute to the OneOrlando fund, set up by the city’s mayor Buddy Dyer, which will distribute money to a broad range of nonprofit organizations that support victims of the shooting and to members of the LGBT, Hispanic, and faith communities. Donate to the Central Florida chapter of the Red Cross, or give directly to Orlando-based organizations in support of LGBT rights. However, keep an eye out for click bait scam sites that ask for donations for Orlando; make sure the web addresses of sites you donate on begin with HTTPS, signaling that your payments will be secure.
Money is not the only thing you can give. Survivors of the shooting are in desperate need of blood transfusions, particularly from AB, O-negative and O-positive donors. Florida blood donation center OneBlood has launched a massive campaign to support those injured in the shooting. Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, one of the 49 killed at Pulse, worked as a biologics supervisor at OneBlood. In honor of him and everyone affected by his tragedy, take the time to locate a OneBlood donation center or bus, or visit your local chapter of the Red Cross to participate in a blood drive and schedule a blood donation appointment.
We can and must take the rage and despair we feel in the wake of this event and channel it into legislative action. Since the Orlando shooting, the issue of gun control has erupted within our nation’s capital, even leading Senate Democrats to hold a nearly 15-hour-long filibuster on Wednesday to force a vote on two gun control-related issues. The first is an amendment first introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) that would prevent individuals on the U.S. terror watch list from purchasing firearms. The Department of Justice announced its support for the amendment on Thursday. The second involves expanding background checks for potential gun buyers. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is working for the passage of the Brady Bill 2.0/S. 2394 and HR 3411 to accomplish this task. Help call 15 key Senators to urge them to approve this legislation in the wake of the Orlando shootings. Additionally, contact your own Senator to encourage them to expand background checks for gun purchases and to vote to approve Feinstein’s amendment to close the gun control “terror gap” once and for all. Write, call, e-mail—do whatever you can to make sure that we put an end to the gun violence that runs rampant in our country.
The Orlando shootings are not solely an issue of gun violence, however. It is equally important to advocate for the rights of members of the LGBT community nationwide. Support the Human Rights Campaign’s efforts to protect LGBT rights around the world, and protest the anti-LGBT proposed legislation that they and the ACLU have identified across the country. Sign the WhiteHouse.gov petition to end the ban on blood donation for sexually active homosexual and bisexual men. Become an ally and an advocate for members of our country who are marginalized, discriminated against, and murdered because of whom they love.
Communicate and Educate
Continue to express your outrage and grief concerning the Orlando shooting and your support for its victims in any way you can. Keep posting to social media. Engage in conversation about the issue with those around you and educate others who may not know about it. Find a vigil or local event using WeAreOrlando’s extensive events calendar where you can mourn the loss of 49 lives, stand in solidarity with others who wish to honor the victims of this tragedy, and take a stance against hate and violence. Read the names of those killed in the shooting and see their faces. Recognize them as individuals with identities, hearts and stories who are so much more than merely “victims.”
Do not forgive events like this. Do not forget. Do not stand idly by. With our combined efforts, we can prevent this from ever happening again.