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I’m a gun-toting Orlandoan for gun control

The Pulse shooting in Orlando, my home, has left me devastated. The shooter’s contempt for the LGBTQ community led him to do the unthinkable. I’m not just mad — I’m pissed. I want to make sure something like this never happens again.

I know I’m not the only person feeling this way; it has left an impression on the world. It’s time for action, and our politicians are finally standing up for change. Georgia Rep. John Lewis is currently leading a sit-in on the House of Representatives floor to demand Republicans to address gun violence. Orlando has lit a match in our politicians to try out of the box actions, whatever is necessary, to get real action. It’s heartening: That’s why we vote them into office, to fight for the good of the people.

Even though we’re crying for our lost brothers and sisters, we’re demanding change. We’re tired of watching news replays of mass shootings. We’ve run the gamut of victims from innocent children, church members, moviegoers, celebrities and now people enjoying a night on the town in a presumably safe place. That should be enough motivation for us all to come together and exact change.

Change doesn’t mean targeting certain groups — it means looking at the two main factors in these attacks: mental illness and guns.

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We can’t act like mental illness is not a problem. It may not have been a direct factor in this mass shooting, but it’s been a factor in others. We need to ensure that people have access to affordable mental healthcare, and we have to stop making it a stigmatized process. We all fall down, and we have to be willing to lift each other up at times.

We also need proper checks and balances in place for people purchasing guns. I own a gun. I personally don’t believe guns kill people: I think the wrong people with guns kill people. I’m not advocating banning guns completely, but the process to get one needs to be more stringent to ensure guns are not being placed in the wrong hands. Yes, we have the three-day cooling off period in Florida and a required background screen for getting a concealed weapons permit, but the fact that a terror suspect who is being watched by the FBI can legally get a gun proves there is a serious flaw in our gun control policies. There is no justification for that happening.

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On top of that, the shooter was using a weapon modeled after an AR-15. Last time I checked, we’re not living in a war zone. When did it become necessary for people to own assault rifles? I haven’t been to a place in the United States that needs that level of weaponry, so you shouldn’t be able to purchase one like a pack of gum from the closest box store. This is just another sign that it’s time for this country to do some soul-searching and cast some votes to ensure we have the right politicians in place to bring about a true change.

Orlando will move forward. We will stand together and get through this difficult time, but we will use this tragedy for good. We will take this pain to become more tolerant of others, and we will strive to lead even more with love in everything we do. We will go out and vote in November to ensure this moment is not forgotten. We will hold politicians accountable for walking the walk and not just spewing rhetoric to get votes. No, Orlando will stand stronger than ever and serve as a beacon to the world to show that love wins and hate mixed with guns will never destroy us.

The time for lip service is over. It’s time for Congress and the Senate to step up and put laws in place that are going to prevent guns from getting in the hands of the wrong people. The sit-in happening in the House of Representatives is not a “political stunt.” To diminish the sit-in diminishes all of the mass shootings our nation has lived through. This is an opportunity to give a voice to the victims that have lost their lives in these senseless acts of violence.

It’s time to put party aside and come together for the good of the people. We need everyone to come across the aisle, and take this fight seriously. This is our moment to help prevent this type of tragedy from happening again. That’s how we move forward from a mass shooting: We mobilize and make people vote.

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