More than 100 LGBTQ people gathered in New York’s Union Square Park to advocate for gun control following the murder of 59 people in Las Vegas.
The rally was organized by Gays Against Guns, which was formed in the wake of last year’s attack on Pulse Nightclub, then the deadliest mass killing in U.S. history. The violence that erupted at a country music festival on Sunday night now holds that dubious distinction. Over 500 people were injured when a gunman fired into a crowd from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
The shooter, identified as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, had at least 23 weapons in his hotel room at the time of the attack.
Following the shooting, President Donald Trump tweeted his “warmest condolences” to victims and their families. But Gays Against Guns claimed in a press release that “thoughts and prayers without action are meaningless” when it comes to curbing America’s gun violence epidemic.
“Gun violence continues to increase,” the group said in a statement. “There have been more gun violence incidents this year than in years passed. The Pulse massacre where 49 lives were lost happened on June 12th 2016. A year and several months later our country finds itself suffering again. This country is becoming less and less safe as a result of the contagion of gun violence.”
“We will continue to fight it,” GAG continued.
Monday night’s protest, in which attendees dressed in the organization’s signature white veils, was a testament to that call to action. Members of the group chanted “No more massacres!” and “What do we want? Gun control! When do we want it? Now!” Others held homemade signs reading “Keep NYC Gun Free.”
Speaking to the crowd, Gays Against Guns co-founder Kevin Hertzog claimed the nation was overdue for sensible gun laws. “The citizens of the United States of America are getting tired of being mowed down in our entertainment venues,” he said.
“This is not the time to be polite,” added Leticia Cooper, an outspoken gun control advocate. “This is the time to demand a more perfect union.”
Rally organizers took their message to their streets, marching all the way from Union Square to Times Square. But GAG says that its work isn’t over. The group will be holding a public meeting on Thursday at New York’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center to discuss further action.
Several LGBTQ organizations have spoken out against the violence in Las Vegas, including the Human Rights Campaign and the National LGBTQ Task Force.
“After Newtown, our nation called for action,” said HRC president Chad Griffin in a statement. “After Tucson, Virginia Tech, Aurora, San Bernardino, Charleston, and Alexandria, we called for action. After the shooting at Pulse Nightclub a little more than a year ago, we called for action. Yet, in the face of these mounting tragedies, many of our lawmakers have refused to act on meaningful gun safety legislation.”
“It’s time for Congress and the White House to act,” he continued. “We need leadership now, and we must continue to demand it until our lawmakers either hear usor we have new lawmakers.”