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    Because My Attackers Did Not Have Assault Weapons

    rebeccaOur nation has been hit with horrific homophobic violence in what is part of a continuing pattern of mass shootings. I find myself thinking how lucky I am to be alive, and why.

    I have been subjected to harassment and assault for my sexual orientation starting when I was 16. In the wake of the mass murder in Orlando, I am aware that part of why I am alive today is because none of my attackers had assault weapons. While many hurled nasty words and some hurled rocks or beer bottles, none of the people harassing me had in their hands a weapon designed for war, designed to kill many people quickly.

    Yet now, in America, those weapons of war are made widely available in the civilian population, and every year, time after time, the country is once again “shocked” by the latest mass shooting committed with weapons that are designed to commit mass shootings, and which the USA is bizarrely attached to making widely available.

    In my life, I have been involved in many efforts to help change hearts and minds, and help people overcome prejudice and learn to treat people of all orientations, backgrounds, races and religions with respect. But our concern must be not only for the hate in people’s hearts, but also for the weapons in their hands. It is good to work for a world without hate and without mental illness. We should be able to aspire for a society like almost every other democracy, in which weapons of war are not spread throughout the nation, in which mass murder stops being normal.

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    This is part of why I fought for, and won, Council support for strengthening gun laws in California. While Republicans continue to obstruct and pretend, Democrats including Senator Chris Murphy are pushing for common sense changes to strengthen our gun laws. Let us urge Congress now to finally take the most basic steps to make it a little bit harder for dangerous weapons to get into the hands of those who would commit mass murder. Mass gun murder is not inevitable. The USA used to have an assault weapons ban, until it was ended in 2004 under George W. Bush. Let us not be divided; hatred towards LGBT people, or towards Muslims or any other group, will not save us. It is time to pry the weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of murderers, and time to pry our future out of the hands of the NRA.

    Oakland City Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan was elected in 2008 and was re-elected in 2012. She is working for safe neighborhoods, for local jobs and for a fresh start for Oakland. Councilmember Kaplan graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, obtained a master’s degree from Tufts University and a Juris Doctor from Stanford Law School.