By Brandon Wolf
I’ll never forget the first sounds of relentless, booming gunshots. The bright strobe lights bouncing across the dark room. The smell of blood and smoke that filled the air.
On a June night in 2016, a gunman opened fire at Pulse Nightclub, a safe space for my friends and me. And a refuge for other LBGTQ people in Orlando, Florida.
As gunfire rang out, I sprinted for an exit. I remember the feeling of relief when an emergency exit door swung open and I emerged into the night unscathed. And I’ll never forget the way my heart shattered when I realized my friends hadn’t made it off the dancefloor.
Since that night six years ago, I have dedicated my life to activism. I’ve dedicated my life to standing up for the LGBTQ+ community in the face of hatred and intolerance, and to speaking out against gun violence.
And so, as an Oregon native, I just can’t sit by in the wake of another tragedy in Texas and even stand witness to historic gun safety legislation finally passing in the U.S. Senate, just to watch so many of my home state’s political leaders continue to spout the talking points of the NRA.
Let’s be clear: common-sense gun violence prevention is on the ballot. And in the race for the highest office in Oregon, there are two candidates who have long records of siding with the gun lobby instead of taking real action to save lives.
Betsy Johnson and Christine Drazan have both voted against widely supported, bipartisan, common-sense legislation to prevent gun violence in our communities. In fact, then-senator Johnson was a chief opponent, preventing life-saving gun policies from passing or even getting a vote in the legislature.
It’s not political to see our nation’s gun deaths climb and demand that we do something different. It’s not political to take action to prevent the senseless murders of innocent children. It is political to stand in the way of life-saving policies and toe the NRA line.
Gun violence is preventable. But only if our leaders have the courage to stand up and do what’s right.
Here in Oregon, out of the three candidates running for governor, only one has had the courage to take real action to prevent senseless gun violence — Tina Kotek.
While Johnson was blocking common-sense gun violence prevention legislation in the Senate, Kotek was leading the way to get it passed through the House.
Under Kotek’s leadership, Oregon passed legislation to strengthen background checks for gun purchases, allow school districts to prohibit concealed weapons on school property and prohibit individuals convicted of domestic violence and stalking from purchasing a firearm.
And each time, Johnson voted no.
And when Drazan, a Republican, began serving in the Oregon House of Representatives in 2018, she followed suit, earning an A rating from the NRA.
This is personal for me. Oregon will always be my home state. I want my family — all our families — to be safe. And more than anything, I want Oregon to be the beacon of hope, the leader, for the rest of the country we know it can be.
Oregon can be that leader. But it’ll take the right leadership; it’ll take electing a governor who isn’t afraid to stand up to the gun lobby, a leader who is brave enough to fight for what’s right.
That’s why I’m proud to stand with Tina Kotek, the only candidate running for governor who I trust to fight for safer communities. Because she always has. I hope you’ll join me.
Brandon J. Wolf is an Oregon native and a survivor of the Pulse Nightclub shooting.