Frequently Asked Questions: An Update | Courtesy of GAG U
June 12, 2017
1. Why is gun violence an LGBTQ issue?
The epidemic of gun violence disproportionately affects LGBTQ people. Most gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides and LGBTQ people are overrepresented among suicide victims. LBG youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than straight youth, 40% of transgender adults have attempted suicide and 92% of them attempted suicide by age 25 (The Trevor Project). Suicide attempts with guns are overwhelmingly lethal (Harvard School of Public Health).
LGBTQ people are also the most likely minority to be the victim of a hate crime (The New York Times). Up until the Las Vegas massacre in October, 2017, the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history happened at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, which was space for LGBTQ people of color. Queer people continue to be unduly vulnerable to gun violence, especially in the swell of prejudice-based hate crimes since the election of Donald Trump (California State University’s Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism).
Some of the faces of our siblings killed at the Pulse Nightclub
2. How much of a problem is gun violence in the U.S?
Gun violence is an epidemic in the United States. It costs about $229 billion every year (Mother Jones). According to the Brady Campaign there are over 112,000 people shot each year, with 33,000 of those victims dying. That is an average of over 90 fatalities each day. From 1968 to 2011, 1.4 million people died by guns in the United States—that’s 200,000 more lives lost to gun violence than those lost to to warfare since the Revolutionary War (Politifact). America’s gun homicide rate is more than 25 times the average of other developed countries (Everytown for Gun Safety). Through May of 2017, there have already been 138 mass shootings across the U.S., with over 6,000 dead (Gun Violence Archive)—it’s a problem.
3. Guns can keep people safe. Why wouldn’t we want to defend ourselves, especially today, when hate seems more prevalent than ever?
Guns don’t protect people as effectively as one might like to believe. States with higher levels of of household gun ownership have higher levels of firearm crime and even suffer higher rates of household burglary (Los Angeles Times). A 30-year study of homicide data found that a state’s firearm homicide rate increases in tandem with its gun ownership rate (American Journal of Public Health).
Sadly, the “good guy with a gun” theory is a myth. Among 62 major mass shootings in the United States from 1982 to 2012, not a single one was stopped by a firearm-carrying civilian (Mother Jones). Nor are guns used effectively for self-defense. According to National Crime Victimization Survey data from 2007 to 2011, victims only used a gun in less than 1 percent of reported incidents (127/14,145) (Los Angeles Times). And when there is a gun present, an assault victim is 4.5 times more likely to be shot if he or she is carrying (National Institutes of Health). Even in the home, you are 22 times more likely to encounter a gun in a criminal assault, suicide attempt, or unintentional shooting than to use one in legal self-defense (The Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection, and Critical Care).
4. Your group is called “Gays Against Guns.” Do you want to get rid of all guns?
Gays Against Guns is an inclusive organization which welcomes a variety of viewpoints on the best ways to protect individuals—particularly vulnerable communities such as people of color, women, people who struggle with mental health issues, LGBTQ people, and religious minorities—from becoming victims of preventable gun violence. Together, we are committed to nonviolently breaking the gun industry's chain of death—investors, manufacturers, the NRA, and politicians—who block strong gun laws. We welcome all approaches toward a safer future, and this begins straightforwardly with sensible gun laws, not the eradication of guns altogether.
5. Why do you call gun violence an epidemic? Guns aren’t a public health concern like cancer.
Automobile accidents, cancer, and gun violence cause pain and often death for hundreds of thousands of Americans every year. Unlike cancer and car accidents, however, gun violence is not studied by the Centers for Disease Control and other government agencies. As we learned during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, research can make a life-saving difference [Treatment Action Group]. Gun deaths, however, which would potentially be subject to the same positive effects of this type of concerted, government attention, only show signs of worsening. Due to what’s called the “Dickey Amendment,” the federal government has been discouraged from researching gun violence since 1996 (Journal of the American Medical Association).
The gun industry’s gag order on research is driven by its profit-seeking cruelty. Gays Against Guns—along with scores of other individuals and organizations, including the American Medical Association and the amendment’s original author, Jay Dickey (R-AR)—believes it should be repealed (Doctors for America). The time has come for this devastating epidemic to be treated like any other.
6. It looks like you’re part of the “resistance.” Are you protesting gun violence or Trump?
Gays Against Guns started in the wake of the Pulse Orlando nightclub massacre on June 12, 2016. This was an attack targeting the LGBTQ community and in particular LGBTQ people of color (National Public Radio). GAG's main goal is to provide a space for LGBTQ people, other vulnerable groups, and their allies who are committed to ending gun violence in this country, to work together toward that goal through direct action and activism.
The effects of gun violence clearly reach well beyond the LGBTQ community, and so we began our organization protesting gun violence and those politicians who are associated with pro-gun organizations, who speak in favor of lax gun control laws, and who see no problems with our current system. This therefore includes President Trump, as he ran on a pro-NRA platform and spoke to the NRA nearing his 100th day in office, stating that, under his presidency, "[t]he 8-year assault on the Second Amendment is over" (CNN). During the 2016 election the NRA spent over $36 million, as compared to the $27 million spent in the 2014 election cycle. Much of these funds were given to Trump’s campaign (NBC News and Center for Responsive Politics). So, naturally GAG has become a part of the resistance following the election, participating in many events and partnering with other organizations. However, in these and all instances, GAG's aim is not to protest Donald Trump in general, but rather to call him out, along with all of his gun industry allies who place profit over lives, and to demand a change.
Guns in the U.S. are threaded through many issues that may not seem to be about guns at all. U.S. guns are fueling the immigration crisis that President Trump wants to fix with a wall (The Trace). Guns cost the American healthcare system billions each year, yet Congress wants to lower the national cost by offloading funding obligations to states, marginalizing disabled and elderly people, and dispossessing millions of people of their health insurance. In high-crime areas, gun violence impedes support and response to sexual assault (NBC News). These issues and more must be addressed as examples of the long reach of gun violence.