The United States ranks first among 178 countries researched in 2014 for the highest rate of firearms with 112.6 per 100 residents, with Serbia coming in a distant second at 69.7, Yemen third at 54.8, and Switzerland forth at 45.7.
Like individuals within most other socio-demographically constructed communities, LGBTQ people in the United States differ widely on issues of firearms along a continuum from imposing absolutely no restrictions on firearms ownership on one end to fully repealing the Second Amendment on the other.
Toward one end of the debate, Gays against Guns members and as a group are claiming: “Queer complacency is over.” The group is calling for a multi-pronged approach to gun safety in order to “Thwart the life-threatening convergence of homophobia and flawed gun policy.”
Included among its goals: “to ban access to high-capacity magazine guns and assault weapons, create stricter background checks for gun owners, close the loophole that allows sales of weapons at gun shows without background checks, ban gun sales via the internet, and block people on the FBI watch-list from purchasing guns.”
As other militant non-violent groups of the past, Gays against Guns conducts visible demonstrations to raise issues to the highest levels of public discourse like we did in the heydays of the Gay Liberation Front, Gay Activists Alliance, Women’s Liberation, ACT UP, Queer Nation, and others.
At this year’s recent New York City Pride March on June 26, members shouted chants calling for firearms safety, as people then dropped to the ground in a “die in” to emphasize legislative inaction and silence.
Situated toward the other end of the firearms debate is Pink Pistols, a national group originally organizing in 2000, but whose membership has risen enormously since the Pulse nightclub shooting on June 12 of this year killing 49 and wounding another 53.
Like Gays against Guns, Pink Pistols understands the clear links between homophobia and violence against our community. However, unlike the other group, Pink Pistols’ solution is not to increased gun regulations, but, rather, it advocates for increased gun ownership, including handguns and pistols of any color, as well as high-velocity and high-magazine capacity rifles.
President of the Utah chapter of this LGBTQ pro-gun group, Matt Schlentz, is pictured in many articles about the group posing in front of his Rainbow Gadsen Flag (with the saying “Don’t Tread on Me”) and his AR-15, similar to the weapon used at Pulse, in his backyard in Salt Lake City. Minus the rainbow, the Gadsen Flag is the same one deployed to represent the right-wing political group, The Tea Party.
Though upsetting enough as it stands, the article’s title altered the empowering motto of Queer Nation from “We’re Here, We’re Queer, We’re Fabulous, Get Used to It,” to the perverted and corrupted paraphrase: “We’re Here, We’re Queer, And We’re Packing Heat.”
Gays against Guns is attempting to reduce the number of weapons and the skyrocketing gun violence directed against LGBTQ and all individuals and communities. Rather than diligently working for common sense firearms safety measures, Pink Pistols colludes in the endless cycle of increasing firearms in this country.
When one fights fire with fire, one gets higher and hotter flames, and we all get seriously burned. This brings to mind the profound words of Audre Lorde: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”
While Gays against Guns has picked up new and refreshed tools, Pink Pistols continues to employ the oppressors’ tools crafted by the firearms industry and promoted and propagandized by the National Rifle Association.