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El Paso and Dayton Remind Us Gun Control Is a Queer Issue

vigil shooting

Gays Against Guns’ Virginia Vitzthum explains why.

This op-ed was pulled from remarks made by Virginia Vitzthum at a Gays Against Guns rally in New York City in Times Square on Saturday, August 4.

Yes, we are politicizing these deaths. We are politicizing, as we always do, the utter preventability of the lives lost in El Paso, Texas, and even as we planned this rally, in Dayton, Ohio.

We are also politicizing the mass murder in El Paso because the message that shooter seems to have been sending comes from the very top. And that message is white supremacy. The perperator's ugly "manifesto" is practically a tribute to the man who said everything from "Mexicans are rapists and criminals," to "shithole countries" and "fine people on both sides" when a neo-Nazi ran over a peaceful protester in Charlottesville. The commander in chief of the United States of America is encouraging and goading white nationalists into domestic terrorism.

More and more lost white young men are taking up arms against fellow human beings who their president tells them are the enemy. And even as he incites the stunted, violent, and aggrieved, he and the Republican-led Senate refuse to pass gun control legislation that a vast majority of the country wants and sees as necessary.

The president characterized the El Paso shootings as "acts of cowardice." Not racism, not xenophobia, not twisted, murderous hate. He can't even call these murders "wrong." He cannot call these deaths what they are because he is complicit, and so are the Republicans who stand by and let him endanger immigrants, people of color, women, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ people, poor people.

Trump others all of us, endangers us even. He endangers us with his cruel policies, he endangers us with his divisive and hateful rhetoric, and he endangers us by not passing any gun laws that would protect 40,000 people from dying from a gun every year in this country. This year alone, 12 Black trans women have been reported murdered, ten of whom were killed with a gun. But his demonizing also unites us. We as queers stand shoulder to shoulder with all the others who reject racism and all other hatred. There are more of us.

Yes, we are politicizing the deaths of 20 people who died because they went shopping where a disturbed young man was free to carry an automatic weapon into a store. We are politicizing the deaths of the nine people who were out enjoying themselves last night in Dayton, Ohio. It IS political. We have seen politicians address mass slaughter with action, most recently in New Zealand, where assault weapons were promptly banned after a white supremacist attacked two mosques. Where is our action?

There are NOT fine people on both sides. The side that worships the Second Amendment and blocks gun laws is the same side that dehumanizes refugees and asylum seekers. It's the side that strips rights from queer people, that's chipping away women's right to reproductive autonomy, that ignores climate change.

So my ask to everyone here is please get involved. Whether it's doing direct action with Gays Against Guns or Rise and Resist or legislative work with Moms Demand Action or Everytown or other gun control organizations. Whether it's working for a candidate for city, state, or national office, or picking some other issue to work on.

It is so easy to fall into despair. But it is so much better to join together with other angry, determined good people and channel that anger into action. Make community as you make the country better. Do something.

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Virginia Vitzthum