Back when I lived in Texas, I overheard a joke that went something like this: “Did you hear about the new reality show Texas Survivor? You have to drive across the state with a bumper sticker that says ‘I’m gay and I’m here for your guns.'” In light America’s worst mass shooting, I don’t find it very funny. The unfortunate reality is that the LGBT community still falls victim to lethal violence and America’s lax gun laws exacerbate the problem.
At 2am on the night of the shooting, I was at a gay club. It certainly crossed the mind that it might have been me. Crazy people exist everywhere and on that particular night, the crazy guy was at a gay club in Orlando. But he could just as easily been in San Francisco. Or Minneapolis. Or Boston. Or Cedar Rapids. I probably should have been emotionally distraught, but I thought I was handling it pretty well. I was spending more mental energy worrying about how hard this is going to make the lives of American Muslims and whether this will make people flock to political figures who feed off of racist fears.
I could never have predicted what would send me over the edge. I was working out at the gym on Monday night and looked up at the TV to see a show that can only be described as an infomercial for guns. It was boasting about the long, noble history of Smith & Wesson. I should have seen it coming. I had just heard a story on the radio that gun sales surge after a mass shooting.
I just about lost it. I turned off the TV and tried to distract myself. When I got home, I broke down in tears and could barely even explain to my husband why I was so upset. An ad. A stupid fucking ad shook my faith in humanity. I saw your stock value jump when the markets opened on Monday, but can you really be so tactless as to rub it in the face of Americans that you profit from the deaths of innocent people?
It’s in our nature to see people get killed and think that we need to buy more guns to defend ourselves, but every statistic runs counter to this instinct. The scientific reality is that you are in more danger if you have a gun in your house. When you look at gun ownership from state to state, there’s a clear relationship — Higher gun ownership means higher fierarm homicide rates. In fact, for each percentage point increase in gun ownership, the firearm homicide rate goes up by 0.9%. If you don’t believe me, then don’t take my word for it. Do your own research. Just remember to be wary of sources where the methodology isn’t listed, significance isn’t disclosed, or the author is in a position to profit from biased findings.
Here’s the thing about the AR-15 that was used to execute those 49 people — it was obtained completely legally and organizations like the NRA are actively working to keep sales of such weapons legal and unrestricted. News flash: There is no compelling reason to own an assault rifle unless you intend to kill a lot of people quickly. I realize that sportsmen and sportswomen will tell you that they want to own them for fun, at which point I’d like to refer you to the stats in the previous paragraph. Others will say they need them for self-defense. Really? An assault rifle? Who do you think is coming for you?
I’m sure some will say that I’m “politicizing this” and that we aren’t in a position to make level-headed decisions after a mass-shooting. You see, here’s the thing about that… On average, there’s a mass shooting in the United States every fucking day. How many more innocent lives need to be sacrificed before we’re able to have this conversation?
Change won’t be easy because we need to overcome our own flawed instincts before anything will happen. Millions of Americans are patiently waiting for Congress to put some common-sense restrictions in place, but the NRA is a powerful lobby and a timely solution is unlikely. That being said, why do we need a decree to make our communities safer when there are things we can do right now.
It starts with you.
I’m asking every gun owner to do three simple things:
1. Get rid of any automatic or semi-automatic weapons in your home. We have to lead by example. Despite what the NRA may have told you, the government is never going to come into your house and take your guns. If you want to make your home a safer place, it’s up to you to get rid of them.
2. No more money to the gun industry. Don’t buy guns. Don’t buy stock. This is an industry that profits from the death of innocent people. Refuse to be a part of it. This is no different from divesting from any other exploitative company. If we can’t learn to value human life over stock earnings, we’ll never make it as a species.
3. Vote for politicians who support common-sense gun control and who don’t rely on fear, homophobia or racism to attract attention. It also helps to support politicians who will authorize research on gun violence (Oh, did you even know that the Congress has effectively banned funding of gun-related research?)
That’s it — three easy steps that you can do yourself to make the world a safer place. No need to wait for Congress.
After all those years that I spent in Texas, I know exactly what gun-owners say next. “It’s a slippery slope. First I give away my assault rifle. Next thing I know, I’m giving away all my handguns.” Sounds like a slope worth going down.