This past Friday, I participated in a protest with Gays Against Guns to commemorate International Women’s Day. The silent protest, featuring “Human Beings,” was held on the steps of the Bryant Park Library and honored the countless women lost to gun violence in this country. Human Beings are veiled figures in white who hold placards featuring the image of a person lost to gun violence. It is no secret that gun violence is an epidemic in this country. If you think otherwise, you need to get your head out of your ass, respectfully.
The first GAG meeting was June 17th, 2016, five days after the Pulse massacre. Attendees united in the realizing that this was no longer acceptable and something had to be done. They turned their anger and outrage into action. Many victims at Pulse were young adults in their 20s and 30s, out for a night of dancing and celebrating with friends. Bodies of multiple victims were riddled with bullets. A dozen or so were found in bathroom stalls, where they tried to hide, begging the shooter for their lives.
GAG NY is an inclusive direct action group of LGBTQ+ people and their allies committed to nonviolently breaking the gun industry’s chain of death – investors, manufacturers, the NRA and politicians who block safer gun laws. GAG is NY based but work with GAG chapters in other cities to ensure safety for all individuals, particularly vulnerable communities such as people of color, women and those who struggle with mental health issues, LGBTQ+ people and religious minorities.
A little over a year ago, 17 people, many of them teenagers, were slaughtered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Since then, survivors Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg among others have become leaders in the fight against the NRA. The “March For Our Lives” in DC with over 1 million attending was one of the largest protests in American history. The tide is turning, the war will be won.
GAG members participate in a variety of protests and demonstrations. Their largest action — marching in the NYC Gay Pride parade numbers over 200 attendees. Every 15 blocks GAG members lie down on the street. The “die-in” provides a searing visual of what dozens of people murdered in a mass shooting actually looks like. 59 people were murdered in Las Vegas. By one man with documented mental health issues and violent tendencies, who had access to an arsenal of weapons. 59. Fathers. Mothers. Husbands. Wives. Brothers. Sisters. Cousins. Friends. Boyfriends. Girlfriends. FIFTY NINE.
GAG also demonstrated on the 26th of each month outside FedEx. The 26th represented the 26% discount NRA members were given for shipping a gun. The NRA’s influence and power is waning, slowly but surely.. NRA puppets are being voted out of office one by one. A few months ago FedEx finally severed their relationship with the NRA! #GAGforthewin
This past summer I joined GAG on a day trip to Fairfax, VA to protest outside NRA headquarters. The bus was filled with 30 activists ranging in age from 16 to 70. People from all different backgrounds, young, old, male, female, gay, straight, married, single; all sharing the same goal. Some have been personally affected by gun violence. Many have been politically active for decades. I was honored to hear stories from ACT UP members, stories from the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. During the round trip bus ride, many of us shared our reason for joining GAG.
I myself spoke about my years as a classroom teacher and the feelings of complete heartbreak, anger and fear I felt after Columbine. After Virginia Tech. After Sandy Hook. After Parkland. I could not imagine losing any of my students. The Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook shootings followed somewhat the same pattern. Meaning most of the victims were found in the same two or three classrooms. Once the shooting started, the students in further away classrooms realized what was happening and had time to escape. One professor made sure every student escaped out the windows of their classroom, using himself to hold the door shut keeping the shooter out, ultimately sacrificing his own life so the others could live. Teacher Victoria Soto hid her students in the bathroom of the classroom when the shooter entered. She too threw herself in front of the shooter trying to save her students. Sadly, the shooter killed her and most of her first grade class.
Heroic teachers in Sandy Hook spent hours with up to 20 students crammed in a tiny bathroom. High school and middle school teachers, like myself, in that situation might not be so lucky. In an active shooter situation if the shooter got into my classroom, there is a 99% chance most of my students and myself would die. There is nowhere to hide there is nowhere to go there is nowhere to run. A few years ago during a lock down drill, the students laughing and joking – not taking it seriously. I told them “I am not going to die in this classroom because of you cant keep quiet.” I also gave them a 0 out of 4 on their daily scorecard, writing “behavior unacceptable during lock down drill.” Naturally, the students were not spoken to further about it by a guidance counselor or administrator. I, however, was called into the Principal’s Office wanting to know why the students received a 0 and if I wanted to change that score. I did not.
The preferred weapon of choice for a mass shooter is the AR-15. The amount of bullets an assault weapon shoots in less than a minute is astounding. This is one of the many reasons why assault weapons need to be banned. These are weapons created for war, not for a mentally unstable young white male to use to take out his aggressions on his classmates. In a shocking news report on ABC, a 15-year-old high school student tried buying alcohol, and was laughed at by the clerk. He then tried buying cigarettes. Denied again. Lottery tickets. No dice. Finally he went to a gun show. Walked in, pointed to a gun, said he would like to buy it, and less than 10 minutes later he left, gun in hand.
I will march on Washington however long it takes for the ban on assault weapons to become law. I will use my voice as often, as loudly (y’all know how loud I am!) as I can to draw attention to the epidemic of mass shootings in this country. I am tired of running memorial 5ks in honor of teachers shot in school. The solution is clear as day. As the headline of an article in “The Onion” stated – “No way to stop mass shootings says ONLY country in the world where they regularly happen.”
HEY NRA: GAG IS COMING FOR YOU – YOUR DAYS ARE NUMBERED! Join us! Straight, gay, whatever… we meet every other Thursday at the LGBTQ Center from 7-9! We need everyone! Go to for www.gaysagainstguns.net for more information.