((aka Why I Am a Gay Against Guns)
On Sunday, January 16, Gays Against Guns (GAG) was joined by US Rep. Carolyn Maloney to demand that the United States Supreme Court let our state’s strict gun laws stand. The court will rule this year on New York State Rifle Association v. Bruen, the case in which the NRA-affiliated NYSRA seeks to overturn 108 years of New York State law. New York’s strict gun laws are a likely reason the city has not had a public mass shooting like the June 12, 2016 massacre at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, FL that inspired GAG’s formation.
Recently I joined GAG on a day trip to Fairfax, VA to protest outside NRA headquarters. The bus was filled with about 40 activists ranging in age from 16 to 70. People from all different backgrounds, young, old, male, female, gay, straight, married, single; all share 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 reasons for joining GAG. I spoke about my years as a classroom teacher. The monthly lockdown drills. The threats to the school via social media. An actual lockdown lasted until 9 pm that evening, due to a bank robbery a few blocks away. 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 monthly lockdown drills.
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 works 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.
The first GAG meeting was on June 17th, 2016, five days after the Pulse massacre. Attendees united in realizing that this was no longer acceptable and something had to be done. They turned their anger and outrage into action. Many victims were young adults in their 20s and zzz TV30s, 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 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 look like.
GAG also demonstrated on the 26th of each month outside the FedEx at Penn Station. The 26th to represent the 26% discount NRA members were given for shipping a gun. The NRA’s influence and power are waning, slowly but surely… NRA puppets are being voted out of office one by one. In 2019 FedEx finally severed its relationship with the NRA. #GAGforthewin
Unfortunately, the gun violence epidemic in this country is only getting worse. The unfettered access to guns has led to increased gun violence in almost every major city. There are now 400 million guns in the United States. The population of the country: 330 million people. We have more guns than people. 70 million more guns. I can’t even wrap my head around a number like 400 million. Guns. 400 million guns. Gun stores were deemed essential during the Pandemic. Couldn’t go to a movie or a bar, but I could buy a gun. GO USA!
I will march on Washington however long it takes for the ban on assault weapons of war to become law. I will use my voice as often, as loudly 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! Gay, straight, queer, all are welcome… join us on Zoom every other Thursday from 7-8:30p! We need everyone! Go to www.gaysagainstguns.net for more information.
(this column originally appeared in the March issue of ‘Letters from Camp Rehoboth)