Here we are. Once again. Another school shooting. 19 students and 2 teachers gunned down in a horrific massacre. Add the name Uvalde to the never-ending list of cities broken and damaged by a lone gunman with an AR-15. Boulder. Aurora. Virginia Tech. Columbine. Las Vegas. San Bernardino.
On Sunday, January 16, Gays Against Guns (GAG) was joined by US Rep. Carolyn Maloney to demand that the United States Supreme Court let New York 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, Florida that inspired GAG’s formation.
Recently I joined GAG on a day trip to Fairfax, Virginia 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 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 bus ride, many of us shared our reason 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 that lasted until 9:00 p.m. one 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. It is 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, LGBTQ+ people, religious minorities, and those who struggle with mental health issues.
The first GAG meeting was on June 17, 2016, five days after the Pulse massacre. Attendees were united in their conviction that this sort of tragedy was not acceptable, and something had to be done. They turned their anger and outrage into action.
GAG members participate in a variety of protests and demonstrations. Their largest action: marching in the NYC Gay Pride parade, where over 200 members participate. 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.
A few years ago, GAG demonstrated on the 26th of each month outside the FedEx at Penn Station. The date represents the 26 percent discount NRA members were given for shipping a gun. In 2019, FedEx finally severed its relationship with the NRA. #GAGforthewin
Unfortunately, the gun violence epidemic in this country is only getting worse as we have seen repeatedly these past weeks. A Brooklyn subway car. A supermarket in Buffalo. A school in Uvalde. The unfettered access to guns has led to increased gun violence in almost every major city.
There are now roughly 400 million guns in the United States. The population of the country: 330 million people. We have more guns than people. Seventy million more guns. I can’t even wrap my head around a number like 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.
It does not have to be like this! Assault weapons were banned until 2004. They can be banned again. We do not have to live in fear. If you would like to join Gays Against Guns our meetings are held on the last Thursday of the month at the Gay and Lesbian Center in New York City. You can also join the meeting via zoom. For more information click here. GAG will honor the lives lost in Uvalde Thursday, May 26th.
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 and 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.”
featured image photo credit//donnaaceto
**This post is solely the opinion of this contributing writer and may not reflect the opinion of other writers, staff, or owners of Instinct Magazine.