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Friday, June 23, 2017

Moms Say: Now Is the Time to Disarm Hate

It’s sometimes hard to keep track of news about hate-fueled shootings in the U.S. Just this week we’ve seen two high-profile shootings, but on an average day, 93 Americans are killed with guns and hundreds more are shot and injured. Once again, our nation was reminded of very real threat and tragic consequences of gun violence, and our hearts go out to the victims and survivors.

It’s notable that this comes as we remember two other hate-fueled shootings. Two years ago this week, a white supremacist killed nine worshipers at Emanuel AME Church, the oldest historically black congregation south of Baltimore. One year ago, our country experienced the deadliest mass shooting in American history at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando where 49 people were killed and many more injured.

Even as our heart goes out to those impacted by these high-profile shootings, we need to remember all of those who are traumatized by gun violence. The Pulse shooting was the deadliest incident of violence against the LGBTQ community. As we honor the victims and stand with their families on this anniversary, we also remember that LGBTQ people are disproportionately impacted by gun violence every day.

In March, Alphonza Watson became the 14th transgender victim of homicide in Baltimore since 2005. Racism, sexism and transphobia combine to put transgender women of color, like Alphonza, at increased danger of being killed or threatened by gun violence. She was at least the eighth transgender person killed this year in the U.S. – seven of those with guns, all transwomen of color. At least seven transgender people, all black women, have been killed in Maryland since 2014. Those are not just numbers. They are someone’s children, and we have all lost something because they were taken too soon.

As a gun violence prevention activist, I know mothers of LGBTQ children are painfully aware that their kids are more likely to be the target of hate crimes than others – and guns in the hands of dangerous people make those hate crimes even more deadly. When I remember those who died at Pulse, I know that for some, remembering that horrible event is not just heartbreaking, it is deeply unsettling. It’s terrible that along with those lives taken, another community space, a place of safety, was taken away by a hateful person with a gun. Hate can confront us at any point in our lives, and when it comes armed, it can be deadly. The threat of armed, hate-inspired violence is a reality too many LGBTQ Americans face in their daily lives.

This is a tragedy for all moms – not just those of LGBTQ kids. When your kids aren’t safe, neither are mine. The mothers and others of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America recognize that, when we fight to reduce gun violence in Maryland to keep our children safe, we are all someone’s child.

As a mother and on behalf of the Maryland chapter of Moms Demand Action, I want the queer community to know that we see you. I want trans people to know that we give a damn. I want gay men, who represent almost two-thirds of victims of hate crimes based on sexual orientation, to know that we stand with you, too. We feel deeply pained for transgender victims of gun violence and for those in the gay community who don’t feel safe in their bodies because it’s far too easy for hateful people to get guns in this country.

Easy access to firearms gives a single, hate-filled individual the capacity to shatter numerous lives and whole communities. There are nearly 300,000 hate crimes per year in the U.S., 8,000 of which involve a gun – more than 20 each day. When guns are involved, hate crimes are more intimidating, terrifying, even deadly. They make statements more threatening, make threats more credible, and empower individuals to make fatal decisions. Violent altercations involving guns are much more likely to be fatal than those involving other weapons.

In a year on track to be the most deadly in Baltimore history, mothers and others who love LGBTQ people must show up for those most impacted by gun violence. Whether it’s homophobia, racism, misogyny, transphobia, or other bias – we demand to live in a country where we can be safe to be who we are and love whomever we want. What happened to Alphonza Watson and in Orlando should alarm every mother, black or white, queer or not. We should all be worried about how easy it is for hate-filled people to get guns. Now is the time to disarm hate.

Danielle Veith is the Maryland Chapter Leader for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, and a mother of two living in the Maryland suburbs of D.C.

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