Now that I am long past the age when I could have started collecting Social Security, I sometimes enjoy thinking about how my memory about various issues and people is at variance with folks who are younger than me. For example, I first got interested in politics during the 1960 Presidential election; most of the people who will read this column weren’t alive back then. And what’s a little scary for me is that the timeline between what I experienced first-hand and what others now only know from what people of my age remember continues to move forward.
A perfect example of the change in cultural values between what I earlier experienced and what is now reality is the issue of LGBT, or what is now called LGBTQ. Because I remember when, in high school, a few kids were called ‘queer,’ and that was the only mention of alternate gender I ever heard. And I remember in college that a few boys began calling themselves ‘gay,’ but they didn’t say it out loud. And I remember back in 1990 talking to a gay man who was originally born in New York but moved to San Francisco so that he could ‘come out’ and not drive his parents to despair.
Now I’m not saying that the fact that same-sex marriage is now law of the land (or at least most of the land) necessarily changes minds or souls. If we have learned one thing from Street Thug’s Presidential campaign, it’s that racist feelings are alive and well more than 60 years after ‘separate but equal’ was struck down. But to deny a major shift in cultural attitudes regarding gender roles is either to deny reality or simply shows that someone came of age after the shift began to occur. And this is where, when it comes to Gun Violence Prevention, the rubber needs to meet the road.
Because the fact is that while a majority of Americans don’t own guns, and a majority of Americans support common-sense gun regulations like background checks on private gun sales, a majority of Americans also believe that having a gun around the house makes you safe. And as long as we continue to support this basic, cultural consensus about guns, the easier it will be for Gun-nut Nation to sell the argument that guns should be considered just another normal, mainstream consumer item that we all should own and use. After all, you can buy a new pistol for about the same price as a droid, and a Glock 42 is smaller than a Rubic’s Cube.
So when all is said and done, what is needed is not just a change in regulations, but a change in culture, which will lead to a change in the definition of ‘safe,’ which will make it easier to make changes in gun regulations that will keep us all truly safe. And who is better equipped than the LGBTQ community when it comes to promoting cultural change over the last twenty years?
Which is why I am so heartened by reports starting to circulate that many LGBTQ organizations are beginning to shift their focus to the issue of guns. There’s a great statement by LGBTQ Nation on their website; the largest LGBT national organization – Human Rights Campaign – has just announced it will focus its energies on gun violence; and there now appears to be momentum building for the LGBTQ-Gun Reform March on Washington scheduled for August 13.
I don’t know what’s going to happen with the Senate vote this week and I care but I really don’t care. Because the momentum created by the Orlando tragedy won’t go away. And let’s not forget that when LGBTQ began its historic push for cultural change, many of Gun-nut Nation’s best friends (right-wing Evangelicals, political conservatives) tried to block their way. Guess what? They lost. And if LGBTQ gets behind gun violence prevention, Gun-nut Nation will lose that one, too.