Gays Against Guns Keep Doing Their Thing And Their Thing Is A Good Thing.

When I was in high school, I earned weekend money by playing in a band which performed at various school dances, weddings and bar-mitzvas around town. At some point we got a gig in a private club somewhere on the Jersey shore which featured a group of very talented female impersonators performing a gay version of the Radio City Rockettes.  The club was private because in those days, the 1950’s, you didn’t walk around advertising the fact that you were gay. And you certainly didn’t let it be known that a bunch of ‘female imps’ as they were known, were performing on a public stage.

gag             I got friendly with the members of this troupe and I never imagined that I would ever see the Supreme Court of the United States proclaim that these talented artists could live and behave any way they chose to be.  Which is why, believe it or not, I remain convinced that someday gun violence will also come to an end, because ending gun violence rests on a moral imperative – thou shall not kill – and morality will sooner or later always win.

In that regard, I take a special interest in the doings of an organization, Gays Against Guns (GAG,) whose mission can best be described in a statement from their website: “Gays Against Guns NY is an inclusive group of LGBTQ people and their allies committed to nonviolently breaking the gun industry’s chain of death–investors, manufacturers, the NRA and other lobby groups, and their puppets in Congress that block good gun laws.”

There are other GAG chapters around the country, but the New York group has provided some of the most original responses to the continued flood of gun violence, in particular some very engaging videos that spell out their message loud, hip and clear.  Their latest production is a theatrical performance with original lyrics set to the song ‘My Funny Valentine,’ which is apropos as I am writing these words on February 14, which happens to be Valentine’s Day.

This brief musical theater is staged in the Union Square subway station in New York City, and features a character made up like Trump and another character playing the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre.  The lyrics, of course, reflect the group’s concerns about gun violence, along with the flinging around of a pile of money obviously representing the dough spent by the NRA on the Trump campaign.  The musical performance jumps back and forth between the subway platform and above ground next to the famed arch in Greenwich Village’s Washington Square Park.  It’s a funny, lively spoof on the relationship between the NRA and Trump but it has its serious side as well, particularly a scene above ground where players in the troupe display pictures of a gay couple, both of whom were shot to death during the massacre in The Pulse.

When you finish viewing this video, jump to another video which shows members of the GAG group staging an appearance in front of the NRA booth at last year’s New Jersey State Fair. Now you would think that at a state fair, particularly at a booth for the NRA, that the appearance of a gay group talking about gun violence might provoke some rather heated or even nasty comments from the passing crowd. But watch this video closely and you’ll see that with the exception of one older guy who appeared to be either confused or pissed off, most of the crowd were polite in their reaction to the GAG folks, and engaged them in brief discussions about gun violence in a proper and respectful way.

I think that this country has come a long way in its attitudes towards LGBTQ. Not that there won’t always be a few hardy souls coming out of the woodwork to lay claim to the idea that non-traditional lifestyles are the Devil’s own work. But think about how a culture has changed as regards LGBTQ and don’t dismiss the idea that the same culture change can’t happen when it comes to guns.

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Want The Craziest Florida Gun Law Of All? Here It Comes.

Now that Florida legislators are once again debating how and where state residents can and cannot go carrying a gun, a new wrinkle has been added to the discussion by a bill just filed by a longtime, pro-gun State Senator named Greg Steube.  He’s been in the legislature for six years and this year chairs the Judiciary Committee where pro-gun bills died in 2015 and 2016, but he’s going to really lead the fight for SB 140, which would allow guns on college campuses, as well as in airports and public meetings.

pulse             The bill has attracted the usual attention from both sides of the gun debate, particularly in the wake of the Fort Lauderdale shooting in January which killed five and injured a dozen more. But lost in the controversy over this piece of legislation is another bill filed by Steube himself, SB 610, which if enacted, would allow someone who voluntarily left his gun behind when he entered a ‘gun-free’ establishment to sue the owner if they were injured by someone who entered the same location with a gun and proceeded to blast away.

Now the way this crazy law would work is that if an owner decided that his establishment should be free of guns, he could always avoid litigation after a shooting if he elected some kind of reasonable strategy to keep his disarmed patrons out of harm’s way, such as hiring an armed guard or maybe installing a metal-detector at the front door.  You may recall, incidentally, that there was an armed guard at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, who traded gunfire with the shooter before the latter then barricaded himself at the rear of the club.  Fat lot of good the armed security guard (an off-duty cop) did for the 102 club patrons who were killed or wounded in that attack.

Know how all the really crazy stuff like half-and-half and Ronald Reagan first appears in California and then spreads nationwide?  When it comes to the worst laws for encouraging gun violence, they start in Florida; i.e., laws that promote CCW and Stand Your Ground (SYG.)  But this law is the craziest and worst sop to Gun-nut Nation of any gun law that has ever been introduced, because you can make the argument that under certain circumstances and with proper training, a responsible individual might be allowed to walk around with a gun.  As for SYG, while those laws have exacerbated gun violence when the alleged assailant happens to be black, the law itself doesn’t speak to the issue of what kind of weapon might be used to make it easier for someone to remain in place against an attack, it just makes it easier to claim self-defense.

This crazy law, on the other hand, is built entirely around the idea that a person who voluntarily gives up access to a gun should therefore expect the individual whose establishment has a no-gun policy to protect him if he suffers an injury due to an “unlawful or reckless act.”  Now let’s say I’m standing in a bar and someone next to me jiggles the drink I have in my hand and the contents of the glass spill out and soil my new shirt. The whole point of gun-free zones is that if I’m armed and slightly drunk, there’s a good chance that I might pull out my gun.  In the brilliant words of Lester Adelson: “With its peculiar lethality, a gun converts a spat into a slaying and a quarrel into a killing.”  This is what a gun-free zone is designed to prevent – the all-too-often escalation of an argument into a horrific injury or a death because someone had a gun.

Gun-nut Nation’s obsession with ridding the country of gun-free zones is based on no credible research showing that armed citizens make a difference in protecting us from crime.  But tell that to Senator Steube and the other gun-nut supporters from the Gunshine State.

The Myth Of The ‘Sensible Gun Owner.

In 1890 the U.S. Census declared that wilderness no longer existed in the continental United States. And this announcement provoked the first, public debate in this country between the fledgling conservationist-naturalist movement on the one hand, and the proponents of unrestrained, economic growth on the other.  This debate continues in the present day except now it has taken on a global perspective known as Global Warming, but the two sides – conservation versus development – haven’t really changed their respective positions at all.  And the reason the debate is so rancorous and unending is that neither side seems willing to engage in an effort to find some kind of compromise middle ground which will allow us to preserve part of what is still natural while, at the same time, giving economic development incentives to spread.

heston            This same profile – two sides unwilling to meet somewhere in the middle and compromise over basic goals – exists in the argument over guns and, more specifically, the argument over violence caused by guns.  On the one hand we have seen a recent growth in the size and activity of groups and organizations dedicated to reducing gun violence; on the other we have an entrenched and well-organized pro-gun community which denies that guns are responsible for any violence at all.  Or if there is a bit of violence that results from someone using a gun in an inappropriate way (Sandy Hook, Pulse, et. al.,) it’s a price we need to pay because of the value of gun ownership in terms of history, tradition, freedom, sport and most of all, self-defense.

But what about all those surveys which show that a whopping super-majority of Americans and even a substantial majority of gun owners support the idea of ‘sensible’ restrictions on guns?  The latest polls disclose a near-90% positive response to the question of whether background checks should be conducted on all transfers of guns and even four out of fine gun owners, according to the recent surveys, also endorse this particular form of ‘sensible’ restrictions on ownership of guns. So if just about everyone agrees that a ‘sensible’ strategy like universal background checks is a good thing, how come all these sensible folks, particularly gun-owning sensible folks, don’t show up to vote for expanded background checks whenever the issue appears on a state-level ballot or is the subject of a debate on Capitol Hill?  Yes, California passed a law mandating background checks for ammo purchases, but a ballot initiative in Maine to extend background checks on gun transfers failed.

So where are all these ‘sensible’ gun owners that the gun violence prevention (GVP) community will tell you really exist?  The truth is that their existence is more apparent than real.  And the reason it’s more apparent is because not one of those surveys which keeps discovering the existence of all those sensible gun owners ever asks the crucial follow-up question which is: Do you support the NRA?  Because if the polls did ask that question I guarantee you that the same four out of five gun owners who say they are in favor of expanded background checks would also state that they support America’s ‘oldest’ civil-rights organization, whether they are NRA members or not.

And guess what?  Back in August the NRA announced unequivocally and without reservation of any kind the organization’s total and unalterable opposition to expanding background checks, “because background checks don’t stop criminals from getting firearms, because some proposals to do so would deprive individuals of due process of law, and because NRA opposes firearm registration.” And that’s that.

If one were to go back and ask all those ‘sensible’ gun owners whether they agreed with the NRA’s stance on background checks they would probably say ‘no.’  But if you were to then ask them whether this disagreement would make them withdraw their support for the NRA they would stare at you in shock and reply, “Who’s going to support my right to own a gun? And that last statement is the reason why the notion of the ‘sensible’ gun owner is a myth.