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United Guns of America

In the years since Pulse absolutely nothing has changed when it comes to guns and anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric has only increased

We’ve all been to a place like Club Q.

An unassuming place tucked into a strip mall that doesn’t look like much from the outside but offers a safe haven for LGBTQ+ people and allies inside. A place where people can be themselves, hang with friends, dance, have a drink, and just take a break from the exhaustion of living in a world that, despite progress, doesn’t exactly welcome LGBTQ+ people.

I remember going to one such bar with my wife back before we were married. I wasn’t even 21 yet, so I had to wear a glow necklace that communicated to the bartenders that I was not to be served alcohol. My wife and I danced and then ended up playing pool with an older lesbian couple who were in the process of breaking up and their daughter, who was about my age. The older lesbians were sad, but clearly on good terms, and they taught my wife and me how to play pool. This was in Michigan back in the day when you could still smoke in bars, and I remember that the cigarette smoke was thick and the reason we called it a night pretty early. I still wonder about that family and hope they are all okay.

That this most recent shooting happened in Colorado Springs tracks. Colorado Springs is the home of Focus on the Family, a corporate powerhouse that trafficks anti-LGBTQ+ hate under the guise of Christianity. Its partner organization, the Family Research Council, is located in Washington D.C., where it works full-time to elect anti-LGBTQ+ leaders and craft anti-LGBTQ+ policy.

In 2016, we felt the horror and grief of the Pulse shooting in Orlando when 49 people were murdered and 53 injured. And in the years since, absolutely nothing has changed when it comes to guns, and anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric has only increased. And so it’s no surprise that it has happened again.

One of the reasons five people and not 49 people were killed and injured is because patron and U.S. Army veteran Richard Fierro tackled the shooter, grabbing one of his guns and hitting him over the head with it again and again.

“I looked across the room and the guy was standing at the door. I ran across the bar, grabbed the guy from the back and pulled him down, and pinned him against the stairs,” Fierro told the Washington Post. “I took control of the scene as best I could. I’m just hitting the guy with the pistol, beating the back of his head.”

He chose the back of the gunman’s head because it was one of the only places not covered by body armor. The gunman had come prepared for war.

Fierro is a hero in this situation, no doubt. But it’s a fully unjust and unrealistic expectation that Americans need to be combat-ready to go to a nightclub, or the grocery store, or a movie theater, or school. All so we can accommodate a sick and deadly obsession with guns.

I am so tired of the violence. In a country obsessed with guns and awash in white supremacy and Christian fascism, violence is unleashed time and time again on marginalized communities, whether it be LGBTQ+ people and allies at a nightclub, Black shoppers at a supermarket, or Jewish people at synagogue.

And then we have pro-fascist idiots like Colorado’s own Lauren Boebert, who won her reelection by less than 600 votes, tweeting things like, “The news out of Colorado Springs is absolutely awful. This morning the victims & their families are in my prayers. This lawless violence needs to end and end quickly.”

If you’re not familiar with Boebert, you might ask why anyone would take issue with this statement. But if you are familiar with Boebert, you know that she not only loves guns (the “L” in her campaign logo is a handgun and the “O” is a bullet and her campaign slogan is “Pro-Freedom, Pro-Guns, Pro-Constitution” — a document I have no doubt she has never read, if she can read at all) but that she is also rabidly anti-LGBTQ+. She has gleefully pushed the idea that LGBTQ+ people are “groomers” (aka child molesters) and that drag queens pose a danger to society.

On Twitter, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) responded to Boebert, “You have played a major role in elevating anti-LGBT+ hate rhetoric and anti-trans lies while spending your time in Congress blocking even the most common sense gun safety laws. You don’t get to ‘thoughts and prayers’ your way out of this. Look inward and change.”

Chances of Boebert changing are slimmer than her margin of victory. It’s yet another reminder that voting really does matter.

Voting is anti-violence.

D'Anne Witkowski
D'Anne Witkowski is a poet, writer and comedian living life with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBT politics for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter.