To Fight Anti-Trans Violence, It's Time for Sensible Gun Laws

The Fatal Connection Between Hate Speech and LGBTQ Gun Suicides

Throughout the month of November, LGBTQ groups across the country have been honoring the lives of transgender Americans. I’m an advocate for gun violence prevention and the mother of a member of the LGBTQ community. On Transgender Day of Remembrance, I honor the countless trans individuals whose lives have been cut short by gun violence.

It’s no secret that 2017 has been a terrifying year. Americans have gotten a serious crash course in understanding just how much hateful rhetoric can lead to serious crimes. The tie between hate speech and violence is lethal – especially when a gun is in the mix.

Nearly 300,000 hate crimes occur in the United States per year, 8,000 of which involve a gun. That breaks down to be more than 20 hate crimes occurring in the United States each day. Suffice it to say, hate crimes make up a portion of the daily gun violence that is largely unrecognized.

This is entirely unacceptable.

And it is no surprise that the most marginalized among us bear the brunt of an outsize piece of America’s gun violence. Last year was the deadliest year on record for transgender people with at least 27 killed, but the number of trans people killed in 2017 is on track to beat that terrible record..

So far this year, at least 24 transgender individuals have been killed, most of them by a gun. And we cannot forget that most of these victims were trans women of color, the majority of them being black. Last year, a list compiled by The Advocate showed that more than half of the 27 homicides of transgender Americans were by gunfire.

This all has happened while the gun lobby has pushed a  reckless agenda of guns everywhere, for anyone, at any time – no questions asked. Some gun lobby-backed members of Congress have pushed for legislation that would gut state gun laws on who can carry hidden, loaded guns in public. Other lawmakers have pushed dangerous legislation that would roll back gun silencer safety laws and make it easy for anyone to buy a gun silencer without a background check.

For too long, lawmakers have listened to the gun lobby rather than the American people. It’s time to remind them that they work for us. I urge our lawmakers to pass laws that would protect marginalized Americans and send a strong message that we, as a society, do not tolerate hate crimes of any kind.

One such bill is the Disarm Hate Act, which was introduced earlier this year by Sen. Bob Casey and Rep. David Cicilline. This would prohibit people convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from buying or possessing guns. And of course, I will never stop in pursuit of pushing our lawmakers to close the background check loophole that allows people to purchase guns in unlicensed sales – online or at a gun show – with no background checks and no questions asked.

While there is no one solution  to our nation’s gun violence issue, especially as it pertains to hate crimes, we cannot afford to have our voices drowned out by those who refuse to prioritize public safety, especially for our transgender family and friends. We must speak out for those who were killed this year – Chyna Doll Dupree, Jojo Striker, Keke Collier, Ebony Morgan, Teetee Dangerfield, and all the others whose stories we may never know. Too many have lives have been cut short. It is time for us to disarm hate.

Shannon Watts is the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and a mom of five. She lives in Colorado.

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