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The NRA Takes Aim at Us

NRA ad

The National Rifle Association's latest ad is tantamount to a declaration of war on people of color and the LGBT community.

The NRA thinks Americans should be afraid. Afraid of what? Us.

That's the only reasonable takeaway from the glitzy ad starring the National Rifle Association's paid spokeswoman, Dana Loesch. With grim imagery of protests and martial language, the ad shows police confrontations and warns about protesters who fight "racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia."

Yes: According to the NRA, women, people of color and LGBT people are the real threats facing America.

The ad would have been bigoted and bizarre regardless of when it aired. But the NRA chose to release it during Pride Month, one year after the Pulse massacre -- the largest mass shooting in U.S. history -- and just days after a jury acquitted the Minnesota police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile, a black motorist and legal concealed carry permit holder, in front of his girlfriend, who live-streamed the aftermath on Facebook.

This ad is meant to do two things -- stoke fear among everyday Americans and sell more guns. Nothing else matters. Among the facts that don't matter to the gun lobby and the NRA is that even before the mass murder at Pulse, transgender people were already the target of unspeakable violence -- often carried out with guns.

On June 25, 17-year-old transgender woman Ava Le'Ray Barrin was shot and killed in Athens, Ga. She is at least the 14th trans person murdered -- all of whom have been trans women of color -- in the year so far that we know of. Most were killed with a firearm.

Last year, advocates tracked at least 22 deaths of transgender people -- overwhelmingly women of color. At least half were shot, including one who was shot and killed by the police. Most of the transgender victims killed in 2015 also died of gunshot wounds. In other words, the 14 deaths this year mark a disturbing trend -- we are on pace for a record level of violence against trans people, especially trans women of color.

Of course, we know the gun lobby's answer -- more guns.

More guns are not the answer. A gun did not protect Philando Castile.

We have more guns than people in our country. The NRA's formula is simple and timeless: Fight fire with fire by goading people to buy even more guns. Dial up the fear as needed. Recall that, as Vox has noted, the gun lobby--falsely -- painted Hurricane Sandy as anarchy in New York.

We have tried allowing people to have all the guns, and any kind of gun, they want. We have tried letting civilian police departments have military-grade weapons. The results of that experiment has been catastrophic. The NRA's more-guns strategy hasn't stopped the violence; it has only increased the gun deaths. But it spurs more gun sales and more militarization of our police and our streets. Those are features, not bugs, in the NRA's program.

Tackling the epidemic of violence that has targeted transgender people and many others won't be easy. Fewer guns that are harder to get would be a good place to start.

VICTORIA M. RODRIGUEZ-ROLDAN is senior policy counsel and director of the Trans/Gender Non-Conforming Justice and Disability Justice Projects at the National LGBTQ Task Force. MARK GLAZE is the former executive director of Everytown for Gun Safety, the nation's largest gun violence prevention group. He's currently senior adviser to Guns Down.

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Mark Glaze and Victoria M. Rodriguez-Roldan