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The Tragic Confluence of Guns, Kids, Mass Shootings, and Trans Identities

The Tragic Confluence of Guns, Kids, Mass Shootings, and Trans Identities

Police at the Covenant School
Photo by Benjamin Hendren/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In the U.S., it’s more guns over children, with the extreme right continuing to say it’s not guns that kill, it’s sick people – like LGBTQ+ people – that do.

Last year, guns surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of death for children in the U.S. Just let that sink in for a moment. Children dying at a young age is rare and gut-wrenching in the first place, and how they are able to be so close to guns is gruesome. Among other countries, in Germany, guns rank 13th as a cause of children's deaths, Australia 11th, and Japan 15th.

The shooting in Nashville Monday was the 131st mass shooting in the U.S. to date in 2023. We’re not even into April yet, which means if this pace keeps up, we could experience over 500 by the end of the year.

Gun laws in the United States are pathetic. The Council on Foreign Relations examined U.S. gun laws compared to other countries. It found that the U.S., with less than 5 percent of the world’s population, has 46 percent of the world’s guns. It ranks number one in firearms per capita and has the highest homicide-by-firearm rate of the world’s most developed nations. Stronger gun laws might help prevent mass shootings and children’s deaths.

The American Civil Liberties Union says there there are at least 150 bills filed by Republican lawmakers across the U.S. that target transgender people. More than 100 of those look to ban gender-affirming care.

Monday, in a horrific confluence, all these atrocious statistics collided, violently, in a Christian school in Nashville. Six people were killed, three of them children 9 years old. While these beautiful souls’ lives were lost, the media spent most of yesterday haggling over the gender identity of the killer.

It almost seemed as if the story was veering from the fact that more children died from gun violence into a sensationalistic scavenger hunt to determine the queerness of the killer, who also died at the scene.

What difference does it make? A killer is a killer is a killer. And one who murders children is even worse.

I’ve written a lot about mass shootings over the years, at Pulse, at Club Q, and those that targeted our community. In El Paso and Dayton and how dates on a calendar are filling up so fast, you may share your birthday with a mass shooting. My birthday is June 12, the same day as the Pulse shooting anniversary.

When I was in Helsinki last summer, coincidentally for the city's Pride March, I talked with many of the participants. When I told them I was from the U.S., the first question many asked was “Why do you have so many guns?”

In the U.S., it's more guns and fewer children. And nobody in our local, state, or national governments gives a damn about how that scale is weighed more in favor of guns than kids. Yes, Democrats introduce bill after bill after bill, always in the wake of a mass shooting, and then get eerily metaphorically shot down by Republicans beholden to protecting the Second Amendment. This excuse is almost as criminal as the acts of violence.

And acts of violence, regrettably, are something that the trans community is all too familiar with. The medical journal JAMA reported on a study of 139,484 individuals and found that transgender people had elevated overall mortality compared with cisgender people, specifically deaths from external causes including suicides, and homicides. Just last week, we reported on the death by suicide of a 25-year-old trans flight attendant for United Airlines.

While state legislatures, particularly in the South, go after the transgender community, many of them also have the most lenient gun laws in the U.S. Take Mississippi, for example. The state ranks 50th as a “national failure” when it comes to gun laws; yet, in February, the governor signed a bill banning transgender health care for minors. The 49th on the list is Arkansas. I wrote, just this past weekend, about the state’s governor signing an anti-trans bathroom bill instead of addressing Arkansas’s weak gun laws.

I wrote that Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the bill was meant to protect students from “the left’s woke agenda,” which must mean that the agenda is more dangerous than the state’s gun laws. Arkansas citizens don’t require a license for rifles, shotguns, and handguns or a permit to carry or purchase a gun, nor do they have to register their firearms.

It's quite easy to see what the priorities are for many state legislatures and many of their constituents. Guns. Guns. Guns. And who they consider the real enemy, and the real intrusion into their freedoms: transgender individuals.

There is absolutely no defending what the shooter did Monday. If the shooter was upset about being the target of the state’s recent anti-LGBTQ+ legislation signed by Gov. Bill Lee, there are other, more humane, and saner ways to voice displeasure.

The real tragedy here is that more children were lost, while more anti-gun legislation gathers dust. And there was also the excruciating misfortune of the shooter possibly being transgender. Even if the shooter's manifesto is an ode to MAGA and Donald Trump, the possibility that the shooter is transgender is only pouring gasoline on the burning fire of the extreme right’s hate of transgender people.

The Nashville shooter will be featured in campaign ads spread across the red states, the South, and in MAGA pockets around the country. These incendiary ads will claim transgender people are not only pedophiles who groom and stalk children, but they kill them too.

Those ads, and the language accompanying them, will be grotesque. They will be uncompromisingly dangerous. And they will do nothing. Absolutely nothing in protecting children, while further demonizing transgender people, who are arguably the most marginalized community in the U.S.

The seeds are already being planted. Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted, "How much hormones like testosterone and medications for mental illness was the transgender Nashville school shooter taking?" And as we reported earlier, "Far-right extremists and transphobic people began spreading misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation focused on transgender people and not guns." Memes, videos, and graphic art are already permeating social media.

The bodies of Monday's victims haven't been buried yet. Have they all forgotten about the children who died? Where is the sorrow for the lives lost?

And the Human Rights Campaign tweeted in response to all the madness, “We still don’t know all of the facts about what happened in Nashville,” adding, “We do know that every study available shows that transgender and non-binary people are much more likely to be the victims of violence rather than the perpetrator of it. Regardless of the reason for this shooting, the use of violence is reprehensible, and we renew our call for common-sense gun safety legislation.”

The extreme right will step on the pedal and push out the lie that guns don’t kill, deranged people do, and no one is more deranged than someone who is LGBTQ+. And the insidious peril of that statement being pushed on a wide swath of people in this country is that many are being led to believe that it's true.

Views expressed in The Advocate’s opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, equalpride.

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