Feature photo by Seth Herald/Getty Images
Do we say something?
What is there to say that we haven’t already said so many times?
Messages in the Autostraddle Slack’s senior staff Office channel have sounded like this too often to count, to want to count. The Autostraddle team counts parents and teachers among our numbers and beyond that we’re also all of us, heartbroken humans.
The alleged shooter who took the lives of three young children and three teachers was trans. Aiden Hale was also white, likely was contending with mental illness, probably lacked empathy, clearly felt entitled to kill other people, and was a former student of the Christian school, The Covenant School, where at least one church leader was accused of molesting a child during Aiden’s tenure at the school. It is a right-wing conservative institution. It’s easy to want to go for one factor or another, but the truth is always somewhere deep in a complex web leading to a person’s decision to commit an atrocity like this. Reasons aside, though, we can still focus on how he had the means. He had the ready access to guns that we have as residents of the United States. Without guns, all of those other things would still be true, but you can’t have a shooting without a gun.
This was the 131st mass shooting in the US in 2023. Mass shootings in the US have been on the rise. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 10,001 gun deaths so far this year. In 2022, there were 44,333. While firearm related deaths are not in the top ten causes of death for all people, nationwide, they have overtaken all other causes of death in children and adolescents according to The New England Journal of Medicine. I don’t believe that there is any way that anyone, when faced with these numbers, could sincerely and without an ulterior agenda, say that guns don’t pose a deeply serious threat to the safety of the people living in the United States — and especially to children and teens. I think most of you know how dangerous our country’s unrestricted access to guns has made life for kids. These are guns in peers’ hands, parents’ hands, their ex-boyfriends’ hands, strangers’ hands, their own hands. Guns. The physical item.
And yet, I am writing this today because the alleged shooter was trans. Which has already become a conservative talking point. Because there is an ulterior agenda here. Or really, multiple, as I see it, so let’s break it down.
1. Conservatives want absolutely unrestricted gun control for white, cishet people.
It’s critical here to note that the right does not want blanket, unrestricted access to guns for Americans. No, because in fact, in the US, for the most part the only times that gun restrictions have been enacted, it’s been in response to marginalized people arming themselves. Think: The Black Panthers
Then, there are at least two distinct roads that lead toward wanting people to have access to firearms. There is the money aspect. The NRA’s lobbying is deeply tied to the money that is inherent in the weapons manufacturing and sales industry. So, there’s the lobbying itself, which has influenced legislation and almost certainly influenced the Supreme Court’s ruling in June 2022, which says that lower courts, when examining gun laws, “Under the Supreme Court’s new test, the government that wants to uphold a gun restriction must look back into history to show it is consistent with the country’s ‘historical tradition of firearm regulation.'” Which, in plain speak, means that safety is irrelevant to decision making around gun laws unless it fits into whatever narrative about historic firearm regulation.
The second road leading toward frenzied firearm accrual on the part of people on the right stems from the fantasy that there is some kind of mass conflict on the horizon, a second civil war, this time between the left and the right. The right-wing term “Boogaloo Boys” comes from the sequel to the movie Breakin’ which was Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. I’m sure you’ve heard someone jokingly refer to a sequel as something something: Electric Boogaloo. Anyway, herein is the origin. They’re an armed right-wing group hoping and praying for The US Civil War: Electric Boogaloo. Think this doesn’t hit close to home? My mom, a libertarian prepper who responds to ideas of socialism with “I don’t want 10 people living in my house” and who wore her MAGA shirt last time I saw her just to taunt me, recently bought a shotgun. She doesn’t need one. It’s part of her vision of herself, part of how she views her identity. No one is going to aggravate their base by pushing for gun reform.
2. We are well aware that the right is doing their best to push us off the cliff into fascism and that anti-trans legislation and rhetoric is a cornerstone of their strategy, especially now that they’ve already managed to get Roe v. Wade overturned.
There’s too much to outline here, but I trust that the audience reading this knows that trans and nonbinary and gender nonconforming people — our freedoms, our bodies, our safety, our everything is under attack. Everyone who is not a white cishet man is under attack. We’ve covered the fight against transphobic legislation and rhetoric and rising fascism in various ways, here are some recent examples. Stef’s post today is another brilliant example.
Which takes us to:
3. Framing trans people and leftists as dangerous is a critical strategy on the part of right-wingers and the state for further cementing Republican control.
Among the sentiments I’m seeing on Twitter, well… Marjorie is just so good at summarizing so we’ll show one of hers again (this was later taken down for violating Twitter Rules).
On Twitter, I’m seeing calls for any trans person using firearm imagery or talking about arming themselves (as again, is a 2nd Amendment right) to be designated as a domestic terrorist, people talking about trans people having higher rates of mental illness (it has nothing to do with anti-trans hate apparently) and saying that, for example, no trans person should be able to purchase a firearm. These are the same type of people who send out Christmas photos of themselves and their kids holding guns then turning around and laying their dismay on thick when it comes to any imagery of people resisting and protesting. People who are openly transphobic are calling this shooting a hate crime and calling on the FBI to investigate it as such. Because, again, gun restrictions only enter the conversation on the part of the right when marginalized people arm themselves. While I’m not personally a gun owner, I can see the logic on the part of queer and trans people who’ve decided to learn to fire guns and to own firearms. It’s an understandable response to having your life and freedom threatened on the daily.
That said, let’s talk about that specific wording about “domestic terrorism.” That’s something that is coming up again and again, more frequently, recently, as a charge being leveraged against leftist organizers.
You might be familiar with the alleged forest defenders / concert attendees who were jailed with domestic terrorism charges. The concert was allegedly in support of the Stop Cop City movement, where those involved have protested the construction of a police training center in the city-owned Weelaunee Forest. The police training center, to my knowledge, will have a “mock” city where police can train, which I have no doubt could and will likely be used to train cops in quashing protests. Those “domestic terrorism” charges are more than, say, a trespassing charge, and are in fact highly serious charges that mean higher bail. Higher bail means a greater likelihood that someone has to stay in jail until their trial which is, even if they’re acquitted, a means of imprisoning someone. Calling for trans people to be labeled as domestic terrorists for being trans is no small thing. Then, when we consider that overt pressure, there is more clandestine pressure, such as the operations carried out by undercover cops who have infiltrated recent movements and activist communities and attempted to entrap activists into committing felonies. There’s the fact that the FBI was found to have been monitoring and surveilling a leftist bookstore. Protest and organizing and existing as trans or being a feminist or supporting racial justice are not (federally) illegal activities, and yet the FBI’s report stated, according to the above linked article:
“Pro-abortion extremists used the PCB to prepare for a pro-abortion direct action, according to the same source,’ the document reads, apparently referring to a confidential informant. Although the exact number is unknown, the FBI maintains a roster of at least 15,000 informants, or ‘confidential human sources’ (CHS) in FBI-speak, some of whom are paid as much as $100,000 per case to spy on people.”
An owner-worker of the bookstore said that this must have referred to a “sign-painting event.”
Meanwhile, despite the fact that the Department of Homeland Security identified white supremacist groups (and not antifa and definitely not trans people) as the largest threat to domestic security, little has been done by our government about that threat, even as mass shootings continue to take place.
Which takes me to where I have been trying to go since the beginning of this piece.
We have to keep our focus. We have to keep fighting. And we have to keep supporting each other and maintaining those lines of connection.
What are we fighting for? For Black lives and climate justice and and for gun control and trans rights and getting people out of office who are dangerous and kids’ rights to, say, read gay books and and and and… so many things that so often come to just not having our lives ruled and dominated and crushed by these right-wing vultures who are going to descend on this tragic news and tear it apart for their own gain.
Conservatives are going to try to leverage this tragedy to further paint trans people as violent extremists, to try and equate queerness and leftist ideals with domestic terrorism. We cannot let them win.
So what can we do?
- Comfort each other. Reach out to someone you haven’t heard from in a while, see if they’re okay. Comfort yourself. Take care of yourself in the way you need to.
- Support activists facing trumped up charges by supporting the Atlanta Solidarity Fund. And/or support your local bail fund while you’re at it.
- Support people who need abortions by donating to an abortion fund or helping the people who are opening new clinics.
- Materially support trans people.
- Practice your CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED RIGHT to protest. Exercise those First Amendment rights. The Second Amendment can’t be the only one that’s important, right? (Haha I mean, we know the answer but yeah.)
- Practice security culture and do a personal risk assessment.
- Volunteer! Get involved! No money? No problem! In particular, I know that people need lawyers! Lawyers are always and often desperately needed. Remember, you don’t have to do everything, but if everyone is plugging in somewhere, in some way, each according to their ability, that work helps keep you connected and our communities safer, fed better, more housed — all the things. There’s all kinds of work to be done from remote, totally computer based work to in-person, on-the-ground business. There is really truly no end to the need for volunteers. The more we build up our mutual aid infrastructures and find ways to support each other, the better we will be able to withstand attacks on our rights and persons.
Don’t let whatever they’re gonna try to throw at us have a chilling effect. I realize that everything is scary and hopeless. Scaring people away from being outspoken about being themselves, their beliefs, from participating in public life and/or activism is also a movement-killing strategy. We have to do our best to not let that happen both by shoring up our defenses (which are rooted in community care and mutual aid and self care) and by remembering that there is some safety in numbers. (Or so I hope.)
And, finally, thank you for being here. I just want to be sure I invite you to share any thoughts, suggestions, venting, calls for hugs, anything you need to at this moment in the comments below. Sending you so much love.