A queer take on gun con­trol

GA Voice - - Sometimes 'Y' -

“I sup­port clos­ing the gun-show loop­hole and pun­ish­ing straw-man pur­chases, and I be­lieve those who buy semi­au­to­matic weapons should at least be sub­jected to the Cosmo-esque per­son­al­ity quizzes that many com­pa­nies re­quire for new hires.”

I try to pro­mote joy and peace in my gift giv­ing, which is why most of the hol­i­day presents I pass out are THC-based. I had an odd, un­fa­mil­iar feel­ing last week as I licked and sealed an en­ve­lope and pre­pared to wish some­one a merry Christ­mas with a gift card for a lo­cal shoot­ing range and a coupon for a free ma­chine gun rental.

I’ve al­ways dis­liked firearms and all forms of gun cul­ture: a mil­i­tary stocked to arm Ar­maged­don; po­lice ar­se­nals and an ac­com­pa­ny­ing mind­set that re­clas­si­fies neigh­bor­hoods as bat­tle­fields; the way Hol­ly­wood treats sex and cig­a­rettes as more prob­lem­atic than ex­ces­sive gun­fire; cer­tain civil­ian groups’—white hun­ters and dis­af­fected black youth, as two ex­am­ples—con­di­tion­ing to view firearms as an as­ser­tion (and ex­ten­sion) of man­hood.

My ab­hor­rence of guns has not been de­vel­oped in the ab­stract. One of my teenage step­broth­ers was gunned down when I was 11. I wit­nessed my first mur­der at age 15 when some­one opened fire at the neigh­bor­hood swim­ming pool. Sev­eral class­mates and peers were killed in armed rob­beries or by stray bul­lets, and two of my neph­ews have been shot—most re­cently, my sis­ter called me a few nights be­fore Thanks­giv­ing to tell me that her 15-year-old son was be­ing rushed to the hos­pi­tal.

Guns evoke a sense of chaos more than safety for me. I pre­fer to re­duce my prox­im­ity to them, and I ap­pre­ci­ate ef­forts to keep them out of com­mon ar­eas like shop­ping malls and sports venues.

Over the past decade, I’ve de­vel­oped a mean­ing­ful friend­ship with a mar­ried het­ero­sex­ual couple, who at some point in the last five years be­came Sec­ond Amend­ment fa­nat­ics, un­will­ing to sit in their liv­ing room or eat at a restau­rant with­out a hand­gun hol­stered at their sides. They’ve evolved from “open carry” en­thu­si­asts to devo­tees of sur­vival­ism, and I some­times worry whether they ap­pre­ci­ate the dif­fer­ence be­tween preparing for the apoc­a­lypse and root­ing for its ar­rival.

I once told the hus­band how much it meant to me that through­out our friend­ship, de­spite our di­verse back­grounds and his be­ing raised in South Ge­or­gia, he had never made me feel un­com­fort­able—never judged or cen­sored me—for be­ing gay. I con­fessed my per­sonal dis­com­fort with guns and my con­fu­sion over the fel­low­ship he feels among Sec­ond Amend­ment en­thu­si­asts, and I com­mit­ted to not let­ting our friend­ship be di­min­ished by reser­va­tions I have about his new iden­tity and life­style.

I know it’s a third rail of queer pol­i­tics to even tan­gen­tially com­pare the LGBT ex­pe­ri­ence to any­thing but ven­er­ated hu­man rights strug­gles, as if ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity were not his­tor­i­cally (and still) per­se­cuted un­der the aus­pices of be­ing a threat to pub­lic health. Still, I am un­com­fort­able ad­vo­cat­ing that a group of Amer­i­cans—gun own­ers—should have their con­sti­tu­tional free­doms di­luted be­cause of the po­ten­tial mis­use of firearms by oth­ers.

I sup­port clos­ing the gun-show loop­hole and pun­ish­ing straw-man pur­chases, and I be­lieve those who buy semi­au­to­matic weapons should at least be sub­jected to the Cosmo-esque per­son­al­ity quizzes that many com­pa­nies re­quire for new hires. I have lit­tle faith that any of this would re­duce gun violence in the United States, so I lean to­ward the chaos of free­dom in­stead of the se­cu­rity of pro­hi­bi­tion.

Ryan Lee is an At­lanta writer.

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