My Second Amendment Friend’s Response to the Pulse Massacre

While we were talking, Joe Smith was loading bullets into a magazine for his assault weapon. But he doesn’t call it an assault weapon. Joe’s prefered term is modern sporting rifle.

We were discussing the mass murder of Gay men and their allies that happened during Latin Night at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Soon after the massacre, there was a gun rights organisation that offered free shooting lessons to the LGBT community. Joe thought it was a great idea and asked me if I felt the same.

I told him that I had no problem with people using firearms to defend themselves. However, the timing of the offer immediately after the massacre struck me as inappropriate. People were shook up already; they didn’t need their fears stoked by those who assume that the dead in Orlando would have survived if they had all packed heat. The Queer community does not seek safety behind the barrel of a gun, and I believe we are stronger for it, despite all the threats and violence sent our way.

Joe feared that we would be perceived as easy targets.

Let me say something about Joe: he is a devout Catholic, has a PhD, and teaches at a Catholic university. He fully supports the LGBT community. Having served time as a Marine in Iraq, Joe is respectful to Muslims, women, and damn near everyone he meets. I’m sure there are people he doesn’t respect – I’ve just never met them, just as I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like Joe.

As a devout gun enthusiast, Joe does not feel that he should give up his rights to not just handguns and traditional hunting rifles but also weapons of war, and he lives in a state where such weapons are legal. He claims that guns are not simply possessions – gun ownership is a lifestyle, and assault weapon owners such as himself constitute a culture that deserves as much respect as the LGBT community.

I asked him how he could consider an AR 15, a weapon modeled after the M-16 military rifle that I used when I went through Marine Corps boot camp, to be a “modern sporting rifle.” How could any hunter feel that a semiautomatic rifle, (a weapon that could be quickly converted into an automatic rifle with some small modifications) with 30 rounds or more ready to fire in a matter of seconds, is something one should use to shoot deer?

Joe’s answer was telling. In a heartbeat, he went from hunting animals to shooting humans. He felt that he and other members of his culture should have the right to defend themselves against evil people. But, I asked, how is an AR 15 better for home defense than a reliable pistol with a max of ten rounds? Did he feel that a mob would attack him? His answer was that the liberty of the nation was at stake. “You never know,” he said, implying that the civilian population of America must be forever ready to fight against its own government.

The truth was out! As I suspected, the real issue was never about hunting. His modern sporting rifle was actually a weapon of war after all, and he knew it. But there was an even deeper reason: Joe simply wanted such weapons and didn’t like the idea of being denied them. Along with an ingrained sense of distrust of the government he had served overseas, he had a profound sense of entitlement that included having access to weapons designed to mow down dozens of his fellows because, well, you never know.

I told Joe that his reasoning struck me as paranoid. He did not get angry. I have no doubt he heard similar critiques plenty of times before I gave him my version of it.

I am honored to have Joe as my friend. He is intelligent, funny, and caring. He also gives me a glimpse into a mindset that I find harmful to the basic underpinnings of democracy and reason. Without him, I would be deprived of somebody who fiercely defends a position that I condemn, yet can argue that position with grace, humor, and respect.

I feel that weapons of war should be limited to active duty military personnel. But if there is any civilian I would trust with a weapon of war, it would be Joe.

Dallas Blues

Black Lives Matter (BLM) and the police have one important thing in common: they are both collectives made up of different organizations nationwide. Among BLM, there are those who foment discord and disrespect, as did the group that disrupted the Toronto Pride Parade and insisted that the Toronto Police Department not be allowed to participate in future parades. Among the police, there are those officers who do heinous things to people like Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Diamond Reynolds, and countless others, and all too often those officers are shielded by their departments.

And then there are members of BLM and the Dallas Police Department, who stood together as BLM held a peaceful protest. Some people just can’t stand for that, and a sniper took aim at the police to make damn sure it doesn’t happen again. On the political side, people such as failed Illinois politician Joe Walsh took aim at President Obama and BLM. In a move clearly designed to increase the violence, Walsh tweeted, “This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you,” to make damn sure the police do not stand with those who seek justice from unjust cops. Walsh is every bit as dangerous as the Dallas sniper.

We all know that ridiculously brave police officers took on the murderer in Orlando at the risk of their lives. We all know that members of BLM address a very real problem in America. As for me, I stand with anyone who stands for justice, just as the police and members of BLM stood together yesterday.

Beauty

Mickey Weems

On June 12, 50 people were killed and over 50 were injured by Omar Mateen in Pulse, an LGBT dance club in Orlando, Florida.

We’ve been living long enough with mass shootings that we recognize certain features in American men who commit mass shootings: They tend to mistreat women who are close to them, have an obsession with guns, and are repulsed by men with same-sex orientation. Mateen fit the bill. Unfortunately, so do plenty of other guys who should never be allowed near a firearm, but under current law are permitted to own guns, including weapons of war.

Immediately after the shooting, social media were flooded with posts about how sensible gun laws do no good, and how Good Guys With Guns could have saved the day in Pulse. From my research on the Orlando Massacre, three things have emerged. First, Mateen faced Good Guys With Guns from the moment he opened fire until they drove him to seek refuge in a bathroom, but gun enthusiasts don’t care. Second, those same enthusiasts will consistently use the Good Guys With Guns argument to defend ownership of assault weapons – two separate issues that they seem incapable of distinguishing. Third, they say that all those people died because LGBT people are too wimpy and too liberal to become Good Guys With Guns, despite plenty of evidence that such a claim is bullshit.

I am getting tired of gun-obsessed people bad-mouthing the LGBT community to further their cause. But what they’ve said is not the worst that’s out there. It is just the tip of a massive bullshit iceberg concerning terrorism and the Orlando Massacre.

Bullshit From Political Leaders

Not all terrorists carry weapons. Some do their work behind the scenes in the halls of government.

US Representative Pete Sessions is a perfect example, a man who boldly refused to let logic get in his way as he erased our LGBT identity from the site of the Orlando Massacre. Referring to Pulse, the name of the dance club where the murders took place, he said, “It was a young person’s nightclub, I’m told. And there were some [LGBT people] there, but it was mostly Latinos.” Because Latinos are not Gay.

Unlike Mateen, Sessions is not a lone wolf. Nearly all of his fellow homophobes in Congress lamented the loss of life at Pulse, but refused to name the community that was Mateen’s target. They were Humanity’s Champions but not ours, scrubbing the Queer blood off the massacre so that it became An Attack On All Of Us (excluding Muslims, of course).

Bullshit From Paranoid Men

Potential mass murderers can be difficult to detect, precisely because the signs that distinguish them are common among men who identify as Straight. And one of the most pervasive markers for Straight masculinity is a preference for entertainment that portrays violence on a massive scale to be consumed in the form of movies, TV shows, men’s team sports, MMA, music, and video games. Little wonder, then, that there is a robust market for assault weapons designed for battlefield slaughter.

The National Rifle Association encourages violent men to fulfill their deepest fantasies of carnage by providing them with the necessary tools. It has undermined every effort to regulate gun production, distribution, and ownership, even to the point of protecting the right of terror suspects to buy firearms and forbidding government health officials from doing research on gun violence.

Firearms manufacturers have littered the country with millions of assault weapons for violent men to play with. Factories continue to produce and sell them to just about whoever wants them, then claim no responsibility when massacres happen.

I know men who demand access to such weapons of war. Some of them are my friends. They are all, without exception, stricken with deep paranoia that has paralyzed their ability to reason. I’ve spoken with dozens of them and have seen this for myself. At this very moment somewhere in America, paranoid souls of the same mindset are succumbing to even more severe forms of mental illness. No doubt a few will be making headlines soon.

The Supreme Bullshit of Men Who Hate Gays but Feel Same-Sex Desire

Some media and even the FBI wanted to erase any hint of homo from Omar Mateen’s identity. He confused the hell out of commentators, who didn’t understand how he, a Muslim man, could have a wife, kid, and Grindr account, so they claimed he was “allegedly” Gay. Who was the real Omar Mateen? they asked.

Girl, please.

Most of us in the LGBT community are not surprised by his double life, any more than we are shocked if a virulent homophobe is caught blowing his male co-worker after happy hour, playing footsie with an undercover officer in an airport bathroom, making out with a fellow elder while on their two-year Mormon mission, or sending dick-pics to a handsome Catholic priest who returns the favor. We all know that the biggest winners in Cleveland during the Republican Convention (which has banned guns on the convention floor) will be the young, strapping Gay4Pay contingent waiting in hotel lobbies throughout downtown to service all those happily married, God-fearing men.

In our eyes, Mateen’s story is so common that it’s actually rather boring. He acted butcher-than-thou (oh, the irony!), bought some big guns, beat his wife, got upset when his son saw him mesmerized by the sight of two men kissing – he wasn’t homosexual, except when he was.
His dad said that the massacre was not about Islam, and the old man was right. Before Omar Mateen died, he claimed allegiance to three radical groups that hate each other. ISIS of course claimed he belonged to them, but that claim is as bullshit as debating whether he had homosexual tendencies.

I spoke with a Muslim friend of mine who told me that Mateen added insult to injury by not only by committing murder in the name of Islam but by doing so during Ramadhan, a time especially dedicated to peace. Muslim communities across the nation have raised money for the victims and their families.

But don’t expect gun-loving Islamophobes to believe any of it. The Orlando Massacre is too convenient as an excuse to hate Muslims one and all, put down Gays for being weak, and stock up on more weapons.

Solutions to Bullshit?

The Orlando Massacre has had two positive results: People on the terrorist watch list will hopefully no longer be able to legally obtain firearms in the near future, and la comunidad latina is becoming more supportive of its LGBT members. As the front page of Puerto Rico’s largest newspaper El Nuevo Dia said two days after the massacre, “Ellos Son Nuestros Muertos” (They Are Our Dead).

There is no solution that can prevent violent men who run away from their orientation from doing terrible things. But we can make it harder for them. Vote for pro-gun control candidates who are willing to shut down unlicensed sales of firearms at gun shows, or even shut down gun shows altogether. If people want firearms, they should go through licensed gun shops to get them. Require training before purchase and proof of firearms insurance. Vote for candidates who support a ban on the production and sale of assault weapons for civilian use, and ban all private ownership of all modern weapons of war, even if bought legally in the past.

Vote for candidates who are willing to classify dangerous religious rhetoric against the LGBT community as hate speech, and at the very least remove tax-exempt status for those houses of worship that do not comply. And don’t put up with bullshit arguments from Bible/Qur’an-quoting friends or family members that endanger us all.

We must collectively bring our paranoid Second Amendment brothers back to sanity. Call them out on their madness, and let them know that they make us unsafe. Remind them that it is from the ranks of assault weapon junkies like themselves that future mass shooters will arise.

Our Heritage

Contrary to the opinion of every macho fuck I’ve argued with about the Orlando Massacre, Mateen didn’t choose Pulse because we were an easy target – he knew the dance club had armed police officers on site. He chose Pulse because that was where LGBT people were stronger, sassier, and fiercer than anywhere else he’d ever been. Pulse didn’t just offend him – its beauty shook him to his core.

We are at our best when we dance together. The Stonewall Uprising was triggered when police raided a Queer dance club, and from Stonewall have come every Pride parade, every AIDS protest, every Ellen episode, every Gay-Straight Alliance, every RuPaul’s Drag Race, every women’s music festival, every ballroom competition for realness, and every circuit party. The dance floor is our source of power, and it is every bit as important today as a site for resistance as it was in 1969.

Photo: Reuters: Getty Image

perfection is inferior to transformation

This website is dedicated to things that I’ve written over the years as a journalist, scholar, human rights activist, and a child of God(s). There are two essays on folklore: “The Discipline of Folklore: heresy” and “The Discipline of Folklore: vanity.” I also added links to my dissertation and book, The Fierce Tribe.

Feel free to check out my other site, Qualia Folk, which is dedicated to celebration of and scholarship on the Gay community. Qualia Folk is also the home of the Qualia Encyclopedia of Gay Folklife, free of charge with open access to all.

Also, I write regularly for the following publications: beachmonkey.com, Edge Publications, Outlook Columbus, and Just Circuit.

Mickey

Dancing with my husband, Kevin Mason, in Cleveland, 2001

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