Gays Against Guns: LGBTQ Activists Take a Stand Against Gun Violence

A group of LGBTQ activists are taking a stand against gun violence, with hundreds participating in direct actions against gun companies and their allies around the country.

Gays Against Guns (GAG) formed following the massacre at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando this past June, in which a gunman murdered 49 people at the popular gay bar. The activist collective has chapters in 9 cities and boasts more than 300 members in New York City. The group plans to target gun manufacturers including Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger & Co – the two largest in the United States – as well as the National Rifle Association.

The group’s Facebook page states: “Queer complacency is over. We call for a ban on assault weapons and sensible gun regulation. We will not let our 49 siblings’ death be in vain.”

The direct actions – slated to kick off Monday – are partly inspired by older activists in the group who participated in the Act Up gay rights campaign of the 1980s, which offered advocacy for people in the gay community affected by AIDS and broadcasted their plight. Act Up’s direct action approach is credited with successfully bringing AIDS into the public spotlight.

GAG seeks to not only elevate the discussion around gun violence and rail against the cynical lobbying of the NRA that persistently blocks meaningful gun laws, but to target companies and individuals with financial stakes in weapons manufacturing.

On Monday, activists staged a “die in” outside of BlackRock, an investment firm with large investments in Smith & Wesson.

Cathy Marino-Thomas – a campaigner for GAG – discussed the rationale for protesting BlackRock:

Here is a company whose CEO, Laurence Fink, prides himself on their socially conscious investment yet comes right out and tells clients that mass shootings worked to their financial advantage,” said campaigner Cathy Marino-Thomas. “They’re smart enough to acknowledge they profit from massacres but can’t find a way to unload those stocks? That’s amoral.

GAG also looks to call attention to firms that vie benefits to NRA members, including car rental companies and Visa.

The nascent organization may just be getting off the ground, but its moral vision and willingness to act are inspiring qualities. With more organizations representing a greater diversity of US citizens forming a loose coalition fighting for sensible gun laws, the tide may slowly turn in favor of sanity in a political arena dominated by Second Amendment extremists.

Terror in Munich: Live Updates on Multiple Shootings

(Karlsplatz, Munich)

Update: 9:10PM ET
Germany authorities have confirmed that there was one assailant in today’s shootings, an 18 year old man with dual Iranian and German citizenship.

As of now, authorities are uncertain of the shooter’s motives, though there have been reports that the individual shouted anti-foreigner epithets. In total the individual killed 9 people and injured at least 21 before taking his own life.

That’s it for today’s rolling coverage. The Tap will have more as details emerge in Munich over the coming days.
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Update: 5:45PM ET

A witness has told a local media outlet that one gunman shouted anti-foreigner slurs before opening fire.

Authorities have updated the number of fatalities to 9, which may include one of the attack’s perpetrators who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Additionally, authorities are requesting that individuals with relevant photos and videos of the attack should send them to the police instead of posting them online,
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Update: 4:34PM ET
Authorities have revised the number of fatalities to 8.

Appearing at the United Nations in New York City, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson provided the following statement:

Everybody is shocked and saddened by what has taken place. Our thoughts are very much with the victims, their families, with the people of Munich, and the people of Germany more widely.

If, as seems very likely, this is another terrorist incident, then I think it proves once again that we have a global phenomenon now and a global sickness that we have to tackle both at source – in the areas where the cancer is being incubated in the middle east – and also of course around the world.

Authorities are yet to identify the motive or background of the perpetrator(s) of today’s shooting.

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Update: 3:24PM ET
Local media outlets are now reporting that at least one of the shooters has died from self-inflicted gun shot wounds.

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Update: 3:09PM ET
US President Barack Obama has issued a pledge of support for Germany:

We don’t yet know exactly what’s happening there, but obviously our hearts go out to those who may have been injured. We are going to pledge all the support they may need.

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Update: 2:32PM ET
Authorities are requesting that social media users refrain from posting video/photo of police operations so as to not help the perpetrator(s). The US consulate in Munich has issued an emergency message to US citizens advising them to seek shelter. The city of Munich has declared a state of emergency and has urged citizens to remain indoors.

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Update: 2:18PM ET
Unconfirmed witness reports indicate three gunmen active in the area near the Olympia shopping centre in Munich. Authorities now confirm at least 6 dead.

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Reports are coming in from Munich, Germany, where an undisclosed number of gunmen have opened fire at multiple locations.

Authorities have confirmed three dead so far. Current unconfirmed reports indicate the locations of the shootings to be Karlsplatz, Stachus, and Odeonplatz.

A police spokesperson has said issued the following statement:

We believe there was more than one perpetrator. The first reports came at 6 pm, the shooting apparently began at a McDonald’s in the shopping centre. There are still people in the shopping centre. We are trying to get the people out and take care of them.

Authorities have informed Munich residents to avoid public areas.

The Tap will issue updates as further details emerge.

Making Sense of Dallas: Violence, Racism, and Guns

This week, three separate incidents have monopolized the headlines. Two separate police shootings of non-threatening black men in Louisiana and Minnesota brought activists out across the country, decrying the disproportionately violent and harsh treatment directed by police at people of color.

Then, last night in Dallas, at one of scores of marches against police brutality happening across the nation, at least one gunman ambushed police officers who were on scene to direct the march. The shooter killed five officers and injured 7 people, including both police and protestors. The primary gunman was killed by a bomb detonated remotely by the police, while another three suspects – with as of now unknown affiliation to the incident – remain in custody.

During the lengthy negotiations with police that led up to the detonation, the 25 year-old gunman identified as Micah Johnson expressed anger at the recent shootings, his frustration with the Black Lives Matter movement, and his desire to kill white officers in retaliation for recent events.

This week’s events – both delicate and difficult, dealing with some of the most heated debates of our times – have already stirred the pot, heightening tensions over guns and race during an already fraught political season.

The former House Representative Joe Walsh posted an ominous threat to Obama and Black Lives Matter activists, tweeting: “This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you.”

By murdering officers as they helped facilitate the expression of protesters’ first amendment rights, Johnson and whoever else was involved in the heinous shooting in Dallas deserve unequivocal condemnation, and any surviving participates in the attack should be prosecuted.

The victims in Dallas deserve justice. So, too, do Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile, the men shot to death in Louisiana and Minnesota respectively.

But understanding the complexity of this issue is difficult for many Americans. Consider the pandering of public figures like Walsh, whose vicious tweet itself deserves condemnation. The former congressman has leant his voice to a false narrative – just as the New York Post did with its cover this morning – that there is an unsealable divide in our country that will necessarily result in violent conflict. His pandering is reckless and, yes, racist. What exactly is “real America?” Are people who are outraged over senseless police violence directed at black people somehow outside of that classification?

As for rhetorical excess, it is worth mentioning the dehumanization that anti-police jargon generates. While police forces as institutions are flawed and some officers possess prejudice, police departments are run by many well-meaning people from all backgrounds and ethnicities who have families and aspirations. “Fuck the police” may be a cathartic chant, but it is reductive.

While politicians work to fit this week’s events into their narratives, it’s worth acknowledging the objective horror and injustice of violence generally, and gun violence specifically. It’s possible to both adamantly oppose racist violence against black citizens, and to also wholeheartedly oppose the exercise of violence against police officers, many of whom have provided countless hours of civic service for communities across the country.

At the heart of all of this rests that specter of American violence – the gun. As yet another week yields more gun deaths, the United States government cannot bring itself to define the issue in terms of public health. By granting adequate resources to studying and weeding out violence in our communities, we can look at the variegated factors that contribute to this persistent menace, instead of pitting Americans against each other and ignoring institutional flaws that perpetuate injustice.

Orlando Shooting: ‘Angels’ Block Westboro Bigots

(“Angels” arrive on the scene to help block Westboro Baptist Church members from funerals for Orlando shooting victims)

The Westboro Baptist Church – a fringe, virulently bigoted and homophobic congregation based in Kansas – has made headlines throughout the years, picketing national tragedies in efforts to broadcast its hateful message.

Following the mass shooting in Orlando, it was safe to assume that the congregation would stage some form of action. The Pulse nightclub was popular with the local LGBTQ community, meaning that its clientele is one of the primary targets of the church’s animus.

But when the congregation showed up to protest funerals for the shooting victims, a number of community members and allies staged a massive counter rally in order to prevent the anti-LGBTQ protestors from reaching the mourners.

“Angels” from the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre donned large white wings to block Westboro members from view, while 200 people joined together to form a human chain.

This outpouring of love and humanity – significantly larger than the hate it stood opposite from – is a heartening display in the wake of tragedy, as well as a sign that the hate the precipitated the Orlando shooting has no place in our society.

Dems. Take Over Senate Floor in Push for Gun Control

In breaking news, Democrats have taken control of the Senate floor in a filibuster-style move designed to push the chamber to do something about the nation’s epidemic of gun violence.

You can watch the takeover live here.

Spearheaded by Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, this bold strategy emerges just days after the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. At the Pulse nightclub – a popular gay bar in Orlando, Florida – a lone gunman killed 49 people using an AR-15. This particular assault rifle was also used in the Newtown shooting, which occurred in Senator Murphy’s home state in 2012, claiming the lives of 6 adults and 20 children.

Upon embarking on the floor takeover, Murphy remarked:

This is a different moment today than it was at the end of last week. There is a newfound imperative for this body to find a way to come together and take action, to try to do our part to stem this epidemic of gun violence and in particular this epidemic of mass shootings. There is a fundamental disconnect with the American people when these tragedies continue to occur and we just move forward with business as usual. So I’m going to remain on this floor until we get some signal, some sign that we can come together on these two measures, that we can get a path forward on addressing this epidemic in a meaningful bipartisan way.

As we discussed on The Tap earlier this week, congress had an opportunity to prevent this week’s massacre last year when a measure to ban weapon sales to suspected terrorists went before the legislature. Republicans tied the measure to legislation designed to repeal the Affordable Care Act in a deliberate torpedoing of even this moderate, widely supported gun control measure.

Corey Booker, Senator from New Jersey, has also taken the floor today in support of Murphy’s filibuster. “What we’re seeking is not radical,” Booker said this afternoon, “What we’re seeking is not something that is partisan. What we’re seeking is common sense.”

The Tap will continue to provide coverage on the fallout following the anti-LGBTQ massacre in Orlando and the ongoing debate on gun violence that is sweeping the nation.

Congress Could Have Prevented Orlando Shooting

(The gunman who killed 50 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando used an AR-15 assault rifle, a military-grade weapon that the NRA wishes to keep legal for everyone to purchase)

The public’s response to the tragic Orlando shooting on Sunday has largely been hopeful and loving. Already, Equality Florida has raised more than $1 million through a GoFundMe campaign on behalf of victims and their families. Voices from around the world have spoken out against violence and fear and in solidarity with the LGBTQ community.

Other responses – however – leave something to be desired. Presidential candidate Donald Trump appeared to congratulate himself for crediting the attack to Islamic extremists. A rather tone-deaf move as investigators still navigated the crime scene identifying victims.

Also, many politicians struggled to name the LGBTQ community as the target, belying the very real, continued presence of homophobia in our society.

Remaining optimistic in the face of nihilistic murder is a powerful statement, and the country appears ready to embrace this path. There are, however, real steps that politicians can take to prevent bigoted individuals and hate groups from exacting the awful toll that we witnessed this week.

Congress, in fact, had an opportunity last year to prevent individuals such as Omar Mateen – the perpetrator of the Orlando terror – from acquiring the kind of military-grade weapons that were used to kill 50 innocents at the Pulse nightclub.

Shortly after the San Bernardino shooting late last year, Senator Diane Feinstein sponsored legislation to block suspected terrorists from buying weapons. Virtually all Republican senators, however, voted against the measure.

The NRA’s influence among elected officials is well-known. Any attempt at even modest gun control – including the popularly supported, common sense effort to prevent suspected terrorists from buying weapons – is anathema to the extremist organization, which maintains a radical and uncompromising look at the second amendment.

As politicians begin blaming political correctness or targeting particular ethnic and religious groups over the Orlando shooting, remember that there was a very real chance to prevent this tragedy. An unstable and capricious individual such as Mateen hardly resembles the well-connected and resourceful terrorists that pull off carefully planned and coordinated attacks. The spontaneous, lone-wolf assault on Pulse nightclub is of a different mould – one that the United States can readily combat with the political willpower to move past the dangerous intransigence of the NRA.

Orlando Shooting: Help Victims of Anti-LGBTQ Hate

Last night, a lone gunman committed the single largest mass shooting in the history of the United States, targeting the LGBTQ community in Orlando, Florida. At least 50 people were killed and more than 50 hospitalized when a man open fired at Pulse nightclub using an AR-15 assault rifle – a weapon commonly deployed by mass shooters of late.

As authorities pursue leads pertaining to the gunman’s ideology and political orientation, the nation grieves for the victims of the Orlando shooting, killed at a popular gay bar while celebrating the nationally-recognized gay pride month.

According to media outlets, the perpetrator’s father remarked that his son was angered at the sight of two men kissing. This horrific act of violence reminds us of the lingering societal danger of homophobia. Gay rights victories notwithstanding, the LGBTQ community is still vulnerable to the malice and caprice of bigoted individuals and hate groups.

Discussions regarding religious fanaticism and the seemingly endless torrent of gun violence in the United States are sure to follow. The way forward from this tragedy is uncertain. But there are ways that you can help immediately.

Equality Florida – the state’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organizations started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the victims. Consider donating to not only lessen the tremendous burden on the victims and their families, but also to express solidarity against the wicked hate that precipitated this heinous act.

Nonprofits, Sites of Gun Violence

The past week has been rough. Two mass shootings have left communities in Colorado and California torn asunder, and debate concerning gun violence the cause of these heinous acts has reached a new fever pitch.

In Colorado Springs, the single shooter involved in the incident expressed anger over the widely discredited anti-Planned Parenthood videos upon his arrest. “No more baby parts,” Robert Dear – the alleged shooter – told the arresting officers.

Reports out today indicate that Tashfeen Malik – one of the two suspects in the San Bernardino shooting – had pledged loyalty to ISIS, the murderous terror group responsible for the recent attacks in Paris and the bombing of a Russian commercial jet in Egypt.

Whatever the differences, there is one thing in common between the two shootings: both occurred at nonprofit centers that offer social services. While the target of the San Bernardino shooting was a holiday party for county officials, the building it took place in also houses welfare offices that assist people with disabilities. The target in Colorado was Planned Parenthood, which offers a variety of medical services to disadvantaged women.

Following the Colorado shooting, people rallied around Planned Parenthood on social media and reaffirmed their support for women’s health. But there could be other unforeseen consequences from these events. As mass public shootings enter various spheres of our nation’s rich social life, feelings of insecurity may grow. Nonprofit professionals and and the beneficiaries of basic needs assistance don’t need this fear. What they need is more support.

Acts of terror cannot win out over the philanthropy inherent to the human spirit. The boldest way to stand-up against this violence is to stand in the name of humanity, equality, and good will.

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