Dear Rural Hunting Family Members Who Love Your Guns,
I’m not sure that you are understanding what those of us on the margins are telling you about our lives relative to guns.
I’m walking around figuratively bleeding this week, as many of us do all of the time. Just aching. Hurting. Deep, deep pain about how we all live our lives at the many intersections of injustice.
“Yes,” you say, “Mass shootings are painful. Don’t take my guns. Call out the real parties responsible.”
I don’t think you’re listening, really listening to what we’re saying. Stop pretending that your logic is mightier than your empathy with us, other logical humans who are trying to tell you what this is like.
I own guns, too. I loved the hunting tradition with my grandfather and father and brothers and male cousins. Even though I was the only girl. Even though I was uncomfortably welcomed and semi-ignored. While you don’t want to hear that being a girl was held against me, I can still tell you that I continue to own my hunting weapons, know how to use them, practice occasionally, and pet them, fondly remembering not only the times that I provided free-range protein for my family, but the mostly kind souls who taught me how to hold the guns safely when they weren’t teasing me for being a girl.
You’re still not hearing me. And it is important that you listen. Because your retorts to me asking for an assault weapon ban and for firearms to be regulated in the same manner as cars shows me that you’re not really absorbing and feeling what I am telling you about how it is different to live with guns in a society that values your life less. We are valued less than your hunting privileges. We are in more danger.
Do you know what it feels like to be afraid of the cops? Not because you have an open can in your cupholder, but because as soon as they see your skin or haircut or hear your voice, they are going to assume the worst of you? To realize that they are scared of you more than an average citizen? That you are millions of hair widths closer to their trigger than most?
Do you know what it is like to walk down the sidewalk afraid, not because it’s dark and that gives everybody the wiggins, but because you’re extremely likely to be harassed, yelled at, called names, and the person with whom you are holding hands only increases those daily, hourly, certain risks? Do you exist completely within one or more of the major categories of people likely to be screamed at, avoided, or groped at on the street? Do you know what it is like to fall in love and then have that love be the primary reason that you are legally and personally discriminated against? Are you in the portion of the population likely to not only be hit and yelled at, but shot by your rapist, abuser, or live-in partner? Do you face protesters when you enter a doctor’s office?
“Don’t take away my freedoms,” you say. Your freedom to feel like a cowboy, to escalate home robberies, to have frequent and deadly accidents, is not more important than our freedom to be even a tiny bit more certain that those who do own guns can’t take out fifty or more of us with just a few clips and that those who own even one clip have been put through at least as much education about safe and proper gun culture as those who can drive cars or board airplanes.
Many of us are walking around emotionally bleeding this week and every week. You have maybe experienced this level of trauma when someone extremely close to you has died. Immagine the frequency with which mirror images of ourselves are killed and brutalized. You have felt afraid to enter a bathroom, because what if a queer is in there. There is a queer in there and the queer is twenty times more frightened of you. You have felt this fear on occasions that you have actually been physically violated and traumatized. Imagine how often we carry these traumas with us. It hurts. It hurts all of the time. On a level that you only occasionally perceive. And your right to think about frightening or harming a fucked up person who wants to steal your TV in the event of an unlikely robbery is not more important than our struggle to remove weapons of mass destruction from our daily lives. Your TV isn’t worth a thief’s life anyway.
It can be done. Australia has done it. Other countries have done it. We did it with cars. We take our shoes off at the airport. Laws do work. Otherwise why have any at all? You can’t carry a concealed weapon above a certain BAC anyhow, and even a trained and armed off-duty cop couldn’t protect all of my beautiful, dancing, kissing loves who were gunned down this weekend in their place of refuge, where they were trying to be themselves when an entitled, confused, violent, arrogant cowboy took away the entire rest of their lives.
Let’s not create more entitled, confused, violent, arrogant cowboys. That shooter’s fear of us was unjustified and so are yours. Our fears are not unjustified. We live with assaults every day. We are on the margins, and you, on the inside, have an obligation to hear what we are saying and put down your goddam privileges for a moment. I’m not going to take away your memories of hunting with your grandfather, your ability to feed your family, or the small clips required to hunt deer, elk, etc. Stop literally and figuratively taking away our voices that are telling you that we live in shitty conditions that we could fix with some listening, understanding, and sensible regulations.
We know real fear and you’re nowhere near it.
Stop. Listen. Put aside your less-than fear. Be less-than for just a moment. This isn’t about you. Listen to those who are actually in danger. We’re sick of your shit and we’re still trying to be reasonable. Listen to us. Allow reasonable gun regulations. Certain people shouldn’t have ANY guns and don’t nobody civilian need assault weapons, which we can work to define easily. We can change our gun culture, but only if some of us stop pretending to be righteous cowboys.