We need an ACT-UP for gun control

Judith McDaniel
Jun 13, 2016 · 3 min read

Walking the dog this morning — the day after the slaughter in an Orlando gay nightclub — we met our neighbor who said — “The LGBT community knows how to organize better than any group in this country. They don’t know who they are messing with.”

And my partner said, on the same walk, “We need an ACT-UP-like organization for gun control.”

Both right.

Why like ACT-UP? Because I am really tired of vigils and candlelight walks and thoughts and prayers. They haven’t improved a single thing; thoughts and prayers have given the haters permission to go on hating. And they haven’t given us — people who think it is insane to allow anyone to buy or own an assault weapon — any real comfort, any sense that we are making progress in containing this madness. Quite the contrary.

ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) was a response to Ronald Reagan’s refusal to utter the word AIDS for the first seven years of the epidemic. Activists chained themselves to the White House fence, confronted congress people, “outed” pharmaceutical executives who were making millions by pricing anti-HIV drugs so high that many could not afford them — and insurance wouldn’t pay for them.

What could an ACT-UP for gun control do?

1. Make the connections visible.

· Where is the money?

· Where is it being spent?

· Who benefits?

We need to research, share information, blog about what we find. And all of these resources need to be kept in a central site that is easy to access.

2. Out the individuals/corporations/organizations who

· are stopping the ban on assault weapons,

· are stopping the tracking of ammunition,

· are stopping background checks and licenses to sell or own.

And then chain ourselves to their desks, to their BMWs, to their yachts — anywhere we can find to interrupt business-as-usual. And see number 1 above.

3. Make life hell for the NRA at its top, reminding them and all citizens why they were founded in the first place.

· According to the NRA website, the organization was chartered in 1871 by Union veterans who were appalled at the poor marksmanship of their troops.

· According to Politifact, there is NO evidence that the NRA ever tried to inhibit the KKK from assaulting African Americans, in spite of self-serving media claims about that non-event.

· See number 2 above.

4. Take on the media propaganda about the Second Amendment, about myths of the American west. We don’t live in the wild west anymore. We haven’t for over a hundred years.

· My gun is going to make me safe. Really? All of the stats show otherwise and the experience of countries with gun control laws on the books also contradict this falsehood.

· If people in the club in Orlando had been armed, they could have stopped the shooter before he did so much damage. Go to clubs much? Danced with a revolver tucked under your belt? Or in your armpit?

· Good men with guns stop bad men with guns. Yup. In the movies — like westerns or spy thrillers or science fiction. In real life, not so much. During the Tucson shooting, a man did have a gun. He was slow getting it out and when he did, he admits he had no idea which person was the bad guy. He nearly shot the man who wrested the gun away from the shooter.

· See number 2 above.

5. Expose the stupidity of the “slippery slope” argument that insists that any attempt to register guns or ban assault weapons is the first step to black-booted government thugs going house to house to confiscate all weapons.

In my class on Law and Social Change, one of my students who was a Second Amendment advocate could not allow that there was even one small limitation on the Second Amendment that he would find acceptable. Deny guns to people on the terrorist no-fly list? Nope, because Obama wants to confiscate all weapons. We have the technology to track ammunition so that we will know who made it, who sold it? Nope, because Obama wants to confiscate all weapons and ammunition. After the third or fourth try, the rest of the class was incredulous. But he isn’t so different from Wayne LaPierre and his supporters.

There is no logic, just an emotional knee-jerk.

I too can be very emotional about this topic. And my community really is threatened. We aren’t making up silly arguments to prop up a false reality. We are angry. We organize really well. Just watch.

Judith McDaniel

Written by

Judith McDaniel, PhD, JD, teaches Law and Social Change at the University of Arizona. Her book, Sanctuary: A Journey, was published by Firebrand Books in 1986