When Hate Comes Armed With a Gun: How Our Lax Gun Laws Continue to Fail Marginalized Groups

Two years ago, a gunman entered the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and opened fire killing 49 clubgoers. As a mother of five, including a lesbian daughter, Orlando was and continues to be personal.

A mourner visits a memorial for Pulse shooting victims

While Pulse reminded many Americans of the deadly intersection between hate and our lax gun laws, Black Americans and other marginalized groups needed no reminder.

Just one year before Pulse, our country was rocked to its core after a white supremacist killed nine Black parishioners at the historic Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina. In an instant, families were shattered and an entire community was left wondering how such a tragedy could happen in their own backyard.

In the five years since the founding of Moms Demand Action, we’ve made great strides to reduce gun violence. But more needs to be done. As it currently stands, more than 10,300 gun-related hate crimes occur in an average year in the U.S. — that’s more than 28 each a day. The vast majority of these crimes — 58 percent — are motivated by racism, with a quarter of all hate crimes targeting Black Americans.

Although the NRA claims to be the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, it has repeatedly failed to speak out on these crimes — except to blame the victims for their own deaths. Just days after the shooting at Mother Emanuel, an NRA board member blamed the church’s pastorand state Senator Clementa Pinckney for his own death and that of other church-goers because of his work as a gun-sense supporter in the South Carolina statehouse.

Our federal gun laws have no measures in place to prohibit people convicted of violent or threatening misdemeanor hate crimes from buying or having guns. While some states have taken action to block these offenders from getting armed, in many others you can be convicted of assault motivated by hate — and then pass a background check and get armed.

With hate crimes reportedly on the rise, our lawmakers must commit to protecting all Americans, and not just some. We refuse to remain silent as hate-filled individuals try to dictate who gets to feel safe in our communities. And we certainly will not allow our lawmakers to ignore the very communities they’re responsible for serving and representing in government.

No other group has been so ignored when it comes to discussing the cross-section of gun violence and hate crimes as much as transgender women of color. It is no secret that 2017 was the deadliest year on record for this group, and 2018 is not shaping up to be any better.

So far this year, at least 12 transgender individuals have been killed, most of them with a gun. Nine of these victims were women of color. These are the victims of daily gun violence very few speak of. But these are the stories we must tell because in order to save lives.

This is why I am fighting against dangerous legislation that would leave marginalized communities at even greater risk of experiencing gun violence. Congress is currently considering “concealed carry reciprocity,” a reckless policy that would gut state gun laws on who can carry hidden, loaded guns in public — and make it easier for people with a history of hateful and violent behavior to carry hidden, loaded guns in public across the country. This dangerous proposal would leave people of color, members of the LGBTQIA community and other targeted groups even more vulnerable to targeted attacks with guns.

This is not the America I want to live in, and I refuse to let legislation like “concealed carry reciprocity” become our new normal.

The fight for gun violence prevention is also a fight for equality. I am frustrated and angry with the lack of action taken to reduce hate crimes, but I refuse to give up. The future of our country is on the line, and the time to act is now.