Note: This piece originally appeared in Religion News Service.
The LGBTQ community continues to bear a disproportionate amount of hateful gun violence in America.
It has been a week since the Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs, where five people were killed and at least 18 others were injured.
Let’s not move on.
Raymond Green Vance. Kelly Loving. Daniel Aston. Derrick Rump. Ashley Paugh. Let us still keep the names of the dead in our minds.
It can be difficult to keep track of all the lives lost, and it is tempting to move on. Before we could fully grieve the lives lost in Colorado Springs, after all, there was another mass shooting at a Walmart in Virginia, where a man fatally shot six co-workers, then took his own life. Here in Philadelphia, where I live, four kids were shot as they were leaving school. In all there have been more than a dozen mass shootings in the U.S. since the shooting at Club Q on November 20.
But it is important not to move on from the attack at Club Q in Colorado. Here’s why.
The Club Q shooting was a targeted attack on the LGBTQ community, on the eve of Trans Day of Remembrance, a day on which we honor the transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming people who have been (far too often) the victims of violence.
The shooting at Club Q is tragically reminiscent of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando six years ago, where 49 people were shot and killed and 53 others were wounded. It is a reminder that the LGBTQ community continues to bear a disproportionate amount of hateful gun violence in America.
2021 was the deadliest year on record for trans and gender non-conforming people in the U.S., and unfortunately, this trend continues to play out in 2022, especially among trans women of color. While just 13% of the U.S. trans population is estimated to be Black, 73% of the known trans homicide victims were Black women.
Communities that have been historically marginalized, such as African Americans and LGBTQ folks, bear a disproportionate amount of the gun violence. For many years, guns have been the top cause of death of African American children, who are 10 times more likely to die than white kids. But during the pandemic, guns became the most common cause of death of all American children. Anyone who claims to be “pro-life” cannot ignore all these lives lost to guns.
Since 2009, the U.S. has had nearly 300 mass shootings, defined as four or more people shot and killed at one time. But while these mass shootings catch the headlines and capture our hearts, mass shootings account for less than 2% of our overall gun deaths. When you look at the other 98% of the gun deaths in America, which often don’t make the news, you see marginalized communities carrying the weight of the violence.
On December 14, we will remember the 10th anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. That was a unique tragedy, because it impacted mostly white kids in a New England town, and it broke our hearts, as it should. Twenty-six people lost their lives that day … 20 of them were between six and seven years old. After Sandy Hook, many people said, “Never again!”
But we have let it happen again and again.
Though the victims at Sandy Hook were different from those at Club Q, the two shootings had several important things in common: Both were committed by young, white men in their early 20s, and both were committed using military-style assault weapons, which are still legal on the streets of the United States. These guns are designed for one purpose: to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible, and that is exactly what they keep getting used for.
It’s time for change.
We can’t save every life, but we can save some. We can make it harder for someone filled with hatred to kill. Every country in the world has people who are violent, hateful, mentally ill or racist. But this is where the United States is unique — we allow hateful people unimaginable access to weapons, including weapons of war.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me … but it can restrain him from lynching me.” You can’t legislate love. We cannot make fascism or homophobia illegal, but we can make it harder for people to kill.
So let us pray for the victims in Colorado Springs, and everywhere else. But let us also honor their lives by taking action to end gun violence, for everyone.