No: We must preserve the self-defense rights of all Americans — especially minorities

By Anonymous

When I’m legally allowed to, I will deeply consider buying a gun. And that fact haunts me. 

For as long as I can remember, and until very recently, I’ve been anti-gun. In middle school, as I watched the Las Vegas and Parkland shootings unfold on the news, I began to see the American gun rights movement as a foil to peace. And, given that I’m as far from the archetypical gun owner as one could possibly be, that opinion is predictable. My politics are almost uniformly left-leaning, and I could barely kill a fly. I have trouble imagining myself wielding a gun. 

But, as a transgender Asian-American person, I have no trouble envisioning someone wielding a gun against me. 

Studies have shown that transgender people are four times more likely to experience violent assault and seven times more likely to experience police violence. Attacks against racial minorities have been amplified in recent years, especially against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. In a world where violence against minority people is the norm, our right to defend ourselves is, unfortunately, imperative. 

Don’t get me wrong — I’m in support of some gun control policies. Policies like background checks and safety training are not only ideal but necessary to ensure that guns are wielded by people who can use them safely. But many laws that have been hailed as positive gun control measures pose a clear risk to people who seek to defend themselves. 

For example, Oregon’s Measure 114 (which passed by a slim margin last year) allows local law enforcement to choose who can or can’t purchase firearms in the state under a strict permit system. But, as National Public Radio (NPR) reports, the measure doesn’t clearly define what might disqualify an applicant. Nor are the police exactly a paragon in defending minority rights. It’s easy to see how a law enforcement department could disproportionately withhold permits from trans people, people of color and other marginalized groups, enabling further violence against them from both the state and rogue individuals. And it’s just as easy to envision that violence propagating nationwide. 

Yes, guns can unfortunately empower violence against marginalized communities. Many mass shootings, like the Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016 and the Club Q shooting just last year, have targeted the queer community directly, and countless others have targeted people of color, like 2021’s Atlanta Spa shootings. As a result, many advocacy organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) have publicly supported gun control measures

But severely restricting guns is not the solution to prejudiced violence. All that would do is make those most in need of protection more unsafe — because nobody in power is willing to protect us. 

During the Pulse Nightclub shooting, it took the police three hours to kill the shooter. Lawsuits have claimed that police officers specifically “charged with providing security to Pulse” abandoned their posts or stood outside the nightclub while the shooting occurred, allowing dozens of people to die. While police failures are a common part of mass shootings in this country, it’s especially striking how a government charged with protecting its citizens allowed a rogue perpetrator to kill 49 people at a queer nightclub. 

Our government has shown, time and time again, that it doesn’t care about people of minority backgrounds. We cannot entrust that same government with the ability to decide who deserves to defend themselves and who doesn’t. 

I agree that, in an ideal society, taking guns away from everyone would lead to positive change. But a gun-free world is a pipe dream. Any committed perpetrator can currently get their hands on an illegal gun; they can be 3-D printed or trafficked extremely easily. Harsh gun control policies barely affect people committed to violence while making it harder for law-abiding citizens — especially those of minority backgrounds — to defend themselves against such attacks. Any gun control policies aiming to restrict people from obtaining guns are likely to disproportionately affect the LGBTQ+ community and other minority groups. So, while I hope that the government will become more inclusive of queer people and other disadvantaged groups, I cannot trust the government to protect my rights — including my right to protect myself. 

To be clear, this position doesn’t align with traditional gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA) — quite the opposite. Those organizations are terrified by bona fide defenses of the Second Amendment. Because the current gun rights movement in the United States doesn’t want self-defense for everyone — it wants self-defense for cisgender, straight, white men. 

That was true fifty years ago, when the NRA backed a law that limited the public carrying of firearms simply because it wanted to disempower members of Black power organizations. And it’s true now. It’s true when the NRA uses anti-Black, white supremacist fear-mongering to sell guns. It’s true when conservative commentators call depictions of the transgender flag made of rifles “domestic terror” but defend people who wear gun-laden American flags. Our country’s most ardent “Second Amendment advocates” only support gun rights to maintain the status quo, where violence against minority groups is tolerated and normalized — further proving that we need our Second Amendment rights.

Overall, while I’ll always oppose the NRA and be in favor of some gun control legislation, I will not tolerate any attack on the self-defense rights of American citizens, especially those who are disproportionately targeted in acts of bigoted violence. 

As a trans person of color, with a government unwilling to protect me and willing to condone violence against people like me, I can’t help but feel deeply unsafe, like my own power to live or die is out of my hands. I still don’t know if I’ll become a gun owner or not. But, if I do, it’ll be in an attempt to take some of that power back, to defend myself against a world that won’t do it for me.