My Point of View: Common sense gun laws needed in state and nation

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, November 29, 2022

 My Point of View by Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

(Trigger warning: Gun Violence)

On the Sunday before Thanksgiving we woke to news of another domestic terror attack, a mass murder with an AR-15, targeting patrons of an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

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 Seven years earlier, Colorado Springs was rocked by two deadly attacks that killed a total of six people — one targeting a Planned Parenthood clinic and another targeting random people.

In the random attack, Naomi Bettis called 911 to report a man with a long gun walking up to doors in her neighborhood. The dispatcher informed her that Colorado is a permitless carry state and requested police to respond to a potential burglar, a lower priority. Ten minutes later Bettis called back in distress to say that the man had killed a passing bicyclist. He continued walking and killed two additional women less than a mile away.

The bicyclist was an Iraq War veteran who died in a permitless carry zone at home.

Permitless carry doesn’t make us safer. It just forces people like Bettis to live with the horror that unfolded despite her warning call.

Colorado Springs is the headquarters of several Evangelical Christian organizations, including Focus on the Family. This movement has fanned this kind of violence, both with anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion stances and also supporting lax gun laws.

LGBTQ rights don’t harm children. Guns, though, are the leading cause of death for children in the U.S.

Anti-LGBTQ propaganda, like fantasies about litter boxes in schools, spreads hate against the LGBTQ community and its allies. It robbed an 11-year-old girl of her mother, who went to a drag show and was shot by a disturbed young man with a head full of lies and a heart full of hate.

Attacking the right of LGBTQ children to exist, often by targeting schools or children’s hospitals, is a distraction from child gun deaths: In Virginia, a high school junior who worked at Walmart to help support his family. In Minnesota, a high school senior who loved playing sports and fishing. In Texas, 19 elementary students on the last day of their school year.

Over 1,500 kids so far this year. Killed by guns, not gay rights.

LGBTQ hate and misinformation is about protecting strict gender roles and legalistic religious beliefs. It serves patriarchy and perpetuates social stratification to the detriment of broader humanity. It accepts children’s deaths as the cost of business. It’s not pro-life, just anti-abortion, because women’s reproductive rights are also anathema to patriarchy.

Drag queen story hours don’t kill or harm children. Letting children wear clothing that doesn’t reflect the sex they were assigned at birth doesn’t kill or harm children. Giving trans children age appropriate gender-affirming care doesn’t kill or harm them. (It can reduce their risk of suicide.)

All of these things harm patriarchy, though, and that’s what people are defending when they attack LGBTQ rights.

What does kill and harm children is lax gun laws, recklessly stored guns, a culture that conflates devotion to God with unrestricted gun ownership, and people, mainly men, who act on their rage and despair by aiming guns at children and pulling the trigger.

How rarely we see white Evangelicals place blame on guns. Far from it — they often support gun “sanctuaries.” The county board of El Paso County, where Colorado Springs is located, passed a resolution in 2019 to resist enforcing Colorado’s red flag legislation.

Our children are the ones who need sanctuary. Sanctuary from gun violence. Sanctuary to be themselves. Sanctuary from authorities who refuse to prioritize their lives over gun industry profits.

The Sandy Hook Massacre was nearly 10 years ago. Because of the powerful gun industry lobby and its political alliance with the majority of the Evangelical Christian voting bloc, little has improved since 20 first graders were gunned down in their classrooms.

Our state senator, Gene Dornink, has co-sponsored extremist gun laws, including permitless carry, that have been associated with increased gun violence and gun suicides in other states and are heavily funded by gun industry front groups.

Last year, nearly 400 people in Minnesota committed suicide by gun. Guns are involved in many more suicides than homicides in our state, and risk of death by gun suicide is almost twice as high in rural Minnesota as in the Metro. 

Universal background checks and red flag laws reduce gun suicide rates for adults. Safe storage laws reduce gun suicide rates for both adults and children. We need common sense gun laws, not gun extremism, in our rural district, and if you think so, too, please convey that to our legislators.

If you or a loved one is at risk of suicide, please call or text 988 (Suicide and Crisis Lifeline). Trained counselors are available to talk, 24/7.

Jesus resisted patriarchy. To those who observe, have a blessed Advent.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.