Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Gay pride, gun pride

Early this month, new Philly.com columnist and colleague Mark Segal wrote a compelling piece advocating gun control in his publication, The Philadelphia Gay News (PGN). What gathered my attention wasn’t the controversial topic chosen by my progressive friend, but rather that the editorial was titled “My non-LGBT column,” and that not one mention was made of gays and lesbians.

Gay pride, gun pride

The Pink Pistols is a gay gun rights organization whose motto is “armed gays don’t get bashed.”
The Pink Pistols is a gay gun rights organization whose motto is “armed gays don’t get bashed.”

Early this month, new Philly.com columnist and colleague Mark Segal wrote a compelling piece advocating gun control in his publication, The Philadelphia Gay News (PGN). What gathered my attention wasn’t the controversial topic chosen by my progressive friend, but rather that the editorial was titled “My non-LGBT column,” and that not one mention was made of gays and lesbians.

That begged the question, “Shouldn’t gun rights actually be an LGBT issue?”

The brief answer is, “It should be.”

Here’s why. And you may be surprised to learn why.

With the rare exception of gun show loopholes, most gun buyers have to go through a criminal background check. I was thinking about Segal’s article and, among other things, considered, “Hey, what happens to gays and lesbians that were thrown out of the military because of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT)? Would they fail to pass a mandatory criminal background check because of their less than honorable discharge?”

So, I found the government Website associated with The National Instant Criminal Background Check System – a system launched by the FBI on November 30, 1988. This system instantly determines whether a prospective buyer is eligible to purchase a firearm. According to the FBI, more than 100 million background checks have been made over the last decade, with more than 700,000 rejections. Could any of those denials have occurred, in one way or another, because of the person’s sexual orientation?

The answer is “yes,” according to Alan Edmunds, a San Diego-based family law attorney who has a practice in military discharge. While Edmunds admits on his Website that “The “don’t ask don’t tell” discharge is given as an honorable discharge,” he also acknowledged in a phone interview with me that some gays and lesbians may have been given “Other Than Honorable (OTH)” discharges, where they may have been cited for “failure to meet standards” or “poor performance,” which are disguised legal methods of removing gays and lesbians from the military. According to Edmunds, an OTH discharge may lead to denied criminal background check.

Guilty. Guilty of being gay.

Why should that matter anyway? Aren’t many prominent LGBT advocates pushing gun control, anyway? Yes, they are.

But perhaps they shouldn’t be.

Arguably more than any other group in 2013 America, the LGBT community knows what it’s like to be bullied. The Pink Pistols is a gay gun rights organization whose motto is “armed gays don’t get bashed.” Yes, there is a special interest group for everything, and, sure, mixing the conservative issue of “gun rights” with the liberal notion of “sexuality” may be a bit of an anomaly. But the way the Pink Pistols see it, “The Gay community unfortunately has a reputation of being easy targets. As we grow in size, the perception that the Gays are easy targets will change … No longer will we tolerate being helpless victims. Self defense is a “human right.”

Every week in Mark Segal’s PGN, there’s a column titled “Gayborhood Crime Watch.” At times, the column – covering the previous week’s crime – is pages long. In almost every edition, there is mention of a murder that occurred to a member of the LGBT community, whether it’s on the front cover or the “News Briefing” section.

Maybe gay rights and gun rights make sense.

Violence against LGBT people is rising in the United States. While reported hate crimes as a whole went down in 2011, crimes targeting gays and lesbians went up by 2.6%.

Matthew Shepard - the gay college student who was robbed, pistol-whipped, and tortured because of his sexual orientation - died on Oct. 12, 1998 at the precious age of 21. His violent death heralded international attention to the notion of hate crime legislation. Shepard didn’t own a firearm, but had he, it’s possible he might be alive today.

Unfortunately, too many LGBT Americans still face the threat of anti-gay violence every single day. Jonathan Rauch, the author of “Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America,” said in 2000 that “If it became widely known that homosexuals carry guns and know how to use them, not many bullets would need to be fired. In fact, not all that many gay people would need to carry guns, as long as gay-bashers couldn’t tell which ones did. Suddenly, what is now an almost risk-free sport for testosterone-drenched teenagers would become a great deal less attractive.”

So perhaps LGBT Americans – many of whom are assumed to have been long aligned with the gun control community – might want to make a U-Turn, come out of the closet, and proudly profess their love for firearms. No longer should they tolerate being helpless victims. Self defense is a basic right to which all humans are entitled.

John Featherman
About this blog
John Featherman is a contributor at Philly.com and writes about politics and consumer-related issues. Reach John at john@featherman.com.

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