Like many Americans, I woke up on Monday morning to an alert on my phone sharing the horrific news of the massacre in Las Vegas. I’ve come to dread, but also expect, the mornings when my phone notifies me that, yet again, there has been a mass shooting that is now the deadliest in the modern era.
But every time I see a breaking news alert like the one I woke up to this week, I’m reminded more than anything of all the victims of gun violence that don’t get reported on every day. While mass shootings rightfully sober us with their sheer scale of carnage, far less often do we discuss the 306 Americans who are shot every day, many of them women, children, and people of color.
Tragedies like Las Vegas remind me that our lax gun laws keep women from being able to live and raise their families with autonomy and dignity, free from the fear of violence. Our federal gun policies don’t require background checks on all gun sales, prohibit all domestic abusers from owning a gun, limit the number of guns you or ammunition you can buy at one time, or require safe storage of guns in the home.
These weaknesses in our gun laws are leaving women and families vulnerable to hate. America’s endemic gun violence means that American women are eleven times more likely to be shot and killed than women in other developed countries. It means that children here die at a rate of one every other day from unintentional firearm deaths, and that women are five times more likely to be killed if their domestic abuser owns a gun. It means that extremists can use firearms to kill the more than half of the trans women who were murdered last year – most of them trans women of color – and to intimidate those of us exercising our First Amendment rights to protest for racial, gender, and social justice under this Administration.
Gun violence prevention is a feminist issue because opposing hate is a feminist issue. Easy access to firearms is what enabled Dylann Roof to carry out his heinous hate crime against an African American church in Charleston, Elliot Roger to punish women for not giving him the sex he believed he was owed, and Robert Lewis Dear to target women and abortion providers for exercising their constitutional right to access abortion care. Early reports of Stephen Paddock’s emotional and financial abuse of his girlfriend follow this disturbing but all-too-common trend – that guns are often used to perpetrate violence by hateful people who don’t believe women should have bodily autonomy, reproductive freedom, or the right to live a life uncontrolled by men.
Even as Congress and the NRA are bent on loosening gun laws instead of strengthening them – like the bill up for a vote this week that would allow easier access to gun silencers – we in the resistance need to oppose those who would use violence to silence and intimidate. We need to call out the NRA for their racial double standards and intimidation of communities of color, and call on the media to label Stephen Paddock as the domestic terrorist that he is. We also need to support the common sense public policies that will keep guns out of the hands of those who use hate to harm others, be they intimate partners, communities of color, reproductive health professionals, or just everyday Americans enjoying a night on the town.
This week, we mourn those 58 horrific deaths in Las Vegas. In the coming days, weeks, and months, we should seek to honor their memories – and those hundreds of thousands of others who suffer from gun violence – with action. As members of the resistance and as feminists, we have a duty to make sure that those who want to spread hate can’t get away with it so easily.