I Am Marching From #NRA2DOJ Because I Am a Women’s Rights Activist
I was born to a survivor of gun violence. When he was 28 years old, my dad was shot by one of his classmates while sitting in a classroom at the University of Houston. The classmate was upset about a grade he had received and stood up from the seat next to my dad and shot the professor and then shot my dad in the shoulder as he tried to flee from the classroom.
The classmate had brought a gun to school the week before. The police stopped him and took the gun away from him and sent him on his way. The classmate went and bought another gun over the weekend.
Gun control was the first policy issue I ever advocated for. I remember a few years after the horrific shooting in Columbine, getting up in front of an auditorium packed with all of my high school classmates and telling Minnesota Representative Gil Gutknecht I did not feel safe in school because politicians like him put our lives at risk by supporting the NRA and advocating against gun control. I still remember his response: there is more gun violence in DC where guns were strictly controlled than in North Dakota where they weren’t. Even my high school brain picked up that there was something pretty misleading about that comparison.
In 2008, while working on a political campaign, I encountered the President of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, while at an opponent’s rally. So many thoughts and feelings were pulsing through my head, so many messages I wanted to communicate on behalf of my dad. I shook his hand and decided to engage him by calmly asking about the NRA’s new push for guns on campus before telling my dad’s story. I had but a few words out of my mouth when he dropped my hand and walked away. Asking for the reasoning and factual support for introducing more guns into campuses that are already struggling with violence, especially against women, was apparently a step too far.
I have now grown up into a women’s rights advocate and attorney. Resisting the NRA is part of my job because gun violence is a gender justice issue. Overall, women in the U.S. are 11 times more likely to be shot and killed than women in other similar countries. And the risk of homicide for women that experience domestic violence rises astronomically – by 500 percent – when the perpetrator of domestic violence has access to a gun. Children die at a rate of one every other day from unintentional firearm deaths – shot either by themselves, an adult, or another child. And gun violence is a reproductive justice issue because it undermines the ability of many people–disproportionately people of color–to live and raise their families in safe, healthy communities and make decisions about their lives and futures with dignity and autonomy.
As a women’s rights activist in this time of resistance, I must stand up to the NRA’s intimidation of people of color and protestors. The First Amendment right to protest–especially protest by and for the lives, equality, and dignity of people of color–is of vital importance right now. But the NRA is now wielding its influence not just to block sensible, life-saving gun laws, but to fuel racism and violence against civil rights protestors. The NRA asserts it is a protector of freedom, but it seeks to chill our fundamental rights to speak and to mobilize, by its purposeful effort to sow fear and inflame hostility against those who protest. Attending the #NRA2DOJ March today was not easy. But I will not be intimidated into silence.