Metro Weekly

Gays Against Guns protesters stage “die-in” inside Hart Senate Building

LGBTQ group is one of several calling for Congress to pass gun reforms in wake of Texas church shooting

“Die-in” in Hart Senate Building – Photo: Gays Against Guns, via Facebook.

Eight Gays Against Guns members were arrested and detained at the Hart Senate Building on Monday afternoon after the group staged a “die-in” inside the building’s main lobby to protest the recent church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

The massacre, which occurred at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, killed 26 people, including an 18-month-old toddler after 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire inside the church, according to local authorities.

Police say Kelley had been engaged in an ongoing “domestic situation” with his mother-in-law, who had attended the church — but who was not there on Sunday, reports The Washington Post.

Gays Against Guns announced earlier on Monday that they would take to the Hart Senate Building to call for gun reform in the wake of yet another shooting in what many thought to be a “safe space.”

The protesters had a list of demands that Congress to approve measures that would reform the ease with which guns can be purchased and the types of guns that can be obtained, such as Sen. Chris Murphy’s (D-Conn.) Background Check Expansion law and Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) Assault Weapons Ban.

Gays Against Guns has also asked Congress to reinstate funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention so the organization can research firearm injuries and deaths — something that it has essentially been prevented from doing since 1996 due to the threat by a Republican-controlled Congress to defund the agency if it dared to study gun violence as a “public health crisis.”

Since its founding following the Pulse nightclub massacre last year, Gays Against Guns has consistently struggled against accusations from the political Right that talking about gun reform in the wake of shooting tragedies is “politicizing” the loss of life. But the group’s members argue that “it is never too soon to talk about gun reform.”

They also maintain that opponents of gun restrictions are simply trying to silence anyone who dissents from their worldview or who points out the financial support that many politicians, particularly within the Republican Party, receive from the NRA.

Borrowing tactics from the AIDS advocacy group ACT UP, Gays Against Guns has held other “die-ins” — protests in which men and women wearing white T-shirts fall to the ground and remain motionless — to represent those killed by mass shootings.

The group has previously protested at New York City Pride, at the Lincoln Memorial, picketed outside CrossFit after the company offered a semi-automatic pistol as a contest prize, and, most recently, in October, in New York’s Times Square, to protest a mass shooting at a country music concert in Las Vegas that killed 58 people.

The group’s D.C. chapter posted several videos of the die-in and the resulting arrests by Capitol Police on its Facebook page, including a video where a woman reads aloud a list of demands to a U.S. senator and his staff calling for renewed efforts to pass gun reform.

The post was tagged: “Thoughts and prayers are fine, but they won’t stop gun violence. The time has come to [act].”

Pictures posted to Facebook showed the demonstrators being led away by Capitol Police, who broke up the protest.

Photo: Gays Against Guns, via Facebook.

Other LGBTQ organizations also called for gun reform in the wake of the First Baptist Church shooting.

The Human Rights Campaign reiterated its commitment to what it calls “common-sense gun violence prevention policy measures” including expanded background checks, restricting access to firearms by suspected terrorists or those with a history of domestic abuse, and a ban on assault rifles.

HRC President Chad Griffin called the shooting a “senseless tragedy.”

“Whether in an LGBTQ club or a Texas church, gun violence is plaguing our country. Unless Congress acts, no community in America can be safe,” Griffin said in a statement. “Make no mistake about it, what happened in Sutherland Springs this morning could have easily happened in any other town across America.

The murder of innocent people across our country should move Congress to realize there is an overwhelming and indisputable need for action. It’s time for Congress to stand up to the NRA. We will continue to demand action until our lawmakers either hear us — or we have new lawmakers.”

The Pride Fund to End Gun Violence also released its own statement condemning Republican politicians’ inaction following mass shootings.

“Our hearts go out to the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas, who are suffering today from an unimagined horror. Today’s massacre is another reminder that no one is safe when access to guns is so easy,” Jason Lindsay, the Pride Fund’s executive director, said in a statement. 

“The NRA spent over $50 million in 2016 to influence national elections and that doesn’t include lobbying efforts, nor any money spent on elections in 2017. Republicans are bought and paid for by the gun lobby, and, despite over 90% of Americans supporting gun reform, legislation won’t pass due to the Republicans.

They won’t even have hearings on ‘bump stocks’ after the Las Vegas shooting,” Lindsay added, referring to devices that can attach to semiautomatic rifles to make them fully automatic and capable of firing more ammunition at a faster rate.

“There are two solutions to this problem. First, get loud. Every American who is ready for change has to get loud and demand action right now from our elected officials. Don’t let Republicans get away with inaction and obstructing progress any longer. Second, we have to defeat every Republican who stands in the way of progress at the ballot box,” Lindsay concluded.

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com