Metro Weekly

Charlotte Clymer on The Other 99.9%

The numbers indicate trans people are less likely to commit gun violence and far more likely to be victims of gun violence.

Gays Against Guns’ “Human Beings” demonstration in 2018 — Photo: Randy Shulman/Metro Weekly File Photo

On Monday morning, March 27, at The Covenant School, a private elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee, a mass shooter opened fire over fourteen minutes, killing three children who were students there, all nine years old, and three staff members, before police arrived and took out the shooter, mercifully bringing the horror to an end.

The children were Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney, and Hallie Scruggs. The staff members were Katherine Koonce (the head of the school), substitute teacher Cynthia Peake, and custodian Mike Hill.

According to Gun Violence Archive, this is the 150th mass shooting in the United States this year. GVA is an independent research and data collection organization that defines a mass shooting as four or more people shot, killed, or injured, not including the shooter.

This definition has been criticized by some conservatives, who feel that the metric poorly frames America’s gun violence epidemic and accuse those who adopt GVA’s definition of “four or more injured” as inflating the problem. They point to the FBI’s definition of “mass murder,” which describes any type of violent incident in which four or more people are killed, not just injured.

Of course, the more you think about it, that doesn’t make much sense. For example, if a mass shooter wounds 10 people — perhaps paralyzing several, to say nothing of other long-term health complications of a bullet ripping through one’s body — but only kills one person, that would not fit the definition of a “mass shooting” by the FBI.

Nor if a mass shooter wounds 50 people but only kills three. Or wounds 100 people but kills none. Neither of these are “mass shootings” under the FBI’s definition.

Does that make any goddamn sense? Of course not.

Okay, well, fine, conservatives might say, but the threshold is still too low because GVA allows for just four people to be injured — not killed — in order to qualify as a “mass shooting.”

Some of them may hint that certain injuries are more qualifying than others. What if, they seem to say, four people are merely grazed by bullets, simply burning their flesh rather than entering their bodies?

Gee, I don’t know, if their child were merely grazed by a bullet, their tender flesh burned by it, how would they feel? Would they think it’s a problem worth addressing?

Of course they would, and they’d be right. So, we’re sticking with GVA’s “mass shooting” definition. Because common sense.

Last year, there were 647 mass shootings in the United States. In 2021, there were 690 mass shootings. Since January 1, 2016, GVA has tracked 3,581 mass shootings in the United States.

When the carnage at The Covenant School began hitting news and social media in a way that has become nauseatingly familiar, the gun extremists immediately started doing what they do best: pointing fingers and blaming anything but our country’s ludicrously easy access to firearms.

Fox News contributor Nicole Parker attempted to posit that “side doors” to schools — meaning physical entrances to schools other than the front — are the real problem here.

Bless her heart.

There were the other usual excuses by gun extremists — their greatest hits of shifting blaming: that teachers should be armed, that it’s an issue of mental health, etc.

Of course, I’m not sure anyone expected GOP Congressman Tim Burchett to openly admit he and his conservative colleagues have no interest in finding a good-faith solution to the gun violence epidemic. I’m not kidding. Here’s the full quote:

“We’re not gonna fix it. Criminals are gonna be criminals. My daddy fought in the Second World War, fought in the Pacific, fought the Japanese — he said ‘Buddy, if someone wants to take you out and doesn’t mind losing their life, there’s not a whole heck of a lot you can do about it.'”

So, there you have it. Criminals are gonna be criminals, the man said. Why bother trying to stop children from being slaughtered? Mr. Burchett’s children are homeschooled, by the way.

When I first heard of the shooting, my stomach dropped in the same way it has every other time this senseless violence has occurred. And when you find out children were killed, it only compounds that feeling.

But this time, on top of that, it was eventually revealed that the shooter — whose name I refuse to mention — was a trans man.

Predictably, anti-trans conservatives seized the opportunity to cynically exploit the murder of these children and staff members to further their transphobic propaganda and distract from their own complicity in enabling gun violence.

Marjorie Taylor Greene claimed testosterone was to blame, something she has never said all the other times when a cis man was behind a mass shooting. Donald Trump, Jr. and others put up tweets and memes implying trans people are especially violent.

You see where this is going.

The obvious problem here, of course, for anyone who has mastered third-grade math, is that the numbers indicate trans people are substantially less likely to commit gun violence compared to cisgender people and far more likely to be victims of gun violence ourselves.

Of the 3,581 mass shootings that have occurred in the United States since January 1, 2016, four were perpetrated by a trans person. I absolutely refuse to count the Colorado Springs mass shooter who murdered five people at Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub, and then attempted to claim, through his lawyers, that he identifies as nonbinary, clearly in an effort to troll the victims. And this after neighbors and police brought forward evidence of his long history of anti-LGBTQ hatred.

Thus, of that total number of mass shootings since the start of 2016 and the available data on those mass shooters, cisgender people account for 99.9% of them.

According to a report released last year by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law — considered one of the leading data sources on LGBTQ people — the trans community makes up about 0.6 percent of the 267.8 million people in the United States who are age 13 or older.

So, trans people make up 0.6 percent of the population but 0.1 percent of mass shooters, six times less than what would be proportionally expected in an even distribution of mass shooters.

It turns out that cis people are disproportionately more likely to be mass shooters.

I have no problem recognizing that a trans man murdered these children and staff members. I’m glad police arrived and killed him before he could murder other innocents. But if these anti-trans conservatives are gonna demand trans people answer for him, shouldn’t they answer for the 99.9% of mass shooters who aren’t trans?

I have a feeling we’ll never get an answer to that.

This week, I am holding the families of these children and staff members in my thoughts. I cannot begin to imagine their suffering, and I am filled with rage at this coward, at this piece-of-shit, who cruelly took the lives of these innocents.

I am praying for two things: 1) a measure of peace and healing that must seem impossible for these families in this moment, and 2) that anti-trans conservatives will actually start giving a damn about vulnerable children instead of exploiting their deaths to further a hateful agenda.

This essay was originally published in Charlotte’s Web Thoughts, a 2023 GLAAD Media Award Finalist for Outstanding Blog.

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