Gun Violence and Missouri

Dear Legislators,

SB 656 has very real and terrifying connotations for me.

I am a white, cisgender, married woman in her thirties. I’m educated; I’m Christian. I love my family very much–and that’s where the first issue comes in.

My wife is very precious to me. She is my rock, my partner, my strength. Since I met her, I have not be able to imagine my life without her.

She’s also transgender.

Normally, that wouldn’t be any of your business, but right now it is: trans women are at risk of violence always (http://lawstreetmedia.com/issues/law-and-politics/transgender-murder-crisis-many-murders-2015/), and you are working to make them more vulnerable with this law.

My wife and I have to fear any time she goes out alone that she may never come back because someone decides they don’t like the fact that her gender is different than the one assigned to her at birth–a thing that is entirely out of her control. You make this threat ever more present, ever more real. That’s not how this should work. You should be on the side of liberty and safety for all citizens, not just the cisgender, white, and male.

Moving on from discussion of my wife: I am a person who deals with depression and anxiety and suicidal ideation. I can tell you that when I come out of the fog of suicidal thoughts, I’m happy to be alive–but when I’m in them, the grip of the conviction to die is strong. It is a mental health challenge.

You have made that challenge much harder to bear, much worse, by making it easier to get guns into the hands of people like me who would harm ourselves, who would–under that terrible fog–end our own lives. And you have not done anything to improve mental health care services, nor access to them.

Moving on from my mental health: my city, St. Louis, has been rocked by racial tensions. We are the home of Ferguson, which exploded open the conversation about race and police brutality. We are one of the cities that has put racial education on the tip of so many Americans’ tongues.

I know the history runs deep here. I do not believe this will solve it. Instead, it will make things worse. We should not have the distinction of being the first state since Trayvon Martin was murdered to pass Stand Your Ground legislation.

We already have so many stories of our black citizens–male, female, trans and cis, child and adult–being killed by gun violence. And this is not about intraracial violence (most violence is intraracial, because proximity matters for crime, and most of us live in proximity to our own racial groups, which is a thing to tackle on a different day). This is about how we set up groups of people to be killed, and then we kill them–either by pulling the trigger ourselves, or by signing the legislation that allows for that to happen so very easily. Please, let’s work to end gun violence by putting restrictions in place, instead of making it easier for people to kill one another.

Race is such a big issue, so huge, and race and violence–I could go on about how we make those things linked for a long time. But there’s are a couple more things I want to cover before I close: violence against LGBTQIA persons and intimate partner violence.

I am a bisexual woman. I have so many queer friends and loved ones in Missouri–including, of course, my wife. The violence at Pulse in Florida occurred just three short months ago. While that scale of violence has not happened here, you make it easier for something like that to happen. My queer loved ones and I are not safe in Missouri. We experience threats and harassment and outright violence all the time. The victory of so-called ‘gay marriage’ did not fix LGBTQIA rights for all time. We are still at risk for violence, and this legislation makes that violence even more likely, even more of a threat, even more present and real and deadly.

As for intimate partner violence: ‘castle doctrine’ and ‘Stand Your Ground’ did not save Marissa Alexander when she faced intimate partner violence/domestic violence. It did not save Bresha Meadows. I don’t think it would save very many of the most vulnerable in our homes–those of us who live with people who harm us and have so little recourse to get out.

You make it so much easier for intimate partner/domestic violence to occur, and so much more difficult for those who experience such violence to actually get free.

Compare the fact that George Zimmerman–who chased down Trayvon Martin, so how could it have been ‘defense’?–got away with ‘Stand Your Ground’ as his defense, but Marissa Alexander, who fired mere warning shots–shots that hit no one, shots that were intended to frighten and were meant to free her and her children from harm–was not shielded at all by either ‘castle doctrine’ or ‘Stand Your Ground’ despite the fact that she did face imminent danger. Consider that Bresha Meadows and her family had been facing imminent danger for so long, and yet she sits in a juvenile detention facility because she saw no other way to freedom for herself and her family–while George Zimmerman roams free.

These laws do not free us. They are not the path to liberty. They do not bring justice.

Please, legislators, understand that we all want to live and love and laugh. We all want to go out in the sunshine and the cool night air and be happy and free of fear. We all want to be able to break free of the harms that plague us. These things–Stand Your Ground and concealed carry without a permit–will not accomplish that for any but the cisgender, heterosexual, mentally healthy, white men among us.

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