Sunday, September 20, 2020

My GRPC 2020 Address

Hello, everyone. My name is Erin Palette, and the day after the 2016 Pulse Massacre I founded Operation Blazing Sword, a nationwide charity designed to connect gun-curious queer people with friendly and non-judgmental gun owners who would teach them the basics of safe firearm operation and responsible gun ownership. In 2018, the Pink Pistols – America’s oldest LGBTQ firearms organization – incorporated into Operation Blazing Sword, making me the head of the largest pro-gun, pro-queer group in the country.

As you can imagine, this puts me in a very interesting place both culturally and politically: the far right loves my support of the Second Amendment but hates that I’m gay and transgender, and the far left loves my queerness but hates that I’m pro-gun. I catch a lot of flak from both sides for not supporting their version of freedom when, quite ironically, the position I have – “I haven’t hurt anyone and my lifestyle doesn’t affect you, so please leave me alone and let me be a queer gun owner in peace without passing laws against that” – is, to my mind, the most freedom-centered position of them all.

This year’s theme is “Elect Freedom.” To be completely honest, I feel like I already covered this topic last GRPC when I told you that the best way to grow gun rights was to abandon your partisanship and become a single-issue activist, with that activism being the preservation of the Second Amendment and the expansion of firearms rights. If you haven’t watched it yet, I hope that you will.

For my speech this year I’m going to do something slightly different and talk to you about how to Retain Freedom. Our country is currently experiencing unrest on a level not seen in my lifetime, and from my perspective here in late August 2020 it seems obvious that in a month the unrest will have increased and the division escalated. I sincerely hope that by the time you see this, peace and common sense will have prevailed and we will no longer be shooting each other in the streets, but I won’t hold my breath waiting for that.

2020 has also heralded a veritable explosion of new gun owners. More guns have been bought in the past 8 months than in any other time since the FBI has kept track, with the biggest spikes happening in March and June. Not coincidentally, March is when we entered lockdown for COVID-19 and police departments in big cities told civilians that their responses to 9-1-1 would be delayed or even nonexistent due to the virus, and June was the first full month of rioting after the death of George Floyd.

I can assure you that these purchases were not all made by firearm owners, for exactly the same reason that those of us who specialize in emergency preparedness were not the ones buying toilet paper by the pallet: we already had ours. No, the vast majority of the new purchases were made by people who previously did not own a gun but, when faced with mounting evidence that they could soon be on their own and have to defend themselves, went out and bought a firearm for self-defense. These seven million additional purchases were so remarkable that even Michael Bloomberg’s The Trace was forced to write an article on firearm safety for its readers… although I imagine it was published with Bloomberg’s nose wrinkled in disgust.

And now, in the midst of this unprecedented uncertainty and these unprecedented firearms purchases, we have before us an unprecedented opportunity to do what I urged you to do last year: reach out to these new gun owners and, instead of mocking them, welcome them into our ranks. As gun owners, they now have “skin in the game” when it comes to firearm prohibition, and I assure you that many if not most of them will be reluctant to turn in their guns to a government which has so visibly failed to protect them and so visibly failed to ensure domestic tranquility.

These new gun owners didn't buy seven million new firearms out of some newfound desire to exercise a previously neglected aspect of freedom;  they bought those guns because they saw an imminent need for protection, and that inability to protect themselves and their family scared them. This is why I say that once someone is a gun owner, they are likely to become a gun voter.

Firearms exist at a peculiar nexus of cheap enough for anyone to buy, and yet expensive enough that we fight tooth and nail to keep them; they are bound irrevocably into our history and our struggle for freedom, and yet are so controversial that we must have a Constitutional Amendment to protect them; and even then, governments large and small – city and county, state and federal – gnaw at that protection like termites at the foundation of our nation’s house.

You wish to Retain Freedom? Then retain these new gun owners as your comrades in literal arms. Welcome them into our community, include them in your activities, and teach them what they have to lose if our right to keep and bear arms is taken from us.

This Is The Way. Will you show them?

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