During the AIDS crisis in the 80s, groups like ActUp effectively used civil disobediance to get their message out. In the wake of the Pulse mass shooting, hundreds of gay activists have started a new campaign of civil disobedience directed against gun companies and their supporters. They are GAG. Gays Against Guns.
Organizers of the collective, which has more than 300 members in New York and chapters in nine other cities across the country, said they were prepared to break the law and get arrested in their fight against gun manufacturers, their shareholders, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its corporate backers.
Ken Kidd, who is helping lead the group’s direct action campaign said GAG will go much further than other gun control pressure groups, such as the Brady campaign and Everytown, by
“targeting not only politicians, but other baddies that work with the killing machine.”
Kidd told fellow activists at a planning meeting at The Center in Manhattan’s West Village last week.
“We are targeting corporations that either invest in the gun industry or align themselves with the NRA.”
As well as directly targeting the US two biggest gun companies, Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger & Co, will also go after their investors. On Monday, the group gathered for a “die-in” at the headquarters of the investment firm BlackRock, which is one of the biggest investors in gun manufacturing. Campaigner Cathy Marino-Thomas said,.
“Here is a company whose CEO, Laurence Fink, prides himself on their socially conscious investment yet comes right out and tells clients that mass shootings worked to their financial advantage. They’re smart enough to acknowledge they profit from massacres but can’t find a way to unload those stocks? That’s amoral.”
BlackRock says it held the gun companies’ stock on behalf of third-party investors in its US aerospace and defense fund, and pointed out that it had other portfolios in which clients can choose to avoid investment in firearms, tobacco and alcohol manufacturers.
“BlackRock values diversity and has a history of supporting the LGBT community. We condemn senseless acts of violence in any form including the recent tragedy in Orlando.”
John Grauwiler, cofounder of GAG, said that after BlackRock, the group would target other funds that invest in gun stocks and then companies that partner with the NRA. Companies that offer discounts to NRA members include all of the major car rental companies, Visa, and the insurance firm MetLife.
“It’s us or them. End your relationship with the death business or the LGBTQ community ends its relationship with you.
These companies give discounts to NRA members and we want them to know that you can court the LGBT dollar, but if you get into bed with the NRA, we’re going to fucking break up with you.”
On its Facebook page, GAG declares:
“Queer complacency is over. We call for a ban on assault weapons and sensible gun regulation. We will not let our 49 siblings’ death be in vain.”
Tim Murphy, a novelist and GAG campaigner, said the Orlando massacre showed that the community could no longer sit back and watch
“the gun industry and the gun lobby refuse any gun control laws of any sort…
We were deeply affected by every mass shooting that took place prior to [Orlando], but to see so many of our LGBTQ family murdered in one night was a tipping point we could no longer ignore. We have a deep repulsion in our bones for bullies as gay people who grew up in a less-welcoming America.
There’s never been a gun violence prevention group that has used disruptive, confrontational and sometimes illegal actions that we used in the Act Up fight [for governmental action during the HIV/Aids crisis].”
Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger recently reported record profits as Americans’ demands for new guns continues to spike after every mass shooting. The increasing demand for weapons has helped send Smith & Wesson’s share price soar 36% higher so far this year; it has quintupled since Barack Obama became president. Sturm, Ruger’s shares are up 11% so far this year; they have increased eightfold since April 2008.