By Ryan Mikel, Entertainment Editor
Gays Against Guns, a New York City based LGBTQ organization, protested outside of a gun show last Sunday in Matamoras, Pennsylvania.
Their demonstration included handing out flyers, engaging in conversation with gun show attendees and what the organization calls “Human Beings” — veiled, silent activists dressed in all white and holding posters of victims of gun violence. The image is shocking, and according to the demonstrators, it’s supposed to be.
“They’re designed to shock people,” protester Ken Kidd said. “It’s adversarial, but it did open up the fact that [gun show attendees] and I got to talk to each other.”
Kevin Hertzog, who founded the organization after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, said that the organization’s main goal is to start a dialogue.
“We’re not here to pick a fight, we’re not here to win an argument, we’re here to spread and disseminate information,” he said. “What changed it for me was statistics, so that’s what we’re trying to provide for other people.”
Hertzog has not forgotten GAG’s roots in statistical evidence. While the haunting sight of the Human Beings draws in spectators, other protesters hand out flyers: “50 times a year, a toddler shoots someone with a loose gun in the home; 50 times a month, a woman is shot to death in a domestic dispute; 50 times a day, someone shoots themselves to death in a suicide. And now the NRA wants Concealed Carry Reciprocity to be the law of the land in all 50 states”
Not every gun show venue allows GAG to stay and spread this information. While the protest last Sunday was allowed to continue, they’ve been asked to leave their other demonstrations.
“One time they knew we were coming,” another demonstrator, Ti Cersey, 42, said laughing. “And as we walked onto the [venue], the security guards were like, ‘The gays are coming, the gays are coming!’ We had to leave… but they let us protest outside.”
Lisa Snyder, 60, is a gun dealer and was leaving the gun show when she saw the protesters. At a first glance towards the Human Beings, she said “This is unbelievable.”
Yet, when her and Kidd began talking, she adjusted her tune. “Your message is beautiful. I’m a gun dealer. I agree with [some points],” she said. “But [the Human Beings] here, to me, is a negative way to do it.”
Other gun show attendees were not so receptive. One woman, who declined to give her name, called them “Hillary’s children.”
Another man said, “Ah, they’re gay. Tell them to fuck off. They’re liberals, we don’t like liberals,” and immediately left the venue.
Still, the demonstrators focused on people who seemed more receptive to discussion. “The conversations that we have when we realize we have more in common than we have apart are important,” Kidd said.
After the demonstration, a gun show attendee sat on the curb of the road and filled out an application for a concealed carry permit. Later that evening, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history took place on the Las Vegas strip in Nevada. The next day, Gays Against Guns organized yet another rally in protest.
“Gun violence is curable,” Hertzog said. “That’s why we’re here.”