To prepare for tonight’s Gays Against Guns Ball, we emailed with Aaron Overman, an LGBT activist and a member of the DC Chapter of Gays Against Guns (GAG).
Brightest Young Things: What is GAG for you?
Aaron Overman: We are modeled on the style of ACT UP in the 1980s and 90s who fought via direct action against the major public health issue of the era, AIDS and HIV. Fundamentally the proliferation of gun violence and gun deaths in America is a public health crisis and must be tackled via every possible pathway to save people’s lives. ACT UP realized that it takes a lot for people to sit up and take notice and they created huge protests – one that shut down the Food and Drug Administration for a whole day. The NRA is powerful but they are one of very few entities and organizations pushing the pro-gun agenda. GAG is part of a constellation of smaller gun violence prevention (GVP) groups that pulling in the same direction can be more powerful than the gun lobby but only if we are all pulling really hard and making big waves. GAG is sort of like the ACT UP of the GVP movement. We are queer, we are loud, and we are unafraid to make people uncomfortable. People NEED to be uncomfortable about this issue.
BYT: How did you first meet GAG? What inspired you to join?
AO: I remember being so devastated after all those little kids were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary and then just beside myself with disbelief than even after such a horrifying attack on innocent schoolchildren that our national government decided to do precisely NOTHING to prevent another tragedy like it. And then Pulse happened in Orlando. A mass murderer came into one of our most sacred gathering spaces and ended the lives of 49 beautiful LGBT and allied people there just to enjoy each other’s company and to dance and celebrate life. On fucking Pride weekend. With a military-grade assault weapon much like the one that killed all those 6- and 7-year olds in Newtown. That was the end of despair and disbelief for me. I decided that I needed to become involved in ending gun violence in a direct way. If I wasn’t doing something with all my anger and frustration how could I expect that anything would ever change? I went to the first organizing meeting of GAG at Town and participated in my first protest the following week.
What inspired the GAG Ball?
AO: Donald Trump was the NRA’s dream candidate. He praised them so heavily during the campaign and he has a guns-everywhere agenda. Watch for it, one of the first things they are going to push is allowing anyone with a concealed carry permit anywhere for that permit to be legal in any state, in any city in America. So the absolute worst states where getting a permit to secretly carry a gun is so easy? They are going to set the entire agenda and that permit will be valid everywhere. Cities will be banned from preventing this because it will be a national law. We are taking back the concept of the Inaugural Ball from these guns-everywhere sickos and using it to promote GAG, to fight for sane gun laws in this country, and to make fun of Trump and the NRA because if anyone is deserving of being made fun of it’s these pathetic bullies.
BYT: What message do you want to relay to our readers?
AO: Every single one of us has a role to play in resisting Donald Trump and the cruel billionaire agenda. In order to create change you have to show up. To meetings, to protests, to opportunities to speak to your elected representatives, to vote, to organize others to protest and to vote. Think about joining GAG or another GVP group that you agree with their mission. We are powerful in our diversity and if we work together, despite how bleak things look now, change is possible. But you have to join a cause bigger than yourself, and you have to show up.
GAG BALL DC is tonight, January 20 at Cobalt, 1639 R St NW. There’s a $10 cover with some proceeds going to GAG