Gun control, mental illness, and black trans and lesbian survival

Gabriel Arkles

Southwestern Law Review, Vol. 42, No. 4, pp. 855-899, 2013


Those concerned with racial, gender, sexual, economic, or disability justice should be concerned about the direction and focus of national conversations in the wake of Newtown. Controversies over gun control and mental health treatment have a profound impact on those marginalized based on race, gender, sexuality, class, and disability. Gun control laws endanger trans people of color and queer women of color, as well as those labeled mentally ill, by failing to reduce interpersonal violence while increasing the violence of the criminal legal system. Instead of increasing incarceration of people in marginalized communities who choose to carry guns, we should consider true disarmament. This disarmament would involve demilitarizing police, decreasing incarceration, keeping cops out of schools, no longer investing in the armed forces, and instead investing in communities. Expanded power to commit people based on mental illness, whether on an outpatient or inpatient basis, also harms marginalized communities, especially queer women of color and trans people of color who are already highly vulnerable to pathologization, disablement, institutionalization, and abuse. Instead, we should consider investing more deeply in holistic, community-directed services for mentally ill people that support self-determination and social change, including fighting state and interpersonal violence against people with mental illness.