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Gun Sales Rise In Past Year, Especially Among Women And African Americans

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Ermiya Fanaeian may shake up a lot of stereotypes, perhaps even your own. She co-founded the Utah chapter of the gun violence prevention group March for Our Lives and considers herself a left-wing social activist. She's also recently bought an AR-15, making her one of the more than 8 million Americans who've bought their first gun last year. Now, that figure comes from a firearms trade association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation. It also reports that women and African Americans have been buying guns at an unprecedented rate. Ermiya Fanaeian is now the director of the Salt Lake City chapter of Pink Pistols - that's an LGBTQ gun owners group - and joins us from Salt Lake City. Thanks so much for being with us.

ERMIYA FANAEIAN: Thank you so much for having me.

SIMON: What changed your mind?

FANAEIAN: I spent years and years in the gun violence prevention movement, where I worked closely with elected officials who were calling to disarm our community. And, you know, violent attacks against trans women was still happening (unintelligible). You know, we saw this at attack of Iyanna Dior, who was violently mobbed in the middle of a gas station one night. And that went viral all over the Internet. That made me quickly realize, if the police weren't protecting us, if elected officials aren't protecting us, then it is time for us to put our safety into our own hands.

SIMON: When you characterize the politicians with whom you spoke as people who have been in favor of disarming Americans, is disarm the word you now use to describe gun control?

FANAEIAN: It is. Absolutely. I think that, you know - yeah, I think it is to disarm people. You know, when we talk about gun control, gun control is an initiative to make it harder to gain access to firearms to protect ourselves, which ultimately makes it easier only for criminals who don't care about the law. So yeah, I would absolutely call it disarming.

SIMON: Do you feel when you were a gun control activist, you were wrong?

FANAEIAN: I don't think I was wrong because it is true that there is a problem with mass shootings in America. It is true that gun violence needs to come to an end. What I don't agree with are the stances that I and the organization I was affiliated with took. The positions were largely to ban AR-15s. They would largely be to ban assault rifles. They were largely to make it incredibly, incredibly hard for everyday working-class people to access firearms. And that is not something that I agree with in any sense now. I absolutely believe that working-class people should have access.

SIMON: Your decision to buy a gun reminds me a lot of what conservative opponents of gun control have told us over the years when they say it's my right to protect myself and my family. I wonder if this feeling closes the political distance between you and people you have considered to be on the other side.

FANAEIAN: The fact is, you know, we both agree that we should be able to protect ourselves. But in regards to everything else, you know, the other side still - we do not agree on most things. We do not agree on economic systems, social issues, health care, the role of government. We don't agree on most things.

SIMON: And that statistic we read to begin with, 8 million more guns in this country, what do you say to those who say, you know, the last thing America needs is more guns?

FANAEIAN: Look; if anything has been shown this past year, it's that we need more guns to protect ourselves on the left. The right is not just disarming themselves any time soon. And those who say, well, we don't need to arm ourselves, America doesn't need more guns, they're living in a very utopian idealism, I think.

SIMON: Let me try and understand this. You know, in a time when we're living just weeks after an armed insurrection at the Capitol, you are not talking about owning a firearm to affect policy.

FANAEIAN: Policy does not protect that. The way that our electoral system, our political system, our policing system has been set up, it does not protect that. And so largely, it is about the owning of firearms for our communal safety.

For many of us who are a part of marginalized communities and have been a part of more leftist, radical organizing for a long time now, we understand that there is no normal to go back to. I started being a queer activist when I was 15-years-old. And when I was 15-years-old, that's when death threats and stalking started for me in my life. And for many of us, we've never been in a state where we can just go back to brunch and ignore it all.

SIMON: Ermiya Fanaeian is the director of the Salt Lake City chapter of Pink Pistols, an LGBTQ gun owners group. Thank you so much for being with us.

FANAEIAN: Thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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