Remember: Bathrooms and Guns Don’t Mix

Something about the conservative argument sure does stink.

Something about the conservative argument sure does stink.

Sometimes two very different hot-topic news stories combine into one ugly Frankenstein’s monster of a newspocalypse. Those kind of car-crash current event moments are most likely to happen in Florida. The Orlando Weekly reports that gun-lovers and the anti-trans bathroom bills have finally reached a boiling point:

After Target announced its transgender customers and employees can use store bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity, Orlando-based Liberty Counsel president Anita Staver said she would be taking her Glock .45 into Target’s restrooms, saying the gun “identifies as my bodyguard.”

I mean, the cravenness of the move is almost admirable: Staver is combining the current conservative anti-trans panic and the perennial conservative pro-gun fever into a perfect storm of idiocy and opportunism. Staver says by bringing her gun into restrooms in Target, she is seeking “protection from the perverts who will use the law to gain access to women.” (Somewhat related: I wrote about the NRA’s very bad advice about bathroom gun etiquette last month.)

This is fear mongering of the highest order. I mean, Staver is practically reaching Glenn-Beck-in-2009 levels of apocalyptic panic, here. Her portrayal of bathrooms as lawless zones where anyone can and will be attacked with full approval from the government is beyond over-the-top.  But more importantly, her combining of trans bathroom issues with rampant gun culture reveals a serious logical fallacy in the conservative position.

Let’s for a minute consider the conservative opposition to trans bathroom access: without strict laws to enforce the division of genders, they argue, bathrooms will be overrun by sex offenders attacking women. Presumably, those laws will empower business owners to verify the genders of people who use restrooms in their establishments. It’s unclear how that will happen, especially since in many states it’s possible to change your gender on your drivers license with the help of a physician.(Here are the laws in Washington state; you can look up laws in the rest of the country here.)  Maybe business owners will be deputized to do genital checks? Did anyone think these laws through?

So the line between government-endorsed bathroom assaults and sane civilization, conservatives argue, is…a law. And yet gun-lovers like Staver absolutely adore the fallacy that argues if you pass gun responsibility laws, only criminals will have guns. Armed with Reason in 2013 published a fantastic post refuting right-wing ideologues like Sarah Palin, who argues that “The bad guys, the criminals, don’t follow laws and restricting more of America’s freedoms when it comes to self-defense isn’t the answer.”  Staver’s combination of anti-trans laws and the glorification of guns highlights a real intellectual inconsistency in her rhetoric.

I’m confused here: which is it? You simply can’t have it both ways: if scofflaws can ignore gun laws, what’s keeping scofflaws from ignoring bathroom laws? Or is it possible that the pro-gun lobby is simply using their argument to keep sane gun responsibility laws from being passed, while the anti-trans protesters are using laws to normalize their bigotry? It’s almost as though these conservative arguments are reductive and opportunistic. Or something.

Worse, Staver’s public buffoonery suggests and glorifies violence against trans Americans, which is a growing problem. The fact that it’s okay in America in 2016 for someone to discuss her intention to murder someone in a public bathroom is not just a political talking point—it’s an indictment of the state of our discourse.

Paul Constant

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