Transmissions: Weapons

  • by Gwendolyn Ann Smith
  • Wednesday April 5, 2023
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Illustration: Christine Smith
Illustration: Christine Smith

On March 27, a gunman used an AR-15 military-style weapon to shoot open a lock to a door at The Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee. Minutes later, six people, including three children, lay dead. It is an all-too-common tragedy in the United States, enough that this killing is just one of dozens so far this year, part of the background static of American life.

Tennessee doesn't have a red flag law when it comes to purchasing weapons, and the shooter was able to purchase two of the three weapons they had with them legally. Such laws allow family members or law enforcement to petition a court for an order to prevent someone from having a gun. According to reports, the attack was planned well in advance, with detailed maps, as well as possible secondary locations. The shooter was stopped before they could go any further, however, and killed by police.

The shooter, 28, who identified themself as Aiden Hale on their LinkedIn, had attended The Covenant School, a private Christian campus, about a decade ago. It is, perhaps, coincidental that the church attached to the school, Covenant Presbyterian, had a sexual abuse scandal during the same timeframe as the shooter's attendance. Nevertheless, Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief John Drake told Lester Holt of NBC News that it is possible the shooter felt "resentment" over having attended The Covenant School.

The rampage echoes so many mass shootings, with a killer who made their way into the school, using a military-type rifle to dispatch as many in attendance as possible. By this point, we're all but numb to the usual parade of "thoughts and prayers" followed by no meaningful discussion of ways to curtail the availability of assault-style weapons. We are all pretty familiar with how this goes, how the issue of ready availability of such weapons have made Americans far less safe, and how the right wing will balk at any sort of meaningful gun reform.

Except there is one thing different in this story: Drake said that the shooter was a transgender person. Specifically, transmasculine, adding, "We're still in the initial investigation into all of that and if it actually played a role into this incident."

This has not stopped many from using this information to declare that the shooter's trans status was the cause of the shooting.

The New York Post ran with the headline, "Transgender Killer Targets Christian School," dovetailing well with Tucker Carlson of Fox News, who claims that the shooting is an example of the hatred transgender people supposedly have against Christians.

"Transgenderists (sic) hate Christians above all, because Christians refused to join every other liar in our society and proclaim that transgenderists (sic) are gods with the power to change nature itself," said Carlson on his Fox News show. "For that refusal, that unwillingness to bow down and worship a false idol, in this case of transgenderism, they were murdered."

It feels silly to have to note this but no, transgender people — "transgenderists" is not an actual term — do not feel we are gods with any domain over nature, or any such thing. That whole notion is somewhere far off from the reality of trans lives.

Carlson has been far from the only one on the right to make such attacks, with many speculating that hormone replacement therapy fueled the killings, as well as using outdated notions of transness itself being a mental illness.

Seeing the backlash against transgender people playing out in real time, I knew that — much like when a mass shooting is committed by a non-white, non-Christian man — we would be speared in exactly the way done by Carlson and others. It would be our trans nature to blame, our "ideology" that killed children. Never mind that such accusations never surface when the shooter is white, is Christian, and isn't trans.

I made a statement on my Twitter account with this in mind, recommending to my community that it may be wise to keep a low profile for a few days, while everything was sorted out.

It was fascinating to watch the attacks come: how I wasn't honoring the dead children, how I needed to denounce transgender people, not protect them, and, of course, plenty of not-so-veiled statements against my own health and well-being.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, at, there have been 130 mass shootings in the United States this year. Thirty-seven of those, like the one at The Covenant School, happened in March.

It may be that one of those shooters was a transgender person. The majority of all such perpetrators are white, straight, and non-transgender. For them, media outlets often depict them as the lone wolves and the troubled souls for whom we should spare a little pity. Their stories are treated with a nuance that requires details and understanding — and are quickly forgotten.

Not so for this case, where — even as police ask for more time to study the shooter's reported manifesto — it's now the right's example of the violent transgender person, who somehow typifies transness better than countless transgender people who have never fired a weapon.

Less than a week before the shooting at The Covenant School, Carlson was arguing on his show that transgender people should not be allowed to own weapons. It's about the only time he has seemingly stood for gun control. This shooting has played right into his hand, and he continues to echo such statements. Not that I ever expected him to say much of the same about the 96% of mass shootings by straight white men.

In case it isn't clear, I offer no pass for a shooter because they were trans. A murderer is a murderer — but it seems to me that people like Carlson and others simply want to use this shooter as a weapon of their own, harming all transgender people, and adding even more tragedy to an already horrific situation.

Gwen Smith would like to see some reasonable gun control in her lifetime. You'll find her at

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