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My Guns versus Your Children

Address to Asheville High School Student Rally in Pack Square Park, Asheville NC, April 20, 2018

Note: I was puttering around in my gardening this morning when the call came through. It was Cynde at Youth OUTright. “Tina, we had a last-minute cancellation. Could you speak at our rally today?”
“What about?”
“The Pulse Nightclub shooting.”
“Ummm …. OK.”
This, I am learning, is how activism works. You open yourself to the pain and possibility in the world around you. When it calls, you just say “yes”. Here is the speech I patched together and shared an hour later …


Hello! I am Tina White, Executive Director of Blue Ridge Pride. I got a call from YouthOutright this morning. “We need you at the park!”
So here I am.

A few weeks ago, I went to Washington to join in the March For Our Lives. I marched with members of the Human Rights Campaign. We were led by survivors and family members of the Pulse Nightclub massacre. Before we marched, several of them spoke to us. One of them was, Brandon Wolf. Although Brandon had survived the massacre, he lost one of his dearest friends that day. Drew Leinonen perished with 48 others. “In one minute,” Brandon recalled, “a legally purchased assault weapon fired 30 rounds. 13 of them murdered my friends.”

There is a little park in our neighborhood here in Asheville. It is less than a quarter block in size. A sign warns all who would enter …
No skateboarding. No motorized vehicles.
No littering. No loud or unusual noises.
No drugs. No smoking. No alcohol.
Animals must be on leash.
Until recently, the sign had a piece of aluminum tape covering another prohibition: “No firearms.” I noticed recently that the sign has been replaced. The new one seeks to conceal this erasure permanently.

The message is pretty clear: Children, do not bring your skateboards and loud noises into this park. It isn’t here for you. The gun lobby owns it now. Your pets must remained leashed; The NRA’s guns are free to roam. We have erased childhood from our parks. Must we do the same with our schools? Please … don’t let the gun lobby erase you.

We don’t allow people to drive any type of car anywhere they like. Nor do we prohibit the ownership and use of cars. We enact common sense laws that balance the interests of both car owners and children. Freedom of speech does not protect speech that wrecklessly endangers. Freedom of religion does not sanction beliefs that burden or deprive others.

Brandon Wolf pointed out in a recent tweet that, between 2010 and 2014, firearms were used or threatened to be used in 43,000 hate crimes.
“Commonsense gun safety laws matter”, he said. “I never want anyone to experience the kind of pain we’ve experienced.”

Brandon closed his pre-march speech to us with this: “The last thing Drew said to me before he died: ‘We never tell each other enough that we love each other.’”
I love all of you – and all that you stand for here today. You are amazing! You inspire me.
I hope that you will always love one another. Fight to protect what you cherish most. With hope, what you cherish most is the people in your life.

Thank you!

Tina Madison White,

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Tina White

Tina White

Tina White is the Executive Director of the Blue Ridge Pride Center, in Asheville, North Carolina, and a member of the board of directors for the Human Rights Campaign.

Tina spent 35 years consulting to and working for global corporations. Her specialty was large-scale business transformation: redesigning companies to pursue new strategies and improve performance. She has since shifted her focus to activism, writing and speaking. She speaks and writes on issues of diversity & inclusion, organization transformation, social justice, and personal identity.

Tina is the author of Between Shadow and Sun. She describes her 50-year struggle with gender and her wife's efforts to embrace her revealed identity. She holds an MBA in Strategy, Marketing & Finance from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and an AB in Economics from Princeton University. She and Mary live in Asheville, North Carolina.

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