Richard Fierro is credited as a Club Q hero for stopping the gunman.
Richard Fierro speaks during a news conference on Monday outside his home in Colorado Springs about his efforts to subdue the gunman in Saturday’s shooting at Club Q. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

A good guy without a gun disarms and disables the shooter. A good guy without a gun — a good guy who happens to be straight but goes to Club Q, the welcoming Colorado Springs LGBTQ nightclub, with his family to see a drag show — disarms and disables the shooter.

A good guy without a gun who risked his life to save others by taking down the heavily armed shooter — luckily, the good guy was a 15-year, four-combat-tour Army veteran who went into what he called “combat mode” — didn’t see “groomers” or “pedophiles” at Club Q, as certain Republican politicians (see: Boebert, Lauren, et al) would have you believe.

He didn’t distinguish between people who mock pronouns from those who don’t. He didn’t try to save only those who use the so-called biologically appropriate bathroom.

Richard Fierro, the good guy who said he thought he had finally left war behind, who still struggles with the effects of war he came to know too well, saw simply people, same-as-me-and-you people — endangered people, he said, who were his “family,” because, as he described his world view, we’re all family. 

And one of those killed was Raymond Green Vance, 22, — longtime boyfriend of Fierro’s daughter, Kassie — who was making his first trip to Club Q with the Fierros and friends to celebrate a birthday. Definitely a part of the family.

Want early access to
Mike’s columns?

Subscribe to get an
exclusive first look at
his columns twice a week.

And so, a charging Fierro grabbed the shooter by his body armor, took away his pistol and made sure someone else moved the long gun — which appeared to be, unsurprisingly, an AR-15, the typical mass-shooting weapon of choice — out of reach. And a trans woman used her high heels to stomp on the shooter’s face while Fierro said he was pistol-whipping the shooter with the shooter’s own gun.

“I’m not a hero. I’m just some dude, man,” Fierro told reporters. “Everybody find the heroes this Thanksgiving at the dinner table. Your mom and dad, or your aunt and uncle, or whoever you want. That’s what you guys need to do.”

If only that were the whole story — a humble hero, a champion of tolerance, stops a killer and saves who knows how many people.

But it’s not the whole story. It’s not nearly the whole story. Even as preliminary charges suggest a hate crime — one that left five dead and 18 injured— we learn that the shooter’s attorneys wrote in a count filing Tuesday that the shooter, Anderson Lee Aldrich, is nonbinary. We also learned that Aldrich’s name was legally changed from Nicholas Brink when he was 15 to protect him from his birth father, who had an extensive arrest record.

And so we have another case in which a shooter — who turns out to have a violent record of his own — still has access to guns. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 605 mass shootings (four or more shot) and 35 mass killings (four or more killed) so far this year. 

And another case in which we hear politicians recommend “thoughts and prayers” instead of laws and action to take on the gun-violence pandemic in America. The shooter was apparently accused of kidnapping and felony menacing in a bomb threat incident last year. But formal charges were never brought. We don’t know why.

And Colorado’s red flag law — which allows family or police to ask a judge to remove guns belonging to a potentially dangerous person — was never invoked. This is not a surprise since El Paso County law enforcers doesn’t believe in enforcing the 2019 law.

But this is mainly the story of the demonization of LGBTQ people, who are routinely dehumanized and targeted in the latest battle of the American political/culture wars, especially as it pertains to trans people and to anyone performing in a drag show or any parent taking a kid to see a drag show.

This is the story of a rise in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, of a rise in anti-LGBTQ violence, of how far-right groups like the Proud Boys have adopted the cause, of how people like Tucker Carlson have spurred the campaign, of how, according to the Human Rights Campaign, 25 anti-LGBTQ bills have become laws this year, including 17 anti-transgender laws out of 145 introduced by legislators in 34 states.

Maybe coincidentally, but probably not, according to a National Center for Transgender Equality, at least 47 transgender people were killed since November 2021. 

In the Colorado legislature, a majority of Republicans voted against a bill banning conversion therapy. Boebert’s history is well known — too well known. When she offered her thoughts-and-prayers tweet, which didn’t mention that Club Q catered to an LGBTQ audience, many critics weighed in, including Rep. Brianna Titone, Colorado first trans legislator, and Boebert rival Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

“When politicians and pundits keep perpetuating tropes, insults and misinformation about the trans and LGBTQ+ community, this is a result,” Titone wrote. AOC went directly after Boebert:  “@laurenboebert you have played a major role in elevating anti-LGBT+ hate rhetoric and anti-trans lies while spending your time in Congress blocking even the most common sense gun safety laws. You don’t get to ‘thoughts and prayers’ your way out of this. Look inward and change.”

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is positioning himself as the presidential candidate most likely to take on Trump, most infamously championed the Don’t Say Gay law that bans instruction on gender equality and sexual orientation in any grade before the fourth. And, of course, the law has morphed from there, with noted chilling effects seen for teachers in all grades.

DeSantis didn’t stop there, of course. When he wasn’t busy deceiving Venezuelan asylum seekers to fly to Martha’s Vineyard in the course of owning the libs, he also got into a fight with Disney when it objected to the Don’t Say Gay law. That prompted Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, the nation’s first openly gay governor, to tweet, “Florida’s authoritarian socialist attacks on the private sector are driving businesses away …” while inviting Disney to move to Colorado. And now DeSantis is considering sending in child protective services to investigate if a parent takes a child to a drag show.

Meanwhile House Republicans have introduced their own nationalized version of the bill, which would affect any institution receiving federal funding. Now that Republicans have taken back control of the House, we might well see the bill pass the House next year.

If the shooter is, in fact, nonbinary, that doesn’t change the basic through line of the story — that LGBTQ people are under threat, and that there are politicians and others whose rhetoric and actions have only increased the danger.

Will the Club Q shooting slow down the anti-LGBTQ discrimination? Will Boebert or Tucker Carlson think twice before demonizing a trans person? You know the answer. Not even in our most fervent thoughts and prayers.

Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow. Sign up for Mike’s newsletter.

The Colorado Sun is a nonpartisan news organization, and the opinions of columnists and editorial writers do not reflect the opinions of the newsroom. Read our ethics policy for more on The Sun’s opinion policy and submit columns, suggested writers and more to (Learn more about how to submit a column.)

Read more opinion. Follow Colorado Sun Opinion on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Special to The Colorado Sun Email: Twitter: @mike_littwin