Gun ownership is for everyone including women and LGBT folks.
Meet national gay group dedicated to fighting homophobia with firepower – and why they think gay rights and gun rights are a natural fit
By Andrew Belonsky
June 28, 2016
I totally smoked that punk!” I thought to myself, after pulling off a few well-placed rounds – 30 or so – in the target’s chest, plus a few more in his head. I felt good, and not just for my excellent aim. Guns have never appealed to me, and I’ve had little exposure to them. But I felt confident in my teacher, Jeff Bloovman, a Philadelphia gun instructor and a member of the Pink Pistols, an LGBT group based around the belief that guns can go a long way in combating homophobia. But here, holding my own against the Glock 34’s concussive revolt, I felt – was it imperviousness? Was I untouchable? Was I taller? Whatever it was, it was exhilarating, and not nearly as frightening as I had imagined.
This, of course, is a large part of the Pink Pistol’s mission: to get LGBT people more comfortable with firearms and encourage them to fight hate crimes with bullets – or at least the threat of them. A small, loosely organized group of a few dozen chapters scattered across the states and Canada, including Toronto, San Francisco and Charleston, South Carolina, the Pink Pistols’ membership has climbed from around 1,500 earlier this month to about 6,500 since the June day Omar Mateen attacked the Pulse nightclub, turning the dance floor into a killing field and crashing together two culture war battlegrounds that rarely converge: gays and guns. While the majority of LGBT people seem to be calling for more regulation, Pink Pistols and their allies are hunkering down and taking up arms, banding together under the group’s motto, a confrontational warning to potential gay-bashers: “Pick on someone your own caliber.”
The Pink Pistols formed around 2000, after gay journalist Jonathan Rauch – still outraged by Matthew Shepard’s 1998 murder, and knowing gay men who stopped attacks with guns – published an article on Salon. “[Gays] should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry,” he wrote, noting that they should do it in a way to garner as much publicity as possible. And, as an added bonus to self-protection, Pink Pistols could erode tenacious stereotypes, challenging the image of cringing weakness, especially for those who internalized it. “Pink pistols,” he wrote, “would do far more for the self-esteem of the next generation of gay men and women than any number of hate-crime laws or anti-discrimination statutes.”
Rauch went on: “If it became widely known that homosexuals carry guns and know how to use them, not many bullets would need to be fired. In fact, not all that many gay people would need to carry guns, as long as gay-bashers couldn’t tell which ones did.” Just knowing that a gay person could have a gun would deter a potential attacker. As Rauch has conceded, same-sex marriage, the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and other milestones have empowered LGBT people, but it remains that anti-gay attacks, like anti-American attacks, can be visited upon us at anytime. (Rauch even used the word “low-level terrorism” to describe homophobic attacks like the one that ended Matthew Shepherd’s life.) LGBT people know that each new space needs to be navigated delicately, lest our mere existence enrage some homophobe. Now, with Omar Mateen, Americans are all too aware how anti-gay violence can explode randomly, terrifyingly, and scar more than just LGBT people.