Gays with Guns: A Growing Subculture?
Gays and guns seem as likely to go together as Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey. As a culture, even under attack, we are a peaceful lot -- you catch more bees with honey, right?
"Wrong," says Gwendolyn Patton of Pink Pistols, a group that advocates gun ownership for the LGBT community. With taglines like "pick on someone your own caliber," and "armed gays don't get bashed," Patton says Pink Pistols changes the perception that gay people are easy victims.
"We teach queers to shoot, and then we teach the rest of the world we've done it," Patton told WBEZ91.5, a public radio station in Chicago. "Because then they may think twice about using (LGBT people) as a target."
Doug Krick, a libertarian activist from Illinois founded the Pink Pistols in July 2000 while living in Massachusetts. The organization now has 60 chapters in 33 states and three countries. The group's activities include firing range visits, political activism and will occasionally produce report cards on politicians; rating them on their position on issues of interest to members. Other than that, little is known about the organization and it's even difficult to know just how big the Pink Pistols movement is because the organization doesn't keep a national count.
While some might roll their eyes, advocates like Chuck Michel, a spokesman for the California Rifle and Pistol Association and a lawyer for the National Rifle Association, does not. In fact, in 2005, at the height of the Proposition H ordinance debate, which gained national attention for seeking to ban the otherwise legal ownership and sales of firearms in San Francisco, Michel said Pink Pistols played a critical role in the gun owner rights fight.
"They have a great deal of legitimacy because they recognize they are at great odds of becoming victims because of their sexual preference ... I think people will understand that they should not be deprived of their rights," he told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Despite Pink Pistols' efforts to convince voters that Proposition H was unconstitutional, the measure was passed in 2005 and banned the manufacture, distribution, sale and transfer of firearms and ammunition within San Francisco. But the group saw victory when the measure was brought up before the Supreme Court and the justices ruled that Proposition H as unlawful.
Wins like that can galvanize a movement and the Pink Pistols are not shy about the direction their movement is headed.
"Thirty-one states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons," Pink Pistols officials say in a post on their website, PinkPistols.org. "In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces; sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible."
Another aggressive pro-gun/pro-gay group, appropriately named GaysWithGuns.net, offers a free downloadable flyer with a picture of Matthew Shepard on it, which reads, "The notion that Matthew Shepard tied to a fence post in the middle of a freezing Wyoming night, tortured and beaten to death, is morally superior to Matthew Shepard explaining to the local sheriff how his attackers got all those bullet holes."
"If Matthew Shepard carried a concealed gun and had basic safety training the outcome would likely been very different," continues the statement on the Gay with Guns flyer. "With the alarming number of Gay/LBT hate crimes owning a gun and learning how to use it right may just save a life. Maybe even YOURS! The right to self-defense is a basic human right."
According to the Pink Pistols' site, the group gets "together at least once a month at local firing ranges to practice shooting, and to acquaint people new to firearms with them. We will help you select a firearm, acquire a permit, and receive proper training in its safe and legal use for self-defense. The more people know that members of our community may be armed, the less likely they will be to single us out for attack."
There is no evidence to back up these claims, however. Gun ownership used to protect against hate crimes is rare and gay gun ownership used to protect against hate crimes is even more rare.
Gays with Guns website, however, links to a subreddit page called the Defensive Gun Use (DGU), which is dedicated to cataloging incidents in the U.S. where legally-owned guns are used to deter or stop violent crimes. DGU posts at least one news article per day, which adds some validity to their claims. A recent article titled, "Man, 64, Dies in Shootout With Mom" told the story of an 84-year-old woman who allegedly shot her son in self-defense.
It is important to note, however, DGU did not suggest that any of the reports they detailed involved members of the LGBT community. Nevertheless, the message is resonating with some LGBT people who feel they need to protect themselves and Pink Pistols and Gays With Guns have partnered with the National Association for Gun Rights, Firearms Policy Coalition, The Liberal Gun Club and more.
Though Pink Pistols and Gays With Guns may be the biggest and most vocal pro-gay/pro-gun groups, they aren't the only LGBT gun advocacy groups out there. MyGunBlog.Blogspot.com, which hosts Big Gay Al's Big Gay (Gun) Blog and is linked to the coordinator of the Michigan Pink Pistols group, states the Michigan Pink Pistols are a "GLBT and kink friendly, shooting sports group."
The blog is scarcely updated, sometimes months pass without a single post, but when Blogger Big Gay Al does update the site, his posts have the same rhetoric as the other groups. Big Gay Al says his website is, "mostly about guns and gun rights, open and concealed carry, and sometimes about other things, and it's so GAY!"
In a post titled, "A plea to Scouts: Don't let the 'bad guys' win," Big Gay Al laments about the people who give conservatives a bad name and then advises, "Take my advice, you're a known member of your local LGBT community, legally arm yourself. Start a Pink Pistols Chapter in your area. Learn how to use your weapon of choice. Get a license to carry if required where you live, and make sure you keep on living."
Although most of these sites aren't regularly managed, it would seem that the number of gays owning guns and being vocal about their Second Amendment rights is growing. On PinkPistols.org, officials promote recruitment: "It is highly recommended that individuals find a couple of friends to assist them before they start the process of opening a chapter." Pink Pistols goes on to explain that while one person can start a new chapter, "it is far more difficult than starting one with the help of two or three others." The site also notes that you don't even have to be gay to join.
"We include members from the GLBT, Polyamarous, and BDSM communities, but you don't need to be gay or have an alternative sexuality to join and shoot with us," Pink Pistols says. "We like to say that we are FOR the sexual minority community, but not exclusively OF it. We welcome anybody."