After the horrific terrorist attack targeting homosexuals at a gay nightclub in Orlando in early June, The Pink Pistols, a national gun club geared toward the LGBT community saw a spike in memberships that has continued to the present.
By the end of the month, Rolling Stone gave the group some national attention with a story focusing on the group’s recent growth and its philosophy.
Now, this piece from the Philadelphia Inquirer profiles the local chapter of Pink Pistols and Gwen Patton, who heads the organization.
Patton talked to the newspaper about the additional dangers gay people face every day.
“Yeah, because someone mugs you on the street, they want your wallet, they want your watch, they want your money. A woman might also face a threat of rape,” she said in the story. “Another level is when they don’t like you for what you are. There’s a quantum leap in danger.”
Patton, who joined the organization near its inception in 2001, says she wants everyone to know that its members are armed, trained, and prepared to pull the trigger in a life-threatening situation, she says in the story.
The story says that the idea of Pink Pistols is to make a gay basher think twice.
“These are tools of existence, extreme situations, last ditch, last resort, gotta do something,” Patton says. “The police are great, but I can’t carry one along with me. They’re too heavy.”
While the federal government doesn’t keep records of homicides by sexual orientation, but the FBI does put hate crimes into categories, the story says.
“In 2014, the FBI reported LGBT people accounted for one-fifth of the 5,462 so-called single-bias hate crimes. They represent the second largest group of victims, following only race-based hate crimes, at 48.5 percent. Third place goes to religious-based hate crimes: 17.4 percent.”
“There is no shortage of gays murdered for what they are. Two of the most prominent were San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk, who was shot to death in 1978, and Matthew Shepard, a gay student who in 1998 was beaten and tortured to death in Wyoming in a case that received international attention.”
The entire idea behind Pink Pistols came from an essay by Jonathan Rauch published in 2000 by Salon magazine, in which he proposed gays “become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely, and carry them.” The piece was motivated by Shepard’s murder and Rauch gave the organization its name and mission to educate and arm members of the LGBT community, plus help them get licenses to carry for their own protection.
One of the Pink Pistols’ goals is to get members to a gun range at least once a month, the story says.
Gays are “very good about candlelight vigils for the fallen, but we’re bad at protecting them from falling,” said Tom Nelson, 72, in the story, who took over the Delaware Valley chapter of Pink Pistols when Patton became the national leader, which they call First Speaker.
“Gun control does not equal crime control,” said Nelson, who also said he carries a .40 caliber Glock in the story. “The two are not one, and the people in favor of gun control can’t make that distinction.”
While Nelson has never had to draw his pistol in self defense, the story profiles a man who has. Andrew Green, 46, was in his 20s when he left a bar in the Gayborhood, a LGBT-heavy area of Philadelphia, and started walking to his car at about 3 a.m. when he was followed by two men.
Green realized they were both carrying pipes.
“One of them shouted ‘Hey faggot!’ at me, which broke what little cool I had left,” he says in the story. “I ran around the other side of my car, and I drew on them over the top of my car. They were in motion toward me at this point.”
Green said they saw his stainless-steel .38 S&W revolver in the street light.
“One of them shouted, ‘Holy f—, he’s got a gun!’ and they both took off,” said Green, a PP member who got his first gun at age 18.
There are about 50 Pink Pistol chapters in the U.S. and Canada. The group, which regards the Second Amendment as sacrosanct, charges no membership fees and is not connected to pro-gun groups like the NRA or the NSSF, though they do work with the NRA on specific goals.
“Despite what many Americans see as a need to be armed for self defense, there’s another legion that is fanatically anti-gun. That group exists mostly on the left, where most gays reside, while conservatives tend to be pro-gun but cool to social issues such as marriage equality. That creates an interesting dynamic for PP members that is not shared by its mirror-image group, Gays Against Guns. Its name tells you all you need to know.”
“Green says most of his gay friends are gun owners, but admits they are not the norm.”
“Local chapter leader Nelson, who for a time worked for Remington Arms and designed guns, isn’t laughing at gun laws that ‘are basically disarming people who need to protect themselves, while the criminals are going to break any law that you make.’”
“Most of the people talking about gun control, he says, have little experience with guns. They suggest you are protected by the police.”
“‘When seconds count, the police are only minutes away,’ he says grimly. He’s never drawn his gun in anger and hopes he never will.”