If there is one unifying message that has emerged after the horror of the June 12th massacre at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando is that this was a specific targeted attacked on the LGBT community. Despite all the diversionary tactics suggesting that terrorism was behind the assault, the gays and lesbian around the globe aren’t buying the rhetoric or the reaction of the Republican-led response to it. In the absence of any legislation to govern the sale of assault weapons, gays are taking the initiative and army themselves against future attacks. Defend yourself if you want to save yourself is the new LGBT mantra.
Pink Pistols, a gay gun club based in Atlanta with chapters throughout the country (including Orlando and Fort Myers, Florida), has seen a spike in membership and requests to form local chapters have also increased, including the brand new Pink Pistols of Central Florida, a division of Empower Firearms Training.
Nicki Stallard, a transgender spokesperson for the group, wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times that said in part, “Since the attack in Orlando, Fla., many LGBT groups have been calling loudly for laws restricting gun ownership. But if anyone should be concerned about protecting the individual right to bear arms, it’s L.G.B.T. people. We need to stop preaching nonviolence and voting for politicians who don’t protect us.”
There are more than few that have joined onto the Pink Pistol bandwagon, intent of not only arming the entire LGBT population but then spread the word. According to the Pink Pistol manual, “We teach queers to shoot, then teach the world that we have done it.”
The idea here is hardly a new one. It is meant to be the loudest deterrent with the smallest amount of physical contact. And that physica contact, at least for the LGBT community, is what is on the uprise.
LGBTs, more than black, jews, latinos or Asians, are the targets of the highest number of hate crimes. It is ironic that much of the increase in attacks of gays and transgenders has come because of our successful legislation for equality. We now hold hands in public; even kiss occasionally. And with each flagrant demonstration of love toward another, we become the potential target of bigots who become more radicalized as our freedoms have increased.
““They may feel that the way they see the world is threatened, which motivates them to strike out in some way, and for some people, that way could be in violent attacks,” Gregory M. Herek, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, told the New York Times.
Unfortunately, as bad as the increase in hate crimes appears, the reality is even worse since getting true statistics into hate crimes is nearly impossible. For a variety of reasons, including exposure to family and friends, the gay victims of hate crimes do not make a police or FBI report.
According to the Associated Press, more than 2,700 city police and county sheriff’s departments across the country have not submitted a single hate crime report for the FBI’s annual crime tally during the past six years — about 17 percent of all city and county law enforcement agencies nationwide.
Given that the attacks are real, and underreported, the desire to seek protection is understandable. Journalist Jonathan Raunch, writing on Salon.com years ago said, “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. Suddenly, what is now an almost risk-free sport for testosterone-drenched teenagers would become a great deal less attractive.”
“I think right now because of what happened, people are looking for answers,” said Mike Smith, a gun instructor in Colorado Springs. “You walk into a gun shop and you expect to see people, frankly, who look like me. I think we forget we’re a country of all people, not just people who fit that predetermined mold.” Smith says that he feels compelled to start his own chapter of the Pink Pistols in his area, despite the fact that he is heterosexual, in order to help the LGBT community.
“Violence toward L.G.B.T. people is real. We often face multiple assailants. The attacks are frenzied and quickly escalate from harassment, to fists, to something altogether different. People die,” says Nicki Stallard.
“If you find yourself in a violent encounter, you’re lucky if you get three seconds to react. If you want to save yourself, you have to go on the offensive.”
Information about forming a Pink Pistols chapter is available at pinkpistols.org.