The shocking attack on Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, which killed 49 people and injured more than fifty others earlier this month, immediately intensified the debate about guns in this country.
But while many officials on the national and local levels called for stricter gun-control measures (and the National Rifle Association and its allies fought them), reports have been multiplying about a growing interest among members of the LGBTQ community in obtaining firearms and learning how to use them.
Enter Pink Pistols, an organization whose website says, "We are dedicated to the legal, safe and responsible use of firearms for self-defense of the sexual-minority community. We no longer believe it is the right of those who hate and fear gay, lesbian, bi, trans or polyamorous persons to use us as targets for their rage. Self-defense is our RIGHT."
Pink Pistols has more than 45 chapters nationwide, and among its newest is an affiliate in Colorado Springs that's staging its first event on Saturday, July 2, in Sedalia; details below.
The Springs branch of Pink Pistols had gone dormant — but Mike Smith has revived it. He contacted the national organization "about two weeks before Orlando," he says. "It was an unfortunate coincidence that our family reached out when we did, and after that, the events at Pulse happened. But since then, there's been a huge interest in Pink Pistols all over the country."
Smith isn't gay, but, he stresses, "I have friends who are part of the LGBTQ community, I've had gay co-workers all my life, and I was in the Army before and after 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' So I've seen a lot of folks in that community thrust into the limelight, and I've always believed that they're equal people in every way — all equal under the Constitution."
As such, he sees Pink Pistols as a perfect fit. "It's an organization that honors diversity and encourages people from all walks of life to learn basic shooting skills."
Thus far, the Colorado Springs group is small — just three official members, including Smith. But in advance of the range day, he says more than twenty additional people have expressed interest in the group "and we're adding one or two people every day." Among them are "folks who aren't necessarily part of the LGBTQ community but are part of the shooting community and realize that everyone has a right to self-defense regardless of their personal lifestyle or background."
In general, most people who identify as gay are thought to hold anti-gun views — "but the LGBTQ community has made it clear that their members don't fall under one stereotype or another," Smith notes. "And this is just one more stereotype that needs to be corrected. The point of this range day is for like-minded folks to come together to learn a little about each other and learn the core values behind Pink Pistols.
"People will be able to shoot, but that's not required," he continues. "Some folks may not even be comfortable with the idea of holding a gun, but that's okay. We're all about inclusion and education, and this will give people like that the opportunity to ask questions in a safe environment."
Among the new Pink Pistols chapters that have sprung up of late is one in Denver, and Smith reveals that another is about to launch in Fort Collins. He expects more to follow, in part because of the organization's message.
"At Pink Pistols, we understand that ignorance breeds fear — and in recent history, there's been a lot of ignorance around gay culture, to the point that homosexual men weren't able to give blood to save the lives of their friends in Orlando. So a little bit of knowledge goes a long way, and we want to let everyone know that everyone has a right to defend yourself and your life as an American — and the gun is available to help you.
"So many people don't have the mindset of self-defense. They don't even consider arming themselves, and in a perfect world, we wouldn't have to. But we don't live in a perfect world — so we work with what we have."
Continue to get more information about tomorrow's event
Open Range Day!
July 2, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
This is an open range day for anyone who wants to learn more about firearms! Extra ear protection and eye protection will be available, however supplies are limited so please bring your own if possible.
Range Conditions — This is an outdoor range with zero amenities. That means no restrooms, food or water and limited shade. Please plan accordingly.
Range Location — The range is approximately 11 miles North of Woodland Park. It will be on your left as you are traveling North. GPS is fairly accurate in finding the location.
Firearms — Everyone is encouraged to bring their own firearms and ammunition, however it is not required. We also welcome anyone who wants to learn more about guns but who may not be comfortable shooting yet.
Targets — Only paper targets will be allowed on the range. Wooden or metal target stands may be used to support paper targets. No attendee may shoot at anything not deemed an appropriate "target" by the RSO.
Range Rules - A range safety officer (RSO) will be at the event. He will be wearing a yellow reflective safety vest for easy identification. All attendees are expected to follow commands from the RSO.
Safety is the #1 priority at the range. Failure to obey the RSO will result in immediate removal from the range.
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