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Pink Pistols: Displaying Good Judgement and Common Sense After Orlando Shooting, LGBT Group Embraces Armed Self-Defense

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Without self-defense, there are no gay rights

Hailey Branson reports: Jonathan Fischer is never sure who’s going to be more surprised when he, as he likes to put it, comes out of the gun closet — the gun aficionados who find out he’s gay or the gay friends who find out he likes shooting guns.

“If someone was to try and break into my home, and especially if someone were armed, I don’t want to fight back with a kitchen knife, and I don’t think that’s extremist or crazy.”

— Jonathan Fischer

When the 38-year-old television editor showed up last month to a defensive handgun class near Piru with a Glock 27 pistol on his hip, he wore a T-shirt sporting a rainbow-colored AK-47. His “gay-K-47,” he said.

In the days after 49 people were fatally shot at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., this summer, Fischer wanted to do something to make his community safer. So he started the West Hollywood chapter of the Pink Pistols — a loosely organized, national LGBT gun group.

“If someone was to try and break into my home, and especially if someone were armed, I don’t want to fight back with a kitchen knife,” Fischer said.  “And I don’t think that’s extremist or crazy.

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“We wish to dispel the misleading and insulting caricature that supporters of Second Amendment rights are either tobacco-chewing, gap-toothed, camouflage-wearing rednecks or militia posers who are morbidly fascinated with firepower.”

It’s a stark contrast to how the overwhelming majority of LGBT activists andemily-gun organizations responded to the Orlando massacre, which has sparked calls within the community for gun control.

[Check out Emily Miller’s book Emily Gets Her Gun” from Amazon]

In the wake of the shooting, some gay bars like the Abbey in West Hollywood beefed up security. The same day as the Orlando mass shooting, L.A.’s annual gay pride parade was rattled after a heavily armed man en route to the event was arrested.

For all the anxiety Orlando has caused, many gay activists say becoming armed is not the answer.

“Some people say you need a gun to protect yourself from the bad guys. We just fundamentally disagree with that,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. “We don’t want to live in a world where you have to be packing heat to live your daily life.”

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But for a small subset of the community, Orlando has become a call to arms.

[Read the full article here, at the LA Times]

When the firearms instructor at the range near Piru asked each person in the class why he or she was there, Fischer ticked off several reasons and mentioned the Pink Pistols.

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“What is the Pink Pistols group?” a man asked.

There was a pause.

[Read the full text here, at the LA Times]

“We’re — a gay gun group,” Fischer said hesitantly. He tried quickly to explain.

Gun owner Elizabeth Southern, left, trains with a handgun at a gun range near Piru.

“No, that’s awesome,” the man said, nodding reassuringly.

Interest in the Pink Pistols has increased since the Orlando attack, with new chapters springing up across the country, including the West Hollywood chapter and another one in North Hollywood. There was such an outpouring of support from firearms trainers, many of them straight, that the Pink Pistols’ website now has a map listing LGBT-friendly firearms instructors in every state.

[Read the full story here, at the LA Times]

The week of the attack, signs depicting a rainbow-colored Gadsden flag and the hashtag #ShootBack appeared in West Hollywood, where an estimated 46% of the population identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. City officials were outraged.

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“Not all that many gay people would need to carry guns, as long as gay-bashers couldn’t tell which ones did.”

“Even during our heightened days of civil disobedience and protest, we have only advocated peaceful means, never arming ourselves and retaliating with violence,” said City Councilman John Duran, who is gay.

Gwendolyn Patton, the national spokeswoman for the Pink Pistols, has spent the summer trying to keep up with the more-guns-less-crimeall inquiries about the group and how to start new chapters.

[See John R. Lott’s More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws, Third Edition (Studies in Law and Economics) at Amazon]

“People don’t like to feel helpless,” said Patton, a lesbian who lives outside Philadelphia.

The Pink Pistols has received a mostly negative response from the broader LGBT community, she said. Some LGBT centers, she said, have even specifically banned the Pink Pistols from using their facilities.

The group dates to 2000 when gay author and journalist Jonathan Rauch wrote an article for Salon.com calling for gay people to “set up Pink Pistols task forces,” get licensed to carry guns and arm themselves to protect their community.”

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“Not all that many gay people would need to carry guns, as long as gay-bashers couldn’t tell which ones did,” Rauch wrote.

Rauch told The Times he wrote the article at a time when the brutal murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard negores-guns-bookwas still fresh in the public consciousness. It woke people up, he said, to what gay people had known all along: “that we were targets of day-to-day terrorism.”

[Order Nicholas Johnson’s book “Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms” at Amazon]

“There is a huge amount of anti-gay stereotype in America that has to do with weakness — people calling us limp-wristed and fairies,” Rauch said. “Over the years, many gay people came to internalize this stereotype and assume that we are weak and defenseless, and of course we are not.”

The first Pink Pistols chapter, taking its name directly from Rauch’s article, was started in Boston just after its publication, Patton said. Today, there are 50 chapters in the U.S. and Canada. Read the rest of this entry »

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Do Black People Have Equal Gun Rights?

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cookeFor centuries, firearms have been indispensable to black liberation: as crucial a defense against tyranny for Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. as for Sam Adams and George Washington. 

For the New York Times, Charles W. Cooke writes: Conventional wisdom holds that firearms are the preserve of conservative white men. You would never know this at my local shooting range, which negores-guns-bookhappens to be in a majority African-American area, and has a clientele that reflects that fact. There, as a white man, I’m often in the minority; just one more guy who likes to fire weapons — another person to chat to and share stories with. It is, I’d venture, how things should be.

[Check out Nicholas Johnson’s book “Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms” at Amazon]

By rights, the Second Amendment should serve as a totem of African-Americans’ full citizenship and enfranchisement.

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“A Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give.”emily-gun

— Ida B. Wells

[Order Emily Miller’s bookEmily Gets Her Gun” from Amazon]

For centuries, firearms have been indispensable to black liberation: as crucial a defense against tyranny for Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. as for Sam Adams and George Washington. Today, however, many black Americans have a decidedly mixed relationship with the right to bear arms.

The first major ban on the open carrying of firearms — a Republican-led bill that was drafted after Black Panthers began hanging around the State Legislature in Sacramento with their guns on display — was signed in 1967 by none other than Gov. Ronald Reagan of California.

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In August, as the outrage over the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., dominated the news, an African-American group calling itself the Huey P. Newton Gun Club took to the streets of Dallas, rifles in hand, to protest.

[Order the book “This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible” from Amazon]

Huey P. Newton Gun Club, demonstrating in Dallas, Texas

Local businesses were supportive, and the city’s police chief confirmed in a statement that his department “supports the constitutional rights of all.” On Twitter, the hashtag #blackopencarry prompted a warm More-guns-less-crimeresponse from conservatives.

[Order John Lott’s famous book “More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws”, Third Edition (Studies in Law and Economics) from Amazon]

The federal Gun Control Act of 1968 was primarily a reaction to the scourge of “Saturday night specials” — cheap handguns owned by the poor and the black. The National Rifle Association opposed neither law.

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Until around 1970, the aims of America’s firearms restrictionists and the aims of America’s racists were practically inextricable. In both the colonial and immediate post-Revolutionary periods, the first laws regulating gun ownership were aimed squarely at blacks and Native Americans.

And yet, that same month, a 22-year-old black man named John Crawford III was shot dead by the police inwolves-police-state an Ohio Walmart after a white customer claimed excitedly that a man was pointing a gun at his fellow patrons.

[Order the book “A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State” from Amazon]

Later, the store’s security footage revealed that Mr. Crawford had been holding a BB gun that he had picked up in the sporting goods department, and that the caller’s testimony had been wrong. Ohio is an open carry state. That didn’t make much difference for Mr. Crawford.

“Malcolm X may have a deservedly mixed reputation, but the famous photograph of him standing at the window, rifle in hand, insisting on black liberation ‘by any means necessary,’ is about as American as it gets.”

vpoUmbwUntil around 1970, the aims of America’s firearms restrictionists and the aims of America’s racists were practically inextricable. In both the colonial and immediate post-Revolutionary periods, the first laws regulating gun ownership were aimed squarely at blacks and Native Americans. In both the Massachusetts and Plymouth colonies, it was illegal for the colonists to sell guns to natives, while Virginia and Tennessee banned gun ownership by free blacks.

In the antebellum period, the chief justice of the United States, Roger B. Taney, wrote a grave warning into the heart of the execrable Dred Scott decision. If blacks were permitted to become citizens, Taney cautioned, they, like whites, would have full liberty to “keep and carry arms wherever they went.” Read the rest of this entry »