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Pink Pistols grow to 40 chapters


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Pink Pistols grow to 40 chapters

Gays and guns issue finds common ground in civil liberties, love of guns

by Shaun Hittle

Originally printed 01/31/2008 (Issue 1605 - Between The Lines News)

When Dexter Guptill and his gun-slinging group head into a restaurant, they can't help but be noticed by other patrons. Virginia state gun law prohibits concealed weapons in establishments that serve alcohol, so he and his crew must display their firearms. It turns heads, but Guptill doesn't mind; it gives him and his friends a chance to talk about the Pink Pistols - the gay, gun rights group that they all belong to.

As unlikely as the combination of guns and gays may sound, the Pink Pistols have grown since their inception in 2000 to include over 40 chapters in the U.S. and one in Canada. Their aim, said Pink Pistols media spokesperson Gwen Patton, is to encourage the safe usage of firearms while advocating for gun rights in an atmosphere that is accepting of and welcoming to the LGBT community.

The driving force for the Pink Pistols was a 2000 article written by Jonathon Rauch for Salon Magazine in which he wrote about the need for the LGBT community to exercise their second amendment rights. Rauch cited the example of a young gay man whose life was possibly saved during a potential hate crime when another man used a gun to ward off an attack.

Rauch wrote, "...homosexuals should embark on efforts to become comfortable with guns...they should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry."

Rauch's plea for LGBT persons to become gun owners for self-protection launched the group, whose mottoes are "Armed gays don't get bashed" and "Pick on someone your own caliber."

One of those national chapters is here in Michigan, and has been running since 2001. The chapter is based in Lansing and is currently headed by Al Lowe, who helps organize monthly shooting events for the roughly 20 Michigan members. While there is currently only one Michigan chapter, Lowe said he hopes that the group will grow to include other, more remote locations in the state.

While the direct connection between gay and gun rights might not seem obvious at first glance, Lowe said he feels those in the LGBT community have an extra imperative to protect themselves with firearms. "If you're gay, you're already an open target," said Lowe, adding that firearms are an effective deterrent to hate crimes.

"Criminals fear armed citizens," he added.

Pink Pistols spokeswoman Gwen Patton echoed Lowe's comments on the need for LGBT persons to protect themselves against hate crimes. She places LGBT status right up there with race, religion and ethnicity when it comes to the likelihood of being targeted for hate crimes.

Common ground

From a political standpoint, the issue of gay rights and gun rights and the groups that support each traditionally land on opposite sides of the spectrum. However, a common ground, said Patton, has been found regarding civil liberties and a love of firearms. Patton said that in her beliefs, they are both matters of constitutional rights.

Guptill has seen a cooperative spirit in Virginia between his group and other gun rights groups. Guptill said that the National Rifle Association has been supportive of his chapter and that most gun enthusiasts react positively to the Pink Pistols. "They usually say, 'Cool, another shooter,'" said Guptill. "You're accepted as long as you can shoot straight."

Guptill's experiences support the NRA's position on LGBT status. NRA spokesperson Ashley Varner said that the NRA respects personal privacy and welcomes "...anyone regardless of race, color, creed, or sexual orientation."

And while LGBT persons might be accepted in traditional gun rights groups, Patton said there is a strong value that members of the Pink Pistols share: The ability to talk openly about LGBT issues during events, something that she said might not be as easily accepted in traditional gun rights groups.

Guptill, who said he is "straight, not narrow," also finds value in breaking down stereotypes of gun rights enthusiasts. "We're not all tobacco-chewing rednecks," said Guptill. "Its fun to watch peoples' heads explode when you shatter their stereotypes."

According to Lowe and Patton, any problems the Pink Pistols have had with acceptance of their group has come from those in the LGBT community who are against violence and guns. Lowe said that in his experience, most gay rights groups either ignore the Pink Pistols or react negatively to them.

Political discord aside, Lowe reminds people that the primary mission of the Pink Pistols is to encourage and cultivate safe firearms ownership and usage. "The goal is to get people interested in shooting," said Lowe, adding that monthly gatherings of his group focus mostly on guns and less on LGBT politics. "It's a relaxing form of recreation."

For more Information on the Pink Pistols, visit their website at www.pinkpistols.orgTo View Jonathan Rauch's Salon article, visit www.jonathanrauch.com/jrauch_articles/guns_for_gays_pink_pistols/index.html

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I just wanted to say that this same article was posted on a local gun forum that I frequent and it was recieved very well. I didn't see any negative remarks at all (aside from the "pink" part) and the general consensus among them was that they were happy to have more practicing gun owners reguardless or sexuality. Most of the members are from MA, but a few are from the surrounding states. I take this as a good sign as being seen as equals and that generalized stereotypes are starting to fade. I even tried to 'bait' other members with some suggestive comments (evil of me, I know), but no one bit.

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I had a pellet gun as a kid and was a fair shot.

what's more, I really enjoyed target shooting as a challenge.

I don't live in America, so getting ahold of a real gun isn't a process that's easy to go through where I am, but I am in favor of an armed citizenry 100%, even including high powered rifles.

I never ever thought of the rationale of gun ownership for gays to reduce bashing. Now that I think about it, though, it's exactly the kind of reason that I support gun rights in general for.

I'm planning to move to Canada for a year or so. Maybe more if I like it. I'll definitely look into this some more.

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I grew up in Alaska, in a town where people walked around with pistols strapped to their waist and a rifle in the gunrack of their truck all the time. There was wildlife in the forests around my home that made wearing a gun when out in the woods a very good idea - it's not a good idea to let yourself slip from the top of the foodchain with bears around, and a high calibre gun is a pretty good way to guard against that. In addition, hunting for food in the form of moose and mountain goats was common place, and many families wouldn't have made it through the winter without that moose in their freezer.

So I know guns, and have no particular fear of them as an object, or in the hands of well intentioned, responsible people.

But, many people are neither well intentioned or responsible. A great many people in my current home city get shot every year, and far more people die of gunshot wounds in my city than any other means of violent attack. So, I have a hard time with owning a gun in the city...I would have to drive hours to find anyplace to shoot, and I know that if I did try to use it to protect myself, there's a pretty good chance that it would be taken away from me and used against me.

This is why, when my father sent me my .22 rifle that I owned as a child, I sent it on to my older brother and asked him to keep it for me. Gun ownership is not something that I can see for myself.



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Outside of the obvious uses for firearms, such as self-defense, hunting, etc., one of the more pleasurable things to do is target shooting of various types. Shooting is much like golf in that you are dependent upon your own skills and what others do has little effect upon you. In short, if you do each shot correctly you cannot lose. The hard thing is being perfect each time.

I've done a fair amount of trap shooting and there is not a single target I can't break, but I have never been able to break one hundred consecutive targets. Somewhere along the way I will do something wrong and miss one, oft times more than one. No one has ever beaten me, but I manage to beat myself. While I've won a number of matches, I've never won with a perfect score. In the end, the challenge is to try to be perfect during each event. In that way it differs from golf because in golf you can sometimes recover from a bad shot by making a great shot, but a bad shot in a shooting sport is forever recored as a miss. I would add that at times I have been so angry with myself over a miss that I have threatened to quit, but after cooling down I tried some more.

In all the times I've attended various shooting events I've never found anyone who was in the least discriminatory. Yes, like anything else there are a**holes who shoot, but they act that way towards everyone and are pretty much shunned by everyone. And you will find that in the United States shooters tend to be somewhat more Republican than Democrat, but that is because the Republicans have a better record on gun laws. Mostly politics is ignored unless some politician is actively advocating increased gun laws, and then the subject comes up and is discussed. Lately the Democrats are adopting a better stance on gun laws and individual candidates are being endorsed by such organizations as the National Rifle Association because of it. I happen to live in a fairly blue state, but members of the gun club I belong to are quick to condemn any politician who advocates gun laws with which they disagree irregardless of that politician's party affiliation.

So if you enjoy the challenge of attempting to be perfect and don't mind a lot of frustration because you frequently are not perfect, check out the shooting sports. Depending on the area there are many types of shooting sports available ranging from black powder rifle competitions through various shotgun based competitions. The local pistol club I used to belong to finally disbanded due to lack of membership, but I live in a rural area with a low population. Had I been more interested in pistol shooting I could have continued it by traveling about seventy miles to the now closest pistol club. I would add that it is not as expensive as a lot of people might think. I can spend a day at the gun club and shoot all I wish for forty dollars or less provided I load my own ammunition. Most of the time I shoot less, so the cost is less. I probably average about thirty dollars for targets and ammunition costs for an average day at the trap club. If I attend a two day meet and enter all events, the cost will run about $150 for fees plus another fifty for ammo. You can dump as much or as little in a shotgun as you wish with prices starting at about $400 for an used gun and going up to well over $5,000 for a fancy one. I paid $2,200 for my favorite shotgun, but it raised my average by several targets per hundred. My second favorite shotgun cost me $500 and is still worth that much, and the $2,200 one is worth more than I paid for it. There are still days on which I shot the $500 one better than the $2,200 one, but most of the time I shoot better scores with the more expensive one. Pistol and rifle shooting are normally less costly than shotgun shooting owing to ammunition costs.

Anyhow, if you are interested go out to a gun club and get acquainted. You will likely find that the members are friendly and eager to help you provided you ask. Don't think you have to have lots of equipment before you go. Just show up and get to know the members and by asking questions you can find out which firearms are most appropriate to the type of shooting at the club, plus frequently some of the members have firearms they are looking to sell. All of my trap guns were bought at trap events except the first one, and I soon discovered that while there was nothing wrong with that gun, it was not the best one for the way I shoot. And for Fun Tails, there are lots of gun clubs in Canada. Don't know about pistol clubs, but they have lots of rifle and shotgun clubs. I've been to a number of trap shoots which had shooters from British Columbia and Alberta. My old pistol club was not very active in meets so I can't say about pistols.

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One thing that has to be remembered is that the chance of a stupid or irresponsible person owning a gun is not a valid reason to ban guns or take them away from everybody. If this were the case none of us would be able to drive a car as millions of irresponsible and stupid people step behind the wheel each day, some even killing others. I'm writing a college paper towards the end of this semester on allowing licensed concealed carry gun owners to be able to carry on college campuses. If you guys like I can post it up for ya. I already spent almost $80 on books for resources and all is looking well for it to be an awesome paper.

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