I spend a lot of time considering guns; it’s my job. Sometimes I feel like I’m pouring gunpowder into my morning coffee. It’s a tough life. As a result, I tend to think about all sorts of issues in terms of firearms. At first glance, there are plenty of things that have little to do with guns, if anything at all. But including firearms in my thought processes sometimes yields some interesting results.
Take, for example, the current weekend here in Chicago, which marks the annual Gay Pride Chicago 2011 festivities. The weekend festivities- a culmination of the city’s June Gay Pride Month – include a street festival and a pride parade.
To be honest, these events don’t much interest me. Don’t get me wrong, I support all the folks out there whose lifestyles differ from mine. To each his own, or her own, or….well, you get the point. Personally, I’d rather spend my Saturday sipping an adult beverage on the deck and thawing out a venison roast from last November’s Wisconsin deer hunt; it was a better day of hunting for me than it was for the 8 pointer who now resides in my freezer. But I digress.
The point is, heading down to Boystown – the Chicago neighborhood that caters to gay and lesbian men and women – is not on my radar. I’m a country boy from northeast Wisconsin. I grew up in a farming community that sets its watch to the weather and the various hunting and fishing seasons. We have the Old Boys Club, and that’s about it.
In any case, as I perused over the weekend paper that advertised the Gay Pride 2011 festivities, I briefly wondered whether there might be a gun club for the GLBTQ community. I grabbed my trusty laptop and ran a quick internet search, and was more than a little surprised to find that not only are there gay gun clubs, but a gay gun rights organization called the Pink Pistols.
Now I don’t have to spend much time explaining that gun rights and gay rights do not generally attract the same political and social audiences. In fact, these two issues are about as far apart on the political spectrum as Charlton Heston and Prince. I had a chuckle when I read their slogans: “Pick on Someone Your Own Caliber,” and “Armed Gays Don’t Get Bashed.”
To recap, gun rights and the Second Amendment are traditionally considered a conservative issue in the U.S., while sexuality general falls into the category of a liberal social issue. Of course, there are people from all political and social walks of life to whom either of these issues are important, and for good reason. But the point is that traditionally, there’s not much overlap.
But the more I thought about gun rights and gay rights, the more the Pink Pistols made sense, and for the same reason that gun rights should be important to everyone. The organization’s website proudly boasts a March 2000 quote from Jonathan Rauch of Salon magazine stating, “Thirty-one states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible.”
It’s evident that the Pink Pistols constituents took this advice to heart, as the organization now has 60 chapters in 33 states, including chapters in Canada. A lot has changed since the year of the aforementioned quote, including 16 more states passing concealed carry. It turns out conservatives weren’t the only ones cheering for those gun rights policies.
The Pink Pistols – recognizing that people of alternative sexual orientation are often the victims of violent hate crime – have made their mission statement to help GLBTQ folks arm themselves for self-defense. The 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard – a young gay man and University of Wyoming student at the time – and other high profile hate crimes sent shock waves through the GLBTQ community in the late 90s. Unsurprisingly, many in the community decided to get packing…that is to say, packin’ heat.
The organization’s website states that chapters “get together at least once a month at local firing ranges to practice shooting, and to acquaint people new to firearms with them.” The group also offers to “help you select a firearm, acquire a permit, and receive proper training in its safe and legal use for self-defense.”
The Pink Pistols claim, “The more people know that members of our community may be armed, the less likely they will be to single us out for attack. Join us today. It is your RIGHT.”
In the years since the organization’s founding, members say it is not uncommon to spot NRA and Pink Pistols members standing side by side at the firing range. Indeed, a large part of the Pink Pistols mission statement revolves around building bridges and contact between the GLBTQ community and other groups not usually associated with the social left. The Pink Pistols also keep a list of organizations and individuals considered hostile to gun-rights. Included on this list are Ellen Degeneres and K.D. Lang, both members of the GLBTQ community, evidence that gun-rights are a true priority for the group.
After perusing the Pink Pistols sight, I had to smile at the thought of a gruff NRA member and a Pink Pistols affiliate saddling up next to one another at the firing range. I wondered who’d be more likely to draw a Browning HI-Power. In any case, you have to love the thought of folks from such different walks of life united by a common cause. After all, as Americans, we’re all guaranteed the same things: the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; the right to keep and bear arms; and the right to live and express ourselves freely and without fear of violent reprisal. These are the notions upon which our great nation is built, and I couldn’t be prouder to know that people with perhaps not much else in common can equally enjoy the sound of casings hitting the concrete on a Saturday afternoon. Only in America could such a thing be possible.
Said Stephen Smith of the Boston Chapter, “We’re really bridging a lot of communities, between the Gay community and other communities…[Pink Pistols] has brought us into a lot of contact with a lot of people who’ve changed their views about the Gay community.”
As is often the case, my interest in guns helped me to learn something new as I sat around and mused about gay pride and gun pride, and to think about the gun community in a new way. As I waited for my venison roast to thaw, I couldn’t help but whether I might not wander down to Boystown after all. I chuckled with the thought that at least I if I did head down to the parade, I could do so knowing that I’m not the only one in the crowd who feels more comfortable with a Glock on his hip, or her hip, or…well, you get the picture.