Pink Pistols: LGBT Gun Owners Unite in Arming Gay Community
“Ventilate?” That’s a gruesome image, I say. “There’s nothing pretty about this,” Bloovman says. “It’s morally offensive to me to shoot someone.” But, sadly, it one day may be necessary.
Tom Nelson, a 71-year-old former gun designer, joined the Pink Pistols back in 2001. One of the first members of Philadelphia’s small chapter, Nelson found the group after reading about them in the Philadelphia Gay News. “I’ve found that the majority of gay people that I’ve run into, gay guys especially, seem to be scared of guns and don’t want anything to do with them,” he says. “And here was an organization – an LGBT organization – that actually liked guns and believed in people’s right to self-defense. I was thrilled!” And as for LGBT people’s increased interest post-Orlando, he says, “I’m overwhelmed because I felt like the voice in the wilderness; finally it feels like people are paying attention.”
I ask them both about Rauch’s original comments about guns dispelling anti-gay stereotypes. Nelson readily agreed.
“Absolutely, because there is a perception that gay people are [weak],” says Nelson, a mechanical engineer. “One of my greatest sorrows in dealing with the gay community is that they’re willing to hold a candlelight vigil for people who are beaten up, stabbed, or shot, but they’re not willing to protect those people.” Vigils may help the community come together, but “it doesn’t do a damn bit of good for the guy who was shot, stabbed, or beaten.”
“There seems to be an unwillingness to admit that we need to teach people to defend themselves,” he says. “I’m sorry, but begging for mercy from someone who is attacking you is not going to solve the problem.”
And as for Bloovman, an action movie fanatic and lifetime martial artist who came out late in life, he himself was once vexed by the apparent gay-guy or gun-guy dichotomy: “This is one of the reasons why I struggled with my own sexual orientation; I was like ‘How can I be doing martial arts and shooting for 25 years and [be gay]?’
“What I’ve figured out through being honest is those things are not exclusive to one another,” he says. “Self-protection, firearms, firearm culture is for everybody.” He calls the gun rights community a “big tent.” Atlanta-based gun instructor Aaron Cowan, with whom Bloovman co-hosts a gun-themed YouTube show, Practically Tactical, tells me that while he has no qualms with LGBT folk, no culture is perfect. “Whatever someone is born to do or chooses to do is their business,” he told me via email. “I’m not going to pretend that there isn’t homophobia in the gun community, but I can’t say that there is a disproportionate amount of anti-LGBT feelings among shooters.”
Atlanta Pink Pistol member Dylan West also describes gun culture as being accepting — “I haven’t had an issue when people [at the range] have found out that I’m gay” — and Jose Morales, a Philadelphia-based NRA-certified gun instructor, agrees. “The general gun culture is a very open culture. We don’t judge people by their looks, their ethnicity or their sexual orientation. We have more in common, which is usually the desire to protect ourselves with safe and responsible gun ownership.”
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- 'The Fight Continues'