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Pink Pistols grow to 40 chapters

By |2018-01-15T23:05:05-05:00January 31st, 2008|News|

by Shaun Hittle

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.”

About the Author:

Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.
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