After Orlando, a Spike in Gun Ownership by LGBT Americans

This article originally appeared on Autostraddle.

There’s been a reported spike in memberships of the Pink Pistols, a national LGBT pro-gun rights organization, in the wake of the Orlando shooting. Before Omar Mateen opened fire at Pulse night club and killed 49 people, Pink Pistols’ national membership totaled about 1,500 people. After the shooting, the number has risen to 4,000 members nationwide, with many local chapters being revitalized, including in the Twin Cities and Atlanta. “It’s really sad that something on this scale had to happen for people to realize this is a need for our community,” Matt Schlentz, Pink Pistols Utah chapter President, told The Salt Lake Tribune. “But the reality is, we still get attacked for kissing our partners or holding hands in public. We get windows smashed for having an equality sticker on them.”

Meanwhile in Houston, Jess Sanford, manager of the Shiloh Gun Range, offered free concealed handgun classes for LGBT people. He was surprised by the overwhelming response—more than 550 people signed up for the classes.

“I started getting cold feet right around 200,” he told Houston Public Media. “And we got the family back together, and I said, ‘Well, how many of these can we possibly do?’ And my mom just looks up and says, ‘Well, all of them!’ So, it became our calling now: Let’s arm and empower this group of people that’s been historically known as a vulnerable group. Let’s get rid of that vulnerability.”

There’s probably a lot more you can do to empower a disenfranchised group other than giving them a free gun class, especially when LGBT people are disproportionately targeted of violent hate crimes.

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On the other hand, also after the Orlando shooting, a new group called Gays Against Guns was formed. The group made their debut at New York’s Pride parade, with over 700 people marching and staging a die-in. One of the organizers, Catherine Marino-Thomas, says the organization will focus on direct action, not lobbying. They plan to protest against state and national officials who oppose LGBT rights and gun control. “People who insist on voting against equal rights for all people and against sensible gun laws will be visited by Gays Against Guns,” she says.

Various LGBT groups are working in coalition with gun reform groups to advocate for gun control.

This article originally appeared on Autostraddle.

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