Membership in a gun club for the LGBT has surged since the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Florida.
The group, called the Pink Pistols, is a “shooting group that honors diversity and is open to all shooters,” according to its website. Club members meet at least once a month at local ranges to practice shooting and train new members.
The group announced last week that its membership has tripled in the five days since Omar Mateen killed 49 people and injured 53 at the Orlando nightclub.
“This is exactly the kind of heinous act that justifies our existence,” the group’s press release states. “At such a time of tragedy, let us not reach for the low-hanging fruit of blaming the killer’s gun.”
A senior Pink Pistols member said that the shooter could have been prevented if patrons had been armed at the nightclub.
“I think there is a possibility that it could have prevented it…or helped to make the death toll less. If we could have sent one more person home to their family alive instead of in a body bag that would have been something,” Gwen Patton, a Pink Pistols spokeswoman, told The Guardian.
With more than 45 chapters spanning the country, the group’s Facebook membership has jumped from 1,500 members to more than 7,000, a growth of 400 percent. Weapon sales among the LGBT has also grown, according to gun dealers and firearms trainers.
Gun shops typically see a spike in customers following mass shootings, although this time around the clientele belong to a more specific group: gays and lesbians.
“I think right now because of what happened, people are looking for answers,” Mike Smith, a firearms instructor in Colorado, told Fox31. “You walk into a gun shop and you expect to see people, frankly, who look like me. I think we forget we’re a country of all people, not just people who fit that predetermined mold.”
The surge in interest in guns from the LGBT community is also echoed in the pro-gun, pro-gay posters plastered all over West Hollywood in California. The posters feature a rainbow version of the revolutionary-war era Gadsden flag, a symbol more associated with Tea Party conservatives than with the gay community. Beneath the traditional image of a snake poised to strike is the hashtag #shootback.
“If it became widely known that homosexuals carry guns and know how to use them, not many bullets would need to be fired,” wrote Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute and gun-rights activist. “So let’s make gay-bashing dangerous.”
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