EDITOR’S NOTE: A version of this article first appeared in the June 30 New York Post.
With a colorful parade down Fifth Avenue, June’s Gay Pride celebrations were in full gear Sunday afternoon. A two-year-old group called Pink Pistols is among the worthiest organizations that marked last month’s nationwide festivities. Boasting 2,350 members and 30 chapters in 22 states, Pink Pistols encourages gay people to use firearms for recreation and self-preservation.
”Pick on someone your own caliber,” declares the group’s website
. “We are dedicated to the legal, safe and responsible use of firearms for self-defense of the sexual-minority community,” it continues. The group’s logic is unassailable: “The more people know that members of our community may be armed, the less likely they will be able to single us out for attack.”
This deterrence policy already may have curbed anti-gay violence. According to Doug Krick, 31, the Boston-based dot.com engineer who founded Pink Pistols in July 2000: “While I can’t say that we are completely responsible for it, I can say that there has not been a ‘fag bashing’ in any of the towns where we have chapters after our chapters were founded.”
Pink Pistols borrowed its name from the headline of a March 13, 2000 Salon magazine article by Jonathan Rauch, an openly libertarian columnist for the National Journal who happens to be gay. He urged armed self-defense as an antidote to anti-gay violence. He dramatically illustrated this matter with the case of Tom Palmer, a Washington-based think-tank scholar. Palmer and a male friend were in a rough section of San Jose, California when a gang of 20 hoodlums started taunting them.
“Hey, you f***ing faggots!” one yelled. “When we’re done with you, they’ll never find your bodies.” Palmer and his pal ran for their lives, with the thugs in hot pursuit. Palmer pulled a semi-automatic handgun from his backpack. He stood and waved it beneath a street light. His tormentors swiftly retreated.
“There’s no question in my mind,” Palmer said, “that my friend and I would have been at least very seriously beaten, and maybe killed.”
Washington lobbyist Austin Fulk, 31, recalls a close brush with a hate-filled mob back in 1987. “I was 17 years old and living in Little Rock,” he says by phone. “I was in a park where gay people too young to get into the bars would hang out and talk. Some people came by in a car and yelled at us, ‘F**king faggots. Get AIDS and die.’ I was standing beside the pick-up truck of a guy who had driven in from a rural part of Arkansas. He verbally responded to the people in the car. Four of them came piling out of their vehicle with baseball bats and tire irons. My friend reached under the seat of his truck, removed his pistol, aimed it at them and fired a warning shot over their heads. They basically decided that they would rather not attack people who would fight back. They jumped back into their car and fled.”
Jeton Ademaj, 30, is organizing a Pink Pistols club in New York City “so people can socialize and network and support each other’s right to self-defense.” Ademaj, a porter in a Fifth Avenue apartment building, also tells me that Gotham’s costly, Byzantine gun controls frustrate law-abiding citizens who seek firearms for their own protection. Still, he says, “It’s an option that we need to have.”
Pink Pistols chapters hold monthly meetings and frequent competitions at shooting ranges, to promote marksmanship and camaraderie. It also endorses political candidates who “support the Second Amendment as well as the rights of consenting adults to love each other however they wish.” Based on responses to a detailed questionnaire, its website evaluates contenders in local, state, and federal races in 14 states for 2001-2002. Most tend to be Libertarians, although Republicans and Democrats are rated, too.
Most intriguing is how straight conservatives respond to the Pink and gay liberals react to the Pistols.
“I suspect there is as much misinformation about gays circulating in the gun culture as there is misinformation about guns circulating in the media!” says Michael Bane, a straight consultant to the National Shooting Sports Foundation who collaborates with Pink Pistols. Still, he believes “the concept of ‘out of the closet’ is brilliant. Since we represent about 50 percent of the households in America, if gun owners would ‘come out of the closet,’ we would be unbeatable.”
“I know of absolutely no conservatives who have attacked us,” says Fulk. “I’ve gotten a lot more grief from gay people for owning guns and supporting the Second Amendment than I ever have from gun owners for being gay.” He often joins the group’s Northern Virginia chapter for target practice at the headquarters of the National Rifle Association, with which Pink Pistols has testified on gun issues before California’s state legislature.
All of this makes gay liberals very nervous.
“I am, and we are, very anti-gun; we don’t think guns solve any problems, and may create more problems,” Clarence Patton of New York’s Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project told Philadelphia Gay News last July.
“I don’t believe arming ourselves is a sustainable response to a subculture of hate towards homosexuality,” Sue Hyde of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force told Southern Voice last month. “We are not going to settle our scores as a community by having a shoot-out at the OK Corral.”
Doug Krick shrugs at these arguments. “There is a certain segment that believes that the world would be better without guns, therefore the message is to ban guns. But the genie cannot be put back in the bottle, and that would not be desirable, even if you could. As the saying goes, ‘God made all men, but Colt made all men equal.’”