Pink Pistols in the news
Go Get’em Pink Pistols!
Pink Pistols in the news
Gun-packing Pink Pistols feel safer armed
Wednesday, October 1, 2003
By AMY KLEIN
photo- credit:TARIQ ZEHAWI / THE RECORD
caption: A member of the Pink Pistols [Andrew] practicing at a shooting
range in Pennsylvania. There are 37 Pink Pistols chapters nationwide.
It was after Andrew Greene left the gay bar in Philadelphia that he
heard the guys behind him.
They were drunk and carrying metal pipes. When Greene got to his car,
one of them shouted, “Hey, faggot.”
Greene pulled his gun. The men ran.
Almost a decade later, Greene can still recall his fear. The gun, he
said, saved his life. And so, on the third Saturday of each month,
Greene heads to a shooting range with dozens of other gays and lesbians
from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware who believe that carrying a
gun will help protect them from anti-gay violence.
First, though, they go to lunch. They talk about the latest gun show or
an upcoming pride parade. Some of the members have started to date.
Meet the Pink Pistols, a social group with the motto, “Armed gays don’t
“Criminals know that certain people – like gays – are less likely to own
guns, and they target them,” said Greene, 34, who lives in Philadelphia.
“Much in the same way I carry a gun, I have a spare tire in the back of
my car. It’s there because when you need a spare, nothing replaces it.”
Its philosophy has put the group in an unusual position between gay
groups and gun groups. High-profile gay organizations aren’t exactly
rushing to embrace the gun-toting members, and the National Rifle
Association doesn’t address the issue of sexuality.
“No one is sitting outside a bar on a Friday night with a baseball bat
waiting to bash a bunch of NRA members,” said Gwen Patton, who founded
the Delaware Valley chapter with her partner about two years ago.
Since May 2000, when the first group of Pink Pistols met in Boston, 37
chapters have formed nationwide, giving gay, lesbian, bisexual, and
transgender people a place to hone their shooting skills.
There is no New Jersey chapter – an absence Patton attributes to what
she calls the state’s “draconian” gun laws.
New Jersey is one of nine “may issue” states in which law enforcement
agencies are given some discretion in issuing permits to carry concealed
weapons. New Jersey does not recognize permits issued in other states.
About 15 New Jerseyans drive more than an hour to a shooting range in
Southampton, Pa., to practice with the Delaware Valley chapter,
including Sharona Nelson, a 52-year-old fiction writer from Cherry Hill.
Nelson is straight, married, and has a daughter in graduate school. When
she was 18, she was raped and says that self-defense has been a “real
bugaboo” for her.
“Shooting a gun levels the playing field between men and women,” she
said. “In a hand-on-hand struggle, most men are going to overpower most
A Libertarian, she is an adamant defender of the Second Amendment, and
when she started to look into shooting, she found the Pink Pistols.
They were welcoming, said Nelson, 52, who thinks she looks like a Sunday
school teacher. In June, she fired her first shot.
“In the end, it was just … it was incredible,” Nelson said. “It made
me feel confident. I normally walk tall, but it made me walk even taller.”
Nelson’s sense of vulnerability – and her frustration about being a
victim – is shared by many of the Pink Pistol members.
“This is not a power trip,” Patton said. “It’s applying medicine to an
illness that requires the proper treatment.”
The gay community, for the most part, has been horrified, Patton said.
Historically, gay and lesbian groups have not been pro-gun, and other
gay organizations often just ignore the Pink Pistols, she said.
Indeed, several leaders of gay and lesbian organizations shied away from
interviews when they learned of the topic.
Laura Pople, president of the New Jersey Lesbian and Gay Coalition, said
she had never heard of the group and chose her words carefully when she
learned of its activities.
She praised the group for joining gays and lesbians in a shared hobby
and for engaging in political activism, but wouldn’t comment on the
group’s motto that armed gays don’t get bashed.
“I’m not going to make a statement, because it hasn’t come up before,”
Pople said. “Ours is a community that supports a variety of different
points of view.”
After all, Pople said, there are gay stamp-collecting groups, gay
science-fiction groups, lots of gay bowling groups, and a gay shooting
But Pink Pistols members say the group’s objective runs deeper than just
giving its members an excuse to get together.
“Here’s the queer community finally standing up and saying we’re not
going to accept being targets for other people’s rage,” Patton said.