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"One of my greatest sorrows in dealing with the gay community is that they're willing to hold a candlelight vigil for people who are beaten up, stabbed, or shot, but they're not willing to protect those people." Vigils may help the community come together, but "it doesn't do a damn bit of good for the guy who was shot, stabbed, or beaten.""There seems to be an unwillingness to admit that we need to teach people to defend themselves," he says.
"I'm sorry, but begging for mercy from someone who is attacking you is not going to solve the problem." And as for Bloovman, an action movie fanatic and lifetime martial artist who came out late in life, he himself was once vexed by the apparent gay-guy or gun-guy dichotomy: "This is one of the reasons why I struggled with my own sexual orientation; I was like ' How can I be doing martial arts and shooting for 25 years and [be gay]?
"I'm not going to pretend that there isn't homophobia in the gun community, but I can't say that there is a disproportionate amount of anti-LGBT feelings among shooters."Atlanta Pink Pistol member Dylan West also describes gun culture as being accepting — "I haven't had an issue when people [at the range] have found out that I'm gay" — and Jose Morales, a Philadelphia-based NRA-certified gun instructor, agrees. We don't judge people by their looks, their ethnicity or their sexual orientation.He also owns an AR-15, a weapon very similar to the one Mateen used to devastating effect at Pulse."I wish that I didn't have to carry all this crap," says Bloovman, who's as much concerned about general violence as he is about anti-gay attacks.But here, holding my own against the Glock 34's concussive revolt, I felt – was it imperviousness? This, of course, is a large part of the Pink Pistol's mission: to get LGBT people more comfortable with firearms and encourage them to fight hate crimes with bullets – or at least the threat of them.A small, loosely organized group of a few dozen chapters scattered across the states and Canada, including Toronto, San Francisco and Charleston, South Carolina, the Pink Pistols' membership has climbed from around 1,500 earlier this month to about 6,500 since the June day Omar Mateen attacked the Pulse nightclub, turning the dance floor into a killing field and crashing together two culture war battlegrounds that rarely converge: gays and guns.
"When people hear those three letters, they automatically have a stereotype in their minds, much like when they hear LGBTQ, and that's not the case, at all, in either of the circumstances."At New York's LGBT Community Center, I meet with Brian Worth, Kevin Hertzog and John Grauwiler, three of the principal organizers behind Gays Against Guns, or GAG, a Facebook-born, grassroots group dedicated to "banning access to high-capacity magazine guns and assault weapons" and "stopping the life-threatening convergence of homophobia and flawed gun policy," which was formed in the wake of the Orlando massacre.