(OR) Shooting Down Myths (Pink Pistols Article)


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Drizzt
March 31, 2003, 05:21 PM
The Sunday Oregonian

March 30, 2003 Sunday SUNRISE EDITION

SECTION: LIVING; Pg. L01

LENGTH: 1029 words

HEADLINE: SHOOTING DOWN MYTHS

SOURCE: STEVE WOODWARD - THE OREGONIAN

BODY:
Summary: A group called Pink Pistols is made up of gun owners who also are sexual minorities "The reality is, I find more acceptance among the good ol' boys than my nice liberal friends." -- PJ GRAVES, A PORTLAND PINK PISTOL, COMPARING SECOND AMENDMENT AND GAY-RIGHT GROUPS

"We're now in an era, where a gun will be as important to have in the house as a first-aid kit." -- MARCIE CONANT, PORTLAND PINK PISTOL Julie Baumler is a gun-toting bisexual.

That makes her a minority in both the gun world and the world of sexual minorities.

Gays, lesbians and other sexual minorities don't fit the straight, macho stereotype of gun owners. But a growing group called the Pink Pistols is turning the stereotype on its head.

The Pistols' national motto: "Pick on someone your own caliber."

The 1-year-old Portland chapter is one of 37 chapters nationwide. National membership has grown from about 20 in 2000 to more than 3,500 who have downloaded a Pink Pistols membership card from its Web site (www.pinkpistols.org). Founder Douglas Krick of Boston estimates active membership at roughly 750.

Members join for a variety of reasons. Many want to learn to use a gun for protection from hate crimes. Others are recreational shooters but don't feel welcome in other gun organizations. Some want to meet like-minded sexual minorities. Most are advocates for gun-owner rights.

Baumler, whose favorite gun is a vintage Colt Frontier Scout, is president of the Portland chapter, which has an active membership of about a dozen and an e-mail list of roughly 40.

Baumler learned to shoot about a year ago. She and her husband, Gary Knapp, who also is bisexual, wanted everyone in the family -- including Knapp's two teenage daughters from a previous marriage -- to become familiar with guns. Knapp, whose father was a deputy sheriff and hunter, has owned guns since age 8.

"If guns were going to be in my house," Baumler says, "I needed to know how to handle them safely."

One recent Sunday, after downing sandwiches and coffee at a local McMenamins, Baumler, Knapp and four other Pink Pistols members repaired to the Public Safety Training Center in Clackamas for target shooting. Baumler placed a target at the seven-yard mark and blasted a hole through its center with a 12-gauge shotgun. She moved the target out to 15 yards and finished blowing it to shreds.

As for human targets, Baumler believes sexual minorities have been easy prey for gay-bashers, who assume they are weak and afraid to fight back.

"I've been in situations where I was sure I was about to be gay-bashed," she says, adding that she escaped harm by acting aggressively.

Magazine article proved impetus

The Pink Pistols grew out of a 2000 article in the online magazine Salon. Author Jonathan Rauch advocated that homosexuals protect themselves by learning to use guns and carrying them as concealed weapons.

"If it became widely known that homosexuals carry guns and know how to use them, not many bullets would need to be fired," Rauch wrote. "In fact, not all that many gay people would need to carry guns, as long as gay-bashers couldn't tell which ones did."

The Pink Pistols want to protect more than just homosexuals. They also welcome bisexuals, transsexuals, the polyamorous (those who are in relationships of more than two people), and people who engage in sexual bondage, domination and sadomasochism.

The Pink Pistols' defense of Second Amendment rights has made them strange bedfellows with pro-gun groups.

"They have the right to defend themselves, and every other Second Amendment organization will support that right," says Timothy Dunn, communications coordinator for the Oregon Council on Firearms Rights.

Do the sexual orientations of the Pink Pistols bother him?

"It does when it's brought out of the closet," Dunn says. "I don't care what they do in the bedroom. I'm a middle-of-the-road Christian."

He adds, "I'd go shooting with them anytime."

"Could not handle the concept"

"Not every gun-rights organization is welcoming. Theresa Reed, a Portland Pink Pistols member who writes on sex and sexuality, says one group revoked her membership.

"They just could not handle the concept of Pink Pistols," Reed says. "When push comes to shove, they start getting uncomfortable with the lifestyle side."

By the same token, Reed adds, social liberals react so negatively to guns that some sexual minorities keep their gun ownership a secret.

Roey Thorpe, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon, an advocacy group for sexual minorities, says she understands the Pink Pistols' fear of hate crimes. But, she adds, "We believe that the best solution to ending hate crimes is education and understanding."

Nationwide, gay men are less likely than straight men to own guns and more likely to support gun control, according to the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. But Tom W. Smith, director of the center's General Social Survey, says that may be because gay men tend to live in large cities, where support for gun control is stronger.

All women, lesbian and heterosexual alike, own far fewer guns and support gun control far more than men as a whole, Smith says.

Pink Pistols members say they often find a warmer reception from Second Amendment groups than from gay-rights groups.

"The reality is, I find more acceptance among the good ol' boys than my nice liberal friends," says PJ Graves, a Portland member.

Graves and her partner of eight years, Marcie Conant, moved to Portland from San Francisco after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Graves says the attacks -- and the suggestion of some that the United States was partly to blame -- angered Conant and her, turning them into conservatives who decided to arm themselves for safety.

"We're now in an era," says Conant, "where a gun will be as important to have in the house as a first-aid kit."

They pointed to the 1998 case of Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming college student who was pistol-whipped, tied to a fence and left to die.

"Matthew Shepard," Conant says, "would have survived if he'd been packing." Steve Woodward: 503-294-5134; stevewoodward@news.oregonian.com

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LawDog
April 1, 2003, 12:29 AM
Bless their hearts and welcome to the world of RKBA.

LawDog

rock jock
April 1, 2003, 12:47 AM
"They have the right to defend themselves, and every other Second Amendment organization will support that right,"
That is entirely correct, but they still should not expect to be chums with most gun owners.

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