If you happen to be looking for a GLBTQ gun club, you’re in luck, because there are two organizations in the Twin Cities that cater to the GLBTQ gun enthusiast. The North Star Gay and Lesbian Gun Club, an offshoot of the Pink Pistols, is now starting to have meetings again after a brief hiatus; and new organizers are reviving the dormant Twin Cities chapter of the Pink Pistols, a national GLBTQ shooting club.
The Pink Pistols take their name from a Salon.com article written in 2000 by Jonathan Rauch that suggested that members of the gay community should respond to homophobia-related violence by arming themselves with guns.
Doug Krick, a gay activist living in Boston at the time, had been getting together with friends to go shooting. Krick read Rauch’s article and decided to use the title as the name of his group, which in addition to shooting, also became active in politics.
Soon, local chapters sprang up around the country. Bob Odden, the Twin Cities chapter founder, decided to start the group after he attended a conceal-and-carry rally at the Capitol in 2001. He met up with two like-minded lesbians at the rally. “People didn’t know whether to run or shake our hands,” Odden says.
There were “quite a few Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians in the group,” Odden says. They tried to keep politics out of the various social events, which included potlucks and parties as well as shooting at the range. “We had a lot in common,” Odden says. “We believed in the right to self-defense.” He added that often the potlucks were often better-attended than the shooting events.
Odden said that the Pink Pistols were often not very well accepted by the GLBTQ community. “I remember we weren’t fully welcomed,” he said. The group set up a booth at the Pride Festival, and received jeers and dirty looks. “We didn’t get a chance to really explain ourselves,” he said. On the other hand, he said the straight shooters who the group met at the ranges “were really helpful…I was very amazed at how straight community backed us.”
Disconcerted by the negative reaction they were receiving from the GLBTQ community, the Twin Cities Pink Pistols started to emphasize the need for self-defense. Rather than just focusing on guns, the group also encouraged other forms of self-defense, such as mace and high-voltage stun guns. “After we changed the banner to self-defense, people understood more what we were about,” Odden says.
Eventually, running the group became too much of a time commitment for Odden, who also worked full-time. Another original member, Brent (he works for the military and asked that his last name not be mentioned in this article), led the group starting in 2003.
“It’s a wonderful thing to live in a nonviolent world. But we don’t.”
Under Brent’s leadership, the group started working toward obtaining non-profit status. “We wanted to put resources into self-defense education,” he says. They applied for non-profit status, but they found they couldn’t obtain it because the national Pink Pistols group had a tendency to publicly endorse political candidates such as 2004 Libertarian presidential candidate Michael Badnarik. Because non-profits can’t have political affiliation, the group was denied 501c3 staus.
In 2007, Brent and the other members of the Pink Pistols decided to break off and form a new, separate organization not affiliated with the national Pink Pistols group. They called themselves the North Star Gay and Lesbian Gun Club. Besides separating themselves from the political affiliations of the National Pink Pistols, the North Stars changed the name because some members thought the pink association was offensive. “Myself, I don’t really like pink,” Brent said.
The North Star club tried to keep the focus on socializing and education, but that wasn’t always possible. “Unfortunately politics invariably will come up,” Brent says. “It’s unavoidable.” But he said that he considers the club incredibly diverse, welcoming all sorts of different political viewpoints.
Last year, Brent left to serve a military commitment in Afghanistan, and the group met less regularly. Now that Brent has returned, he hopes to start organizing meetings again. The group plans to have a potluck in August.
Meanwhile, Dana Wolfe and Emi Briet have founded a new Twin Cities chapter of the Pink Pistols; they hope to hold an initial meeting this summer. Like the North Star group, Wolfe said the group will steer clear of political discourse, except to inform the participants about upcoming gun legislation.
They also hope to make a push for women to feel welcome in the group. Also, Wolfe said that she wants the group to have a strong queer association. “We don’t want to hide the fact that we’re queer,” she says. She’s concerned that the North Star club has downplayed the GLBTQ aspect. “It needs to be a queer identity movement,” she said. “Otherwise, what distinguishes us from the NRA?”
Wolfe bought her first .22 caliber rifle when she was 18; she did a lot of target shooting, but then lost interest. Two and a half years ago, there was a domestic violence incident that happened next door to her, and she decided that she needed to reapply for a permit. “It’s a wonderful thing to live in a nonviolent world,” she says. “But we don’t. The best defense is your own.” Wolfe doesn’t trust police to protect her. They “don’t give a crap about gays and lesbians,” she said.
Wolfe now carries a Glock 36. She taught her girlfriend, Briet, to shoot, and now wants to help others as well. They hope to hire a trained teacher as well. “We really want to push for education and advocacy,” Wolfe says. “We want to focus less on parties.”
Sheila Regan is a Minneapolis theater artist and freelance writer.
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