Gun club membership among those identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transsexual has spiked since the deadly shootings at a gay nightclub in Orlando on June 20. Muslim terrorist Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded another 53. The Pink Pistols -- which describes itself as an "international GLBT self-defense organization -- reports that since the massacre, the number of its additional chapters has increased. Pink Pistols’ Facebook membership also increased from some 1,500 before the shooting to 6,694.
The group says that its goals to help people "select a firearm, acquire a permit and receive proper training in its safe and legal use for self-defense." In Atlanta, the Pink Pistols chapter has doubled to 230 as the city prepares for a Gay Pride celebration in October. Delta Airlines is one of the sponsors of the festivities.
A member of the Atlanta Pink Pistols, Chris Willis, told CBS46 that since the Orlando massacre, not only has membership in his organization increased, but gays, lesbians, and persons of other persuasions have shown a surge in interest in self-defense and firearms. 
There are dissidents among the ranks of gay pride advocates, however. Timothy McCarthy, who directs Harvard University's Sexuality, Gender and Human Right Program, said that the rush among gays and lesbians is understandable, albeit "misplaced and problematic." He told USA Today, "I don't believe more guns is going to lead to less violence.” He added, "The more guns we have in circulation, the more guns we have in use, that sets us up for more violence."
The affiliated Operation Blazing Sword offers first-time gun users the opportunity for lessons from volunteers. On its Facebook page, “Erin” offers a welcome to gays, lesbians and others and offers to connect them to firearms instructors.
“Hello everyone! Thanks for being a part of Blazing Sword,” writes Erin. She describes Operation Blazing Sword as a project aimed at providing “firearm familiarization and basic training to anyone in the LGBTQ community who wishes to learn more about gun ownership in the wake of the Orlando tragedy.” She added, “I'm also a lesbian transwoman and gun owner, and the gun community has accepted me as part of their own. I'm sure they'll accept you, too, if you have an open mind about guns.”
In a statement posted at the Pink Pistols' website after the Orlando shootings, Pink Pistols First Speaker Gwendolyn Patton warned against blaming Mateen's firearms rather than his violent actions. “The Pink Pistols gives condolences to all family and friends of those killed and injured at Pulse,” said Patton. “This is exactly the kind of heinous act that justifies our existence. At such a time of tragedy, let us not reach for the low-hanging fruit of blaming the killer’s guns. Let us stay focused on the fact that someone hated gay people so much they were ready to kill or injure so many. A human being did this. The human being’s tools are unimportant when compared to the bleakness of that person’s soul. I say again, GUNS did not do this."



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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