In Colorado Springs, Mike Smith, a firearms instructor, told local news station KDVR that he has seen a huge increase in LGBT customers. "You walk into a gun shop and you expect to see people, frankly, who look like me," Smith says, referring to his shaved head and polo shirt. "I think we forget we're a country of all people, not just people who fit that predetermined mold."
Research affirms right-to-carry laws are linked to increased violent crime. Nevertheless, KDVR also reports that membership in the Pink Pistols, an LGBT organization that teaches people how to protect themselves with concealed weapons, has spiked since the Orlando shooting.
"We've seen our Facebook page membership count go up dramatically," Gwen Patton, the first speaker of the organization, explains. "We're currently at around 5,300. That's just the Facebook page. Since we do not have dues or membership forms, we do not have metrics on at-large membership that has not subscribed to the Facebook page. But we estimate [total membership to be] far larger than the page's membership count. We've also had more people requesting information on starting a chapter or reopening a closed chapter in the past four days than we have in the past two years. We got so inundated with offers of training that we had to create a new tool for our website and gather volunteers to enter the data."
Nicole Stallard, the leader of Pink Pistols's Northern California chapter, says her group has received 22 new members since the attack in Orlando. (Currently, 280 people belong to her group.) Stallard believes that all people should take the "responsibility" to own a gun and learn how to safely operate it to protect themselves from "common criminals, foreign enemies, and traitors." By "traitors," Stallard says she means American citizens who join ISIS.
Logan Kloepfer is one of the LGBT women heeding Stallard's call. "I am getting a gun for many reasons," she explains. "I am a free human being, and as a free human being I have the right to defend myself and my family." Still, she understands that her views may seem unusual. "I don't usually hear straight people saying LGBT people shouldn't own guns," Kloepfer says.
Since the shooting in Orlando, rainbow flags have been posted around West Hollywood—Los Angeles's gay neighborhood—with the words "#ShootBack" printed under the "Don't Tread on Me" snake, a symbol that became popular during the American Revolution and was most recently adopted by the ultra-right wing Tea Party. A street artist who goes by the name Sabo is taking responsibility for the signs. "It's important that people know that this image came out of the gay community," Sabo tells PJ Media. "Continuing to deny where the threat is coming from will not help keep this community safe. The gay community needs to realize that the police are there to respond, not protect."
Echoing Sabo, Stallard says, "Orlando brought it home that we are going to have war on our streets."
While there may be some grassroots movement in the LGBT community to take up arms, the board of directors of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), America's largest LGBTQ rights advocacy group, recently voted to make gun control a part of their agenda. According to Politico, the HRC will advocate for making assault rifles harder to obtain, preventing people accused of domestic violence or named on terrorism watch lists from obtaining guns, and instituting better background checks.
Kloepfer is unimpressed. "Everyone should understand by now that the bad guys will always have guns, whether or not they are illegal," she says. "Murder is illegal, and they are still doing that."