In the wake of the tragic shootings in Orlando, a transgender writer in Florida has compiled a list of hundreds of gun owners and instructors across the country who volunteered to instruct lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer folk (LGBTQ) in the basics of firearm operations and safety at little or no charge.
Two days after the bloody attack at Pulse, an Orlando nightclub, Erin Palette wrote a Facebook post that called for volunteers to teach anyone interested in learning about shooting guns, with a focus on self-defense, handguns and pistols.
Iowa Firearms Coalition (IFC) president Barry Snell immediately offered his organization’s state-wide resources to LGBTQ Iowans who are interested in learning how to shoot. IFC is a non-partisan gun rights group.
“[W]e at Iowa Firearms Coalition, Iowa’s premier Second Amendment advocacy group, welcome everyone, including those in the LGBTQ community, with open arms. We’re all Americans, we’re all in this together, and if an LGBTQ person is curious about guns, or worse, they’re in some kind of personal danger, then we’ll use any resource at our disposal to assist and bring them into our awesome community,” he said.
Snell said his group had seen an uptick in IFC membership enrollments but could not attribute it to any event or group of people.
The database creator, Erin Palette, a “gun-owning transgender lesbian who has been welcomed by the gun community,” wants her map of the U.S. to be “completely covered” in dots.
Palette, who lives in Palm Coast, FL, was overwhelmed by the response and called Pulse a “soft target.”
“[E]ven if you are licensed concealed carrier in Florida, you cannot carry in a bar. Other states allow concealed carriers to carry in bars so long as they don’t drink, and I think that’s a fine idea. We have designated drivers — why not have designated carriers as well?”
Palette said she estimated over 400 people had been added to the interactive contact list after just a couple days and more were coming.
Cheryl Thomas is a spokesperson for Iowans for Gun Safety and said having a gun in the house increases the risk for suicide, homicide and unintentional shootings.
“After every massacre the gun industry capitalizes on fear to expand gun sales. The Orlando massacre impacted the LGBTQ community and it is not surprising that gun sellers and gun instructors would try to expand their sales of guns and classes. We ask people to slow down and make a clear minded decision that weighs the risks and responsibilities associated with gun ownership,” she said. “Owning a gun comes with the significant responsibility to keep it secure and locked at all times.”
“The LGBTQ community, like all Americans have a constitutional right to own a gun and use it in their home for protection. Iowans for Gun Safety supports this right for LGBTQ people and all Americans who are not prohibited, but we ask people to be aware of both the risks and responsibilities of owning a gun before you purchase a gun,” Thomas said.
Expert shooter Michael Dinos is another Iowan on the list. He said, “[I]t can be intimidating for many people to step foot into a gun store regardless of their sexual orientation because of the stigma that has been attached to gun ownership, and because of preconceived notions that may be hanging out there about gun stores and people who use and carry regularly.”
Dinos is not a shop owner but has trained people in marksmanship and has “plenty of firearms and firearms training experience,” which is why he said he was comfortable with volunteering.
Wes Seymour, of Algona, also landed on Palette’s map. “I’m just willing to help anyone who wants to be proactive about it with friendly, judgement-free training and assistance,” Seymour said.
John Schwertfeger, president of Stronghold Corp in Cedar Rapids, said that his group believes “self protection is a universal right and has no barriers [including] sex, race, religion or sexual orientation.”
Stronghold will offer an Iowa weapons permit class in Coralville on June 25.
“If one life can be saved as a result of our classes, we will have succeeded as instructors,“ Schwertfeger said.
On her blog post Monday, June 13, Palette quoted the queer shooting group, Pink Pistols, in her open call for free gun training: “Armed gays don’t get bashed.”
Pink Pistols has chapters in Madison, WI, and the Twin Cities in Minnesota.