Theyre Here, Theyre Queer, Theyre Armed

Orange Countys Pink Pistols are all for peace, love and understanding among straights and gays. Meantime, theyre taking target practice.

Photo by Jeanne RiceBooks and guns are effective killing machines, but they're pretty useless until they're picked up, and even then, they're completely dependent on the intelligence of the person handling them. Still, your run-of-the-mill repressed sociopath usually doesn't set out to kill fags with a copy of Leaves of Grass. No, he's more likely to use a gun . . . or a pipe, or a knife, or three or four of his repressed buddies with a couple of 12-packs in them.

Of course, the gun could also be used to defend the to-be-bashed gay or lesbian. Fired, pointed or held in a meaningful manner, a gun could assuage the situation (perhaps deter the repressed sociopath whose reading of Leaves of Grass conjured up some unsettling tingling about the naughty bits). Suddenly, the balance shifts; prey becomes protector, hunted the hunter, or some such Stewart Granger-type sentiment. The point is bullies might be far less inclined to screw with someone who's packing.

"The Great Equalizer," says Terry McIntyre, intoning the phrase with reverent zeal. McIntyre heads the Orange County chapter of the Pink Pistols, a two-year-old national organization that encourages gays and lesbians to become familiar with and, if legal, tote guns about, not only to protect themselves—its national motto is "Armed gays don't get bashed"—but also to project a sense of strength.

McIntyre is sitting in a small classroom in the indoor Laguna Niguel shooting range where the Pistols hold their monthly meeting and shoot. A small sticker stuck to a bulletin board bears the likeness of a crying baby with the motto "Seal of the Democratic Party of the United States" around it. McIntyre is there with seven other Pink Pistol members, about the usual turnout.

This is one of more than 30 Pink Pistols chapters in the U.S.; the Orange County chapter has been around only a few months. It was started by McIntyre, who, in one way or another, is responsible for everyone being there tonight. The transgender former security guard? He met McIntyre one night and was talked into coming down. Same for the man who last fired a gun as a police reserve trainee; he met McIntyre at a gay-movie event. There's John, the 20-year Navy vet who carries a handgun with him and has had to draw it three times, the last time when a man brandishing a tire iron dared him to use.

"Go ahead and kill me," he told John. "My family will hunt you down."

There are a couple of young guys; a young woman; and a tall, good-looking man with requisite close-cropped beard and mustache. It's his face, accompanied by a big shiny handgun, that graces the Pink Pistols fliers posted at all manner of gay hangouts.

"I'm in every gay bar in Orange County," says the man, Mitch Barrie, with a bit of a laugh, probably because he isn't gay. The young woman, Yacouta, is his French-born wife.

No, Mitch isn't gay; he's just a liberal gun enthusiast who hates the conservative politics of the National Rifle Association and believes the Pink Pistols could bring gun rights to a whole new range of people—not only to shoot, but also to spread the gospel of gun rights unencumbered by Charlton Heston's cold, dead hands and the mind to match.

They all have one thing in common: Terry McIntyre. Big as he is—six-foot-four—he's an unlikely herald. He wears a hearing aid; he's soft-spoken; and he seems to study you as much as listen when you're talking, his head cocked slightly to one side, almost always with the faint, or not so faint, hint of a smile. Mild as his manner is, he bears the unmistakable countenance of a true believer. He talks about individual rights with the force you'd expect of someone whose coffee table in their Santa Ana home has How to Own a Gun and Stay Out of Jailupon it and whose shelves include The Trial of Susan B. Anthony. Pretty much what you'd probably expect from the chairman of the Orange County Libertarian Party.

He says he has never felt threatened because he was gay, but he has had boyfriends of slighter builds who have. The Pink Pistols are for them, McIntyre says, for anyone who feels unsafe on the street, not just gays and lesbians, but also young mothers and senior citizens, which is why Pink Pistols welcomes anyone, gay or straight, to be a member or to just come down and shoot.

"We welcome anyone. Gay, straight—we don't care," he says with a smile. "We have a strict 'don't ask, don't tell' policy." Which makes the Pistols just like the U.S. Armed Forces, only with not so many gays.

Talk to him about guns, and McIntyre will quote crime statistics for you, will tell you how crime has gone down in a particular area when criminals knew that ordinary citizens were allowed to carry guns. He'll tell you of a former Colombian boyfriend whose neighbors took things into their own hands and, with guns, chased away from their anarchic town the thugs that afflicted it. Talk to him about guns, and he will tell you the whole debate—whether private citizens have the right to carry guns—gets to the heart of what America is about.

Photo by Jeanne Rice
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