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.

"Self preservation," he says, "is the ultimate civil right."

The Pink Pistols have been compared to the Black Panthers and Jewish Defense League (JDL), movements that grew from communities animated by a pervasive feeling that the general public cared very little about—was antagonistic toward—their safety. But though the Pistols are interested in protecting their own, their manner and rhetoric are far less fierce and they advocate nothing unlawful. The things they would change—especially laws limiting the right to carry concealed weapons—they've set about to alter in the same way one gets a new crosswalk: grassroots organizing, discussion, meetings and, someday, they hope, organized lobbying, you know, like the National Rifle Association, an organization some of the Pistols admire and others loathe.

Still, as the Panthers and JDL did in their communities, the Pistols have generated discussion in the gay community. Some like the idea of armed gays and lesbians. But even those who believe it foolhardy will usually qualify their opposition, saying they understand why there is a Pistols.

"There are so many issues facing the gay community I don't think a gun club is the answer or is even something that automatically gives us respect," says longtime local gay activist Randy Pesqueira. "I don't think you necessarily project strength with a gun. In a way, you lose something; you're becoming like the fanatics who hate you."

Then he paused and continued, "That being said, I absolutely understand where this is coming from. I mean, myself, part of me has always fantasized about gays having this really cool vigilante group that would take care of all of our enemies."

It's a sentiment you hear often when the subject of the Pistols comes up. Many gays and lesbians who define themselves as politically left of center to liberal also see their very existence threatened because forces out there define them by whom they chose to sleep with.

"It's about self preservation," says Carson, a Long Beach architectural historian who describes himself as politically progressive. "I'm for gun control, for registering weapons. Yet, by the same token, there is a lot of violence and hatred out there. It would be naive for us not to know how to defend ourselves. I think that, unfortunately, this is a need for us."

His partner, Jim, an inactive Lutheran pastor, is a bit more direct. "Of course, I believe in the Sermon on the Mount, peaceful resolution to problems," he says. "I would never advocate someone going ahead and whacking someone. But there is this stereotype that we are weak and can't defend ourselves. You look at what happened to Matthew Shepard or just recently in West Hollywood or to that boy in the South that they burned to death by putting a burning tire around his neck, and we're not even sheep being led to the slaughter. We're chickens. Sheep have more to them.

"Carson's going to hate me for saying this, but kicking the shit out of some of these guys just might be the answer," Jim says. "I once had a plan called 50 Angry Faggots With Chainsaws. I suggested we get a couple of minivans, pack them with 50 people with Sears Craftsman chain saws, and then we drive out to someone's house who has been trying to destroy gays. I suggested [the Reverend] Lou Sheldon [head of the notoriously anti-gay, Anaheim-based Traditional Values Coalition]. We'd get to his house, rev up the chain saws and stick them through the walls. Then we'd have everyone take five steps to the right, and pretty soon, the house would be reduced to kindling.

"I know it sounds ridiculous, but this is the cumulative effect of living under all the lies and the hate and the twisted minds that really mean to do you harm. Eventually, you just get so tired of it, tired enough that you want to do something about it."

Terry McIntyre did. Back at the Laguna Niguel shooting range, where they'll sell you a target featuring the likeness of Osama bin Laden, McIntyre had just completed an hour of target practice. He cleaned his guns and returned them to their case.

"Claiming always to be victim, making it seem that we need society to protect us, is not working. I'm sorry, but 'I'm weak and helpless' is not a deterrent to a bully. This," he says, tapping the gun case, "is a deterrent."

Randy Pesqueira agrees and has just this advice for the group: "They say they want to portray themselves as strong, and then they call it the Pink Pistols? That takes the power right away from that gun. If they want power, let's go for it. Call it the Learn to Kill gun club."

* * *

John has had opportunities to kill. Perhaps as many as three, but there's only one he'll talk about—the aforementioned nut with a tire iron. John's car was parked by the side of a freeway; the nut was chasing John around the car.

"Nobody came to help," he recalls. "I was screaming for help, running around my car with my gun in the air, and no one did anything. I was completely on my own."

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