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To be fair, it's hard to talk about the Pistols as one organization. Because it's grassroots, individual chapters take on characteristics all their own. The Los Angeles chapter is known as a place for a nice social shoot, while Orange County is known for its libertarian ideology, which shows up not only in discussions, but also in the fact that "members" are not asked to sign anything, pay any dues or perform any duties. All they're asked to do is show up, if they want, at the monthly shoot and pay what they want to help defray the cost of renting the range. It turns out that how a Pink Pistol is used depends on who is handling it.
"It's what's great about this country," says Rauch. "These are genuinely local; no two are the same in any two places. I understand that in the one nearest to me in Northern Virginia, the majority of the members are straight. You know, these are people who can't stand going to NRA meetings, so there is this new group, unburdened by all that baggage, where they can feel much more comfortable.
"This was originally a gay thing," Rauch says, "but I think this sends a message to gay-bashers about the power of diversity in the U.S. This is genuine diversity—gay, straight, conservative, liberal. Some of the gay groups are for diversity so long as there is no diversity of opinion."
* * *
Indeed, John and McIntyre say they have felt more at home at NRA meetings when introducing themselves as Pistols than they have at certain gay organizations.
"I think the NRA sees the great possibilities," John says. "We've finally been able to talk face-to-face and see one another as we are. I've sat down with them, and some of them have had questions about gays and sex. Yeah, it was a little weird, but I could see they were genuinely interested. For many of them, it was probably their first contact with a gay man, and I was happy I was able to provide information so they could see I was a human being."
At gay organizations, McIntyre says, "the general reaction goes something like, 'Oh, my God! You're one of them!" He smiles. "They see us as those gun nuts. We want them to know we're not crazy. We're trained; we believe in what we're doing. We want to be their gun nuts."
"Gun enthusiasts," he says.
"Their gun enthusiasts," he says.
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