SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - - Memberships have more than doubled in a national LGBT pro-gun rights organization since a gunman opened fire at a gay nightclub in Florida, killing 49 people.
Pink Pistols Utah chapter President Matt Schlentz said Pink Pistols membership has grown from 1,500 to 4,000 since Omar Mateen's June 12 rampage, the Salt Lake Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/29p0eMI).
"It's really sad that something on this scale had to happen for people to realize this is a need for our community," Schlentz said. "But the reality is we still get attacked for kissing our partners or holding hands in public. We get windows smashed for having an equality sticker on them."
Schlentz owns semi-automatic rifles similar to the Sig Sauer MCX that Mateen used, and he said he gets mixed reactions from people who learn he's a gun rights advocate.
"Obviously, as a gay man, I have to have some liberal views socially. But on this one point, I have very conservative views. The reality is what it is — the world is a violent, terrible, scary place, and people do wish me harm based on who I love."
Pink Pistols organized in 2000 in response to a series of violent incidents like the murder in Wyoming of gay college student Matthew Shepard. Some early slogans were "Queers bash back" and "Pick on someone your own caliber."
Stonewall Shooting Sports of Utah is another pro-gun LGBT group.
"As awful as Orlando is, I feel like this is a huge eye-opener for a lot of people that the world is not a perfect place, especially for a group that's at risk for this kind of violence," said Scott Mogilefsky, the group's president and an Army veteran.
There was an increase in people inquiring with the group after Orlando, he said.
"Security should be armed at all gay nightclubs, and all employees should run through a defensive shooting course once a year," Mogilefsky said. "When you think about supremacist groups, a gay bar is an easy target. And the shooter knew that. It was like shooting fish in a barrel."
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com