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After Orlando shooting, gun sales to LGBT people rise

In the wake of the massacre of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., gun shops have reported seeing an increase in LGBT customers, and an armed LGBT self-defense group has seen its membership spike.

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    Jose Luis Morales of Orlando, Fla., prays near a crucifix after laying down the LGBT, Cuban, and American flags on Wednesday in Orlando. The city and nation is still feeling the effects of the June 12 mass shooting in Pulse, an Orlando nightclub.
    Corey Perrine/Naples Daily News/AP
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It is not unusual for gun sales to spike after a mass shooting, but in the wake of the Orlando, Fla., attacks, gun shops have begun to see a new demographic of customer: LGBT people.

The trend has long been recognized by analysts – after the Columbine attacks, after the Aurora theatre shooting, and this week, after the Orlando nightclub attacks, gun shops have seen a spike in sales.

The owner of the Gun Room in Denver told local news station KDVR that his shop had seen three or four times the usual traffic for this time of year in the past few days.

"It's sad that we must consider such things," wrote Gwendolyn Patton of the Pink Pistols, a LGBT self-defense organization, on her website following the attacks, "but when there are persons out there who mean us harm, we must find ways to protect ourselves within the law."

Founded in 2000, the Pink Pistols have a diverse membership, with 40 chapters around the country. Ms. Patton told Politico that its members spanned the spectrum of political ideology, from those who fervently dislike the National Rifle Association for past remarks it made about the gay community, to those who side with the NRA.

The Pink Pistols even aided the NRA in a California court case in which the NRA attempted to overturn California's assault weapons ban.

The group strongly supports gun rights, saying that LGBT individuals are more at risk from violence than the rest of the population.

"Because LGBT individuals cannot count on the police to protect them from such violence," wrote the Pink Pistols in an amicus brief for the DC vs. Heller case in 2010, "their safety depends upon this Court's recognition of their right to possess firearms for self-protection in the home."

The Pink Pistols were founded during a time of both greater anti-LGBT sentiment than today, and a time of greater gun restrictions. The journalist, Jonathan Rauch, who inspired the group with a column advocating for LGBT people to carry guns to defend themselves and negative counter stereotypes that characterized LGBT people as weak, or "pansies."

And Patton told Politico that carrying weapons had saved several Pink Pistols members already, including a gay man who was followed after leaving a club, and a lesbian couple who experienced a home invasion.

The group saw membership numbers soar after Sunday's attacks, jumping from just 1,500 to 3,500 on Monday.

"I think right now because of what happened, people are looking for answers," said Mike Smith, a gun instructor in Colorado Springs. "You walk into a gun shop and you expect to see people, frankly, who look like me. I think we forget we're a country of all people, not just people who fit that predetermined mold."

Mr. Smith says that he feels compelled to start his own chapter of the Pink Pistols in his area, despite the fact that he is heterosexual, in order to help the LGBT community.

"If it became widely known that homosexuals carry guns and know how to use them, not many bullets would need to be fired," wrote Mr. Rauch years ago. "So let's make gay-bashing dangerous."

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