SEATTLE, Washington, February 18, 2022 – “Pick someone of your own caliber” is the motto of the Pink Pistols, an LGBTQ gun advocacy organization in the United States and Canada that advocates the use of legally owned and concealed firearms for the sexual minority community self-defense.
In the public eye, gun rights are often affiliated with conservative ideology and LGBTQ rights are seen as liberal. Pink Pistols, a non-partisan and apolitical group, tries to break down these prejudices by showing its members that gun rights are for everyone, regardless of their political beliefs. They are not sponsored by the NRA, entirely self-funded and exclusively run by volunteers.
“There are the liberal gun owners, there is the liberal gun club, there are the socialist rifle associations. There are many other gun groups and our members span the political spectrum,” Sharyn Hinchcliffe, Pink Pistols Seattle-Tacoma chapter administrator, told the Lynnwood Times. “We have had members who are part of the Republican Party, members who are members of the Democratic Party. We had members who are part of the socialist party as well as the libertarian party. The only thing I try to influence is to be respectful. Being able to defend yourself is outside of politics.
Sharyn Hinchcliffe became involved with the Pink Pistols after the 2016 Pulse club shooting in which 29-year-old Omar Mateen killed 49 people and injured 53 at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida .
For Hinchcliffe, tragedy struck close to home, having plenty of family and friends in South Florida’s LGBTQ community.
“Since I couldn’t help my family there, I decided to help my community here,” Hinchcliffe said.
The Seattle-Tacoma Chapter meets once a month, usually at local gun ranges, to teach gun safety and answer any questions they may have about firearms in general.
These encounters are not exclusive to those who identify as LGBTQ or those who own a gun. In many cases, participants have never touched a gun before. The Pink Pistols are there to inform and instruct in these situations.
“We try to create a welcoming environment so that people can safely learn their options if someone wants to learn gun safety,” Hinchcliffe said.
Hinchcliffe told the Lynnwood Times that their organization attracts many women because they know no one will judge them.
“You don’t have to feel pressured into a lineup that historically, by reputation, is very male-centric and overbearing. It doesn’t happen with us,” Hinchcliffe said. “We have lots of women, lots of ethnic minorities – everyone is welcome.”
Often the Pink Pistols go out to eat and socialize, furthering their sense of community.
The organization was founded in 2000 by Massachusetts libertarian activist Doug Krick after reading a Salon.com article by Jonathan Rauch.
“Thirty-one states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In these states, homosexuals should undertake organized efforts to become familiar with firearms, learn how to use them safely, and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting lessons and help homosexuals get licenses to carry. And they should do it in such a way as to get as much publicity as possible,” founder Jonathan Rauch wrote in Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000.
Over the past 22 years, the organization has grown to 36 chapters across the country with over 7,000 current members.
“People who have learned to shoot and are comfortable with it are less likely to be victims of hate crimes, rape, violent abuse and assault because you have the ability to defend yourself,” said Hinchcliffe.
On September 23, 2018, trans woman Erin Palette became president of the organization.
“She is a wonderful woman, and I am blessed and honored to be able to work with her in the chapters under the leadership she has with Nationals,” Hinchcliffe said.
Although the Pink Pistols do not have an official Snohomish County chapter, their Seattle chapter plans to expand north end fixtures in Arlington and Everett. For anyone interested in starting an official Snohomish County chapter, fill out a form at pinkpistols.org or contact Sharyn Hinchcliffe or the Pink Pistol National Office.
“Here in western Washington, we all work together to try to promote the different events so people know they have a place to go,” Hinchcliffe said.
In normal times, the Pink Pistols tents can usually be found at Pride Festivals and Block Parties to ask questions. As the state begins to reopen, they hope to return to these sites to meet individuals one-on-one to offer all the advice they can, including less-than-lethal options for those who might feel uncomfortable. with weapons, such as tasers, stun guns and pepper spray. Additionally, they connect those interested in alternative self-defense options to area martial arts dojos, particularly Brazilian jiujitsu.
Pink Pistols also works with local organizations to educate children about gun safety and help prevent gun suicide.
In addition to teaching and practicing gun safety, the Pink Pistols are heavily involved in gun advocacy, most recently protesting new Senate gun bills in Olympia.
“Women have been killed while waiting for authorization from the local police to buy a firearm against their attacker. I know members of the LGBTQ community here in Washington who have [also] was brutally assaulted. . . . So what does it mean to own a gun? It means having the means to protect yourself and the people you care about,” Hinchcliffe said.
This coming Saturday, February 26, the Seattle-Tacoma Pink Pistols chapter will meet at the Bullseye Shooting in Tacoma, right next to the Tacoma Dome. To learn more about this and other events, or the organization in general, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PinkPistolsSeattle.