Fired up, 'Pink Pistols' aim to protect gays

Visitors mourn the victims of the shooting in Orlando. Photo / AP
Visitors mourn the victims of the shooting in Orlando. Photo / AP

Karen McCloud and her girlfriend fired round after round, the bullets hitting the human shaped silhouette down range in the head and chest.

A former soldier, McCloud was a straight shot. "Bad people have guns, and the only people who can stop them are the good people with guns," she said, reloading her weapon. "That's exactly what went wrong the other night."

The day after the Orlando shootings, McCloud, 48, joined the Pink Pistols, a pro-gun organisation that asks members to set up task forces to protect gay centres, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry guns. Membership had waned in recent years, with some of its 45 branches becoming inactive. But in the hours and days after Omar Mateen's murder of 49 people at Pulse gay club, the group's Facebook page was inundated. The inbox of founder Gwendolyn Patton filled up. Her phone rang off the hook. Patton believes more than 1500 people joined in the two days after the attack alone.

McCloud said: "Had somebody been legally carrying in there, someone could have gotten to the killer. I have no doubt in my mind."

This is a very American response to an American problem. Mass shootings have become tragically routine in the US. Mateen followed in the footsteps of 892 mass killers since the 2012 attack on Sandy Hook school in which 20 children were gunned down. Solutions are complicated by a gun debate that is intractably politicised.

With the country awash with weapons, McCloud believes restrictions on arms sales will do little to protect citizens. She recently sold her two guns, but now she is preparing to buy more. She would like to open a branch of the Pink Pistols in Florida.

But in Parliament House, Orlando's oldest gay bar, customers discussed whether having more guns would help. "No!" chorused Dee Ranged and Brooke Lynn Hytes. "We go to the bars to drink and dance - we don't want guns there," said Ranged,.

But everyone agrees the attack has spread fear and insecurity through the gay community. Ray Christianna, 57, a lighting designer for Disney, said: "Things have been good in recent years". However, he added, this would "wake people up".

- Daily Telegraph UK

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