In the Virginia Citizens Defense League’s latest alert to members, president Philip Van Cleave shared a link to a Newsweek story about “liberal America embracing gun ownership“. While it’s a common trope among gun control activists that the best way to get conservatives to embrace their anti-gun agenda is for the Left to start exercising their own right to keep and bear arms, Van Cleave was pleased to share the story, telling VCDL members that “[t]he more diverse groups that are embracing gun ownership, the harder it will be for the gun controllers to disarm us.”
He’s not wrong, and I too am glad to see Americans of all stripes and political ideologies are discovering that the Second Amendment applies to them as well. You don’t have to be a middle-aged, big-bearded, well-padded conservative dude who lives in the country to keep and bear arms. It’s a right of We the People, not a right of the Right, after all.
Still, I’ve noticed that most media outlets bemoan gun ownership for the masses, though every so often they’ll grant an exception for some of us. The Washington Post, for example, is routinely hostile towards gun ownership in general in its coverage, but the paper was surprisingly even-handed and fairly positive in its recent portrayal of LGBTQ+ gun owners.
Sociologist Thatcher Combs researched LGBTQ+ gun ownership at the University of Texas at Austin. He said queer gun organizations have seen an uptick of people interested in gun ownership. He believes the increase is directly linked to the trans community feeling threatened.
“When you don’t feel like you have a place that feels safe, then you’re going to find a way to make yourself feel safe. And a lot of times that comes with gun ownership,” said Combs.
Erin Palette, national coordinator for the Pink Pistols, the largest LGBTQ+ gun club in the country, confirmed that their membership has been increasing. She attributed the rise to mass shootings that targeted gay clubs and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.
A trans man living near Boston, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of violence, decided to become a gun owner and instructor in 2022 for self-defense. “I don’t carry a firearm because it puts my mind at ease. It’s not a comfort thing. It’s an emergency tool of absolute last resort,” he said. As a licensed firearm instructor in Massachusetts, he has taught trans people who have been followed and assaulted. He’s also instructed a mother of a trans child who wanted to be able to protect her family. He said most of his students have found him through word-of-mouth.
In his research, Combs noticed that many queer people are worried about being identified as LGBTQ+ while in public and attracting violence. “There’s this atmosphere of fear of walking around in public, wondering if you’re going to be noticed,” he said.
According to Smith, Rainbow Reload allows LGBTQ+ gun owners to be themselves, given that many progressive groups are more anti-gun. “I have seen a lot of resistance in certain queer spaces to getting armed,” said Smith. “What I’m doing is a rejection of both sides.”
Smith said she believes that for queer people, learning to use a firearm is important for self-protection. “Our goal is keeping people safe,” she said. “I’m not pro-gun in the sense that I think everybody should always have a gun,” Smith added. “But I can absolutely see there are universes where I would die if I didn’t have access to one, and so would people I care about.”
That’s about as close to an anti-gun comment as you’ll find in the WaPo story. Reporter Hadley Green didn’t include any quotes from gun control groups (or pro-2A organizations, for that matter), and I can’t help but wonder if that was by design. Gun control advocates can’t acknowledge that there’s ever a legitimate reason to own a firearm, but it’s not a great look for them to accuse these gun owners of being tools of the gun lobby or worse. It would also go against the media’s preferred narrative to highlight any positive response from Second Amendment activists, given that we’re supposed to be a bunch of intolerant jackasses who only care about our own right to keep and bear arms, and not anyone else’s. In fact, Green’s piece begins by quoting Tucker Carlson in March of this year reacting to Rainbow Reload by declaring, “You can’t have guns, but faithful servants of the Democratic Party can.”
Green could just as easily have reached out to someone like Tony Simon, who hosts Diversity Shoots at multiple ranges in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and would have provided a very different perspective than Carlson, but that would have undercut the implied message of the story: liberal gun owners are only embracing their Second Amendment rights to protect themselves against right-wing gun owners; nothing for the left to celebrate, necessarily, but perhaps the only acceptable reason for owning a gun for many Post staffers and readers.
Ironically, Green’s use of the Tucker Carlson quote in the story actually buttresses his point. Would the paper ever run a story covering gun ownership among middle-aged heterosexual men without talking to an Everytown activist or another gun control supporter eager to criticize their decision? I highly doubt it. Far too many media outlets start with the point of view that gun ownership is bad, but they’ll make an exception for the left side of the political spectrum.
Are there gun-owning bigots around? Of course, along with bigots who would never own a gun. But I’d say that generally speaking, even conservative Second Amendment advocates (or at least the crowd I run with) don’t believe that the right to keep and bear arms only applies to those who look like us or think like us, any more than the First Amendment only applies to people we agree with. We’re happy to see Americans of all walks of life and ideologies embrace gun ownership, even if outlets like the Washington Post refuse to acknowledge that reality.