Gays take up self defense; Organization teaches safety,
protection with handguns
MOSCOW -- If you ask Scotty Evans what's the best way to
help prevent gays and lesbians from becoming victims of hate
crimes, he'll give you a two-word answer:
"Self defense is a basic human right that I really believe
in," says Evans, 39, a computer programmer who moved to Moscow
from Canada nine years ago.
Evans and his wife, Jean, have started a Palouse chapter of
the Pink Pistols, a national organization that works to
educate gays on gun safety and ownership and encourages
members to carry concealed weapons.
The national group, launched in 2000, has 32 chapters in 23
states, with the Palouse chapter forming in the past few
months. Evans is also president of the Palouse Practical
Shooters gun club.
A handful of people have joined the Pink Pistols, which can
be done by printing a membership card off the Web site, and
Evans expects numbers to increase. Homosexuality is not a
Gay group members declined interview requests for this
After University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was
killed for being gay, Evans says he needed to respond in some
He later saw a reference to the national Pink Pistols
group, thought it sounded like a good idea but didn't know if
he was qualified.
"I got an e-mail about a straight couple in Virginia who
started a club, and it sort of just went from there."
Evans operates a Web site and list serve for members.
Nationally, the impetus for the group was an article on
Salon.com by a writer whose gay friends successfully thwarted
a hate crime by displaying a concealed weapon.
This is not the first group with these goals, however. A
Seattle group called Cease Fear formed several years ago with
National Rifle Association instructors offering self-defense
classes to residents of Capitol Hill, Seattle's traditionally
"We wanted to help these people out," says Joe Huffman, who
helped form the group and now lives in Moscow. "As long as
they stayed in their area, there were no problems. But
sometimes a group of thugs would go in and decide to bash
gays. The police can't always get there right away."
Huffman is vice president of the Palouse Practical Shooters
and is also a member of the Pink Pistols.
The biggest challenges in starting both groups have been
stereotypes on both sides, Huffman says.
"When we formed Cease Fear, we went to the leaders in the
gun movement and the people who organized the gun show in that
area. We would make the case that it was good for us and that
these people, of all people, needed training with handguns to
They bought the argument, though they were not happy about
it at first, he says, and persuading the gun community was
only half the battle.
"We had to convince the gay leadership that, just because
we belong to the NRA and advocate handguns, we were not a
bunch of redneck Neanderthals dragging our knuckles down the
On the Palouse, Huffman is bridging that gap through
combined shoots with Pink Pistols members and gun club
A few weeks ago, the monthly outing involved several
scenarios that dealt with hate crimes against homosexuals,
like one that placed the shooter in a scene where he had to
deal with intoxicated fraternity boys tying someone to a fence
The notes on the scenario start this way: "While returning
from an anti-Fred Phelps rally in Moscow, Idaho, you see
something suspicious on the side of the road."
The Rev. Fred Phelps leads an anti-gay church in Topeka,
Kan., and made national news when he held a sign saying "God
Hates Fags" across the street from the funeral of Matthew
Shepard. His group planned to picket the University of Idaho
July 6 but settled for a minor demonstration in McCall.
Others scenarios placed shooters in alleys where groups of
thugs were harassing the shooters and their partners.
No members of the Pink Pistols came to the shoot, but the
Palouse Practical Shooters did the scenes anyway.
"They did the scenario without complaint and with great
humor," Huffman says.
That bodes well for acceptance between the groups.
"I expect it to be easier than in the Seattle area because
guns are a more standard item on the Palouse than on Capitol
Evans had a booth at the Palouse Pride Fair a few weeks ago
and says reaction from attendees there was positive.
He says most shooters care more about defending the Second
Amendment than sexual orientation.
Don Wood, a member of the Lewiston pistol club, agrees with
"Anyone willing to come into the camp and help defend our
rights is welcomed -- maybe not with open arms and maybe with
rubber gloves, but they're welcomed."
This group is what the state needs to help with its sullied
national image, Evans says.
"When we asked about forming the club, we got an e-mail
back saying, 'A group in northern Idaho?' That's the response
we wanted. So much for right-wing Idaho gun nuts."
Palouse Pink Pistols may be reached on the Net at
Buchanan may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org