RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Shooting guns is a way of life for Bethany Pahl.
“I like my Glock,” she chuckles, taking a break from the shooting range at her home.
Pahl grew up around guns and hunted in Upstate New York as a kid. These days, target shooting at home is a pastime. Pahl first got a concealed carry permit in 2001 with visions of 9-11 and terror in the forefront.
“Between malls, people getting shot in malls, theaters, you just never know anymore,” explains Pahl, who came out as transgender about ten years ago. “If you don’t have the ability to protect yourself, what are you going to do?”
Pahl is just one member of the LGBTQ community devastated by what happened in Orlando.
“It really woke us up,” says Logan Bishop. “It really let people know that, ‘Hey, maybe we do need to defend ourselves still. Maybe we do have these targets on us.'”
Bishop helped to resurrect Pink Pistols RVA a few days after the Orlando nightclub shooting. The national group advocating for and educating the LGBTQ community about guns had been dormant for about five years in Richmond. However, Bishop, who is bisexual, says now is the time to bring it back.
“They can always be a safe, responsible gun owner, but they’re always ready to defend themselves if something like Orlando were to happen again,” Bishop says of getting Richmond’s LGBTQ community involved with the group.
Adds Phil Pollard, “This whole thing hit really close to home for me. It lit a fire under my butt, so to speak, to really pursue this.”
Pollard is from Orlando and just moved to Richmond last fall. He calls himself an LGBTQ ally, who is working with Bishop to gain membership for Pink Pistols RVA.
“I want to train people of all genders and sexual orientations to have that power, to really have their own life in their own hands,” Pollard says.
As a gun owner himself, Pollard does not want to push his beliefs on others. Neither does Pahl, but she also says Orlando serves as a reminder that all people have options.
“Like a parachute, if you got it and you need it you’re alright,” Pahl explains. “If not, it’s a long way’s down.”
Pink Pistols RVA is holding its first meeting Thursday, July 21 at 7pm at Fallout RVA, 117 N. 18th Street in Richmond. Members of the LGBTQ community and allies are invited to learn more about Virginia gun laws, where to learn how to safely handle a firearm and more.
Today Rebecca Caffrey, a local member of the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, sent 8News this statement:
“The LGBT community is already organized and politically active; they are a powerful voting block, and they’ve used the two-pronged approach of actively working to change both laws and societal norms to make members of their community safer. I expect that the leaders of the LGBT rights movement will join with leaders of the GVP movement to demand stricter, common sense gun laws for public safety. The Orlando shooter was clearly a danger to others and shouldn’t have been able to waltz into a gun shop and easily, legally buy his arsenal. Bullets don’t care about your gender, race or sexual orientation, but all too often the shooters often do. This mass shooting could’ve been prevented with some common-sense measures like prohibiting sale of guns and ammo to individuals on the no-fly list and those who have been investigated for terrorist activity. This shooter should’ve been red-flagged and we have to do a better job of weeding out people like him with universal background checks.”