U.S. gay gun group's membership surges after Orlando killings

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The Pink Pistols, an LGBT gun club
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The Pink Pistols, an LGBT gun club
Damien Chee (L) and Skylar Simon practice drawing their weapon during a firearms training class attended by members of the Pink Pistols, a national pro-gun LGBT organization, at the PMAA Gun Range in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., July 1, 2016. Picture taken July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Firearms instructor Dan Hood (L) discusses weapons handling during a firearms training class attended by members of the Pink Pistols, a national pro-gun LGBT organization, at the PMAA Gun Range in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., July 1, 2016. Picture taken July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Participants watch as firearms instructor Dan Hood demonstrates weapons handling during a firearms training class attended by members of the Pink Pistols, a national pro-gun LGBT organization, at the PMAA Gun Range in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., July 1, 2016. Picture taken July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Participants practice weapons handling during a firearms training class attended by members of the Pink Pistols, a national pro-gun LGBT organization, at the PMAA Gun Range in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., July 1, 2016. Picture taken July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Salt Lake City Pink Pistols chapter president Matt Schlentz practices his draw during a firearms training class attended by members of the Pink Pistols, a national pro-gun LGBT organization, at the PMAA Gun Range in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., July 1, 2016. Picture taken July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Mallory Washburn shoots at targets during a firearms training class attended by members of the Pink Pistols, a national pro-gun LGBT organization, at the PMAA Gun Range in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., July 1, 2016. Picture taken July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Participants shoot at targets during a firearms training class attended by members of the Pink Pistols, a national pro-gun LGBT organization, at the PMAA Gun Range in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., July 1, 2016. Picture taken July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Participants prepare to shoot at targets during a firearms training class attended by members of the Pink Pistols, a national pro-gun LGBT organization, at the PMAA Gun Range in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., July 1, 2016. Picture taken July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Skylar Simon (L) and his partner, Salt Lake City Pink Pistols chapter president Matt Schlentz, walk down a range together during a firearms training class attended by members of the Pink Pistols, a national pro-gun LGBT organization, at the PMAA Gun Range in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., July 1, 2016. Picture taken July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Participants shoot at targets during a firearms training class attended by members of the Pink Pistols, a national pro-gun LGBT organization, at the PMAA Gun Range in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., July 1, 2016. Picture taken July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Salt Lake City Pink Pistols chapter president Matt Schlentz (L) and his partner Skylar Simon look at a target after shooting during a firearms training class attended by members of the Pink Pistols, a national pro-gun LGBT organization, at the PMAA Gun Range in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., July 1, 2016. Picture taken July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Firearms instructor Dan Hood demonstrates gun handling during a firearms training class attended by members of the Pink Pistols, a national pro-gun LGBT organization, at the PMAA Gun Range in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., July 1, 2016. Picture taken July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Salt Lake City Pink Pistols chapter president Matt Schlentz loads a magazine of ammunition during a firearms training class attended by members of the Pink Pistols, a national pro-gun LGBT organization, at the PMAA Gun Range in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., July 1, 2016. Picture taken July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Skylar Simon shoots at targets during a firearms training class attended by members of the Pink Pistols, a national pro-gun LGBT organization, at the PMAA Gun Range in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., July 1, 2016. Picture taken July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Salt Lake City Pink Pistols chapter president Matt Schlent (L) is followed by firearms instructor Dan Hood during a firearms training class attended by members of the Pink Pistols, a national pro-gun LGBT organization, at the PMAA Gun Range in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., July 1, 2016. Picture taken July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Instructors work with participants on proper gun handling during a firearms training class attended by members of the Pink Pistols, a national pro-gun LGBT organization, at the PMAA Gun Range in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., July 1, 2016. Picture taken July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Skylar Simon (L) gets instructions from firearms instructor Dan Hood during a firearms training class attended by members of the Pink Pistols, a national pro-gun LGBT organization at the PMAA Gun Range in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., July 1, 2016. Picture taken July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Participants work on proper gun handling during a firearms training class attended by members of the Pink Pistols, a national pro-gun LGBT organization, at the PMAA Gun Range in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., July 1, 2016. Picture taken July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Salt Lake City Pink Pistols chapter president Matt Schlentz (L) is followed by firearms instructor Dan Hood during a firearms training class attended by members of the Pink Pistols, a national pro-gun LGBT organization, at the PMAA Gun Range in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., July 1, 2016. Picture taken July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Skylar Simon (L) and his partner, Salt Lake City Pink Pistols chapter president Matt Schlentz, watch from the range during a firearms training class attended by members of the Pink Pistols, a national pro-gun LGBT organization, at the PMAA Gun Range in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., July 1, 2016. Picture taken July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Participants shoot at targets during a firearms training class attended by members of the Pink Pistols, a national pro-gun LGBT organization, at the PMAA Gun Range in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., July 1, 2016. Picture taken July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Participants prepare to shoot at targets during a firearms training class attended by members of the Pink Pistols, a national pro-gun LGBT organization, at the PMAA Gun Range in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., July 1, 2016. Picture taken July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Skylar Simon (L) and his partner, Salt Lake City Pink Pistols chapter president Matt Schlentz, walk down a range together during a firearms training class attended by members of the Pink Pistols, a national pro-gun LGBT organization, at the PMAA Gun Range in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., July 1, 2016. Picture taken July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
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SALT LAKE CITY, July 12 (Reuters) - At a local shooting range, the 23-year-old president of the Salt Lake City chapter of Pink Pistols, a national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender gun club, helps a tattooed member improve his marksmanship.

An openly gay professional bodypiercer, Matt Schlentz said members of the LGBT community feel more at risk of being a victim of a hate crime or violent assault. The mass murder at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, last month, confirmed their concerns.

"Every gay person, every lesbian, every transgender, everybody in-between and every street person, we all know someone who has been the victim of a crime, a hate crime or some type of violent assault," he said in an interview.

Gun violence has remained in the forefront of national conversation since the Orlando shootings. Last week alone, two black men in Louisiana and Minnesota were killed by police.

Before the Orlando shootings in June, the Pink Pistols, with more than 45 chapters across the United States, had about 1,500 members. The day after the killing spree, its numbers soared to more than 4,000 and have since risen above 8,000.

"Orlando, being the largest mass shooting in American history and pointed at gays, I think it was a huge eye opener for people," Schlentz said. "The world is not a perfect place, and we need to take safety into our own hands."

Pink Pistols, which was founded about 20 years ago, promotes the safe, legal use of firearms for self-defense of the LGBT community. There are no fees or forms to fill out, and membership is open to all.

"We teach queers to shoot," the group says on its website. "Then we teach others that we have done so. Armed queers don't get bashed."

Schlentz meets with members at shooting ranges for practices and training. The group also helps members not familiar with weapons to select and buy guns and ammunition.

"Anything you need, that's what we're here for," he said. "We are completely non-profit."

Schlentz expects membership of Pink Pistols to keep growing and hopes an incident like Orlando will not happen again.

"With a community of LGBT people who are arming themselves," he said, "I think people are going to think twice, at least a little bit more." (Reporting by Jim Urquhart; Writing by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

After Orlando: The Pink Pistols ask the loaded question

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