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Pink Pistols: The Rapidly Growing 2A Org for the LGBTQ Community

The Pink Pistols is a nationwide LGBTQ Gun Rights organization with over 45 chapters and more than 10,000 members. They’re dedicated to the legal, safe, and responsible use of firearms for self-defense of the sexual-minority community.

Ermiya Fanaeian, director of SLC Pink Pistols.
Ermiya Fanaeian, director of SLC Pink Pistols.

The gun rights world has been expanding for some time, but if you don’t move in these circles, you might’ve missed how diverse it’s become. Media representations, political speech, cultural biases, and even mainstream gun rights marketing can easily let you believe it’s 1965 if you don’t look too hard. We recently sat down with Ermiya Fanaeian, who founded the Salt Lake City chapter of The Pink Pistols, to find out what it’s like being one growing facet of the new face of the Second Amendment.

RECOIL: So, Ermiya, who are you, and what is The Pink Pistols?

Pink Pistols: I’m an LGBTQ political organizer and the director of the Salt Lake City Pink Pistols. The Pink Pistols is an organization focused on arming LGBTQ people to help us defend ourselves and to change the public perception of our community.

What was it that motivated you to pick up the reins and restart the chapter in SLC?

Pink Pistols: I understood the need for LGBTQ people to protect ourselves from people who wanted to do serious harm to us. Pulse, for me, was a huge pivot point, wanting to shift my understanding of what guns can do for us, as well as my time spent in the gun violence prevention movement. I was actually a gun-control activist for years and years. During that time, in that movement, I realized that a lot of the things politicians are asking for are not a benefit for the people or working-class communities wanting to protect ourselves. Because of this I decided that it was time to not just arm ourselves but be passionate advocates for arming ourselves.

So, just to backtrack a little, you were involved in anti-gun organizations? Which ones?

Pink Pistols: March For Our Lives. I was involved with them for years and years.

pink pistols at the range
It’s not just advocacy — there’s trigger pulling too.

OK, then what was your Road to Damascus moment?

Pink Pistols: Well, I shifted my position when an attack that happened in Michigan on a black transwoman at a gas station. A group of men had violently mobbed her. I realized then that not only did we need to protect ourselves, but the exact politicians who were calling to disarm working-class Americans were doing nothing to protect her, nothing to fight against the violent attack that happened to her, and nothing to actually hold those who violently attacked her accountable. That just made me realize their lack of care for protecting LGBTQ Americans, and not just that but they don’t want us to be able to protect ourselves either. So that moment really opened my eyes to understanding that these politicians who claim to care for our safety, who I worked alongside for so many years, actually weren’t doing anything. During this time when we needed them the most, they were just twiddling their thumbs.

pink pistols advocacy

In terms of grassroots activism, we’ve kept tabs on Pink Pistols for a long time. This past year I think COVID-19 has really brought it home that Americans of every stripe need to be more responsible for their own safety. What steps does SLC Pink Pistols take with their membership in terms of outreach, education, and advocacy?

Pink Pistols: A huge initiative of ours has been to bring in young people to our organization. There hasn’t been a huge focus on arming young people in their mid 20s and helping them with that kind of access. A big part of that is social media campaigns. We have a huge presence on social media that has been ever growing. Through this we educate folks, we tell them how they can get involved with us, we tell them about news stories that go out regarding gun rights, or attacks against LGBTQ. Because of that kind of social media presence, we have really drawn in so many young people, and we don’t have a single member in our organization over 30.

That's Great

Pink Pistols: I wanted that to be our focus here in SLC. I wanted young folks to have that kind of access, because a lot of older folks grew up on farms, or generally around firearms. But nowadays for young folks we don’t have that kind of access or education. So that social media presence has really helped our chapter a ton, as well as reaching out to college, and community organizations here about arming themselves or self-defense. It’s about reaching out to them as well to get an understanding of where our memberships collide and who needs both of our resources

Your background, coming into this, sounds like you didn’t have much experience with firearms at all before you went over to the other side of the fence. So where did you grow up; what’s your family background?

Pink Pistols: My family were refugees from Iran; we escaped an Islamic regime that wanted to persecute my parents because of their religion. We came here when I was a year old, so I grew up here in SLC, understanding this love of guns. My household was an incredibly religious, Persian one, but once I hit about 16, I began political activism via my involvement in LGBTQ communities. Through this, I started forming my own identity away from my parents who never knew anything about firearms or the Second Amendment, and to this day are very anti-gun. Having formed my own identity, I’m now an atheist, a leftist (my parents are conservative), and very much a Second Amendment advocate. So that’s kind of where my upbringing was.

pink pistols The Fort Meyers chapter at the range.
The Fort Meyers chapter at the range.

Do you see any conflict between the LGBTQ community, who as a rule tends to skew left, and the Democrat Party platform, which is rabidly anti-gun?

pink pistols
Fanaeian on the range.

Pink Pistols: Absolutely! This has been a huge conflict for me, as you know I used to work with the Democrat party in an official capacity. I understand that our elected officials are incredibly anti-gun, so it’s been a huge conflict, because they’re not doing anything to help working-class families or working-class LGBTQ people. We don’t have protection like Obama has protection when he walks around with security guards. So, there’s a huge conflict as they’re not doing anything to advance us or help us, and they’re not really doing anything to protect us from an ever-growing violence against us. So that conflict absolutely exists; we don’t know what to do with regard to that. We don’t know who we’re supposed to be voting for when we’re only allowed two options in this nation that we feel don’t represent us. We are largely poor, we are largely working class, and the Democrats aren’t really working in that regard. They’re not allowing us to protect ourselves or to gain workers’ rights. But Republicans are, on the other hand, stripping LGBTQ rights. It’s this huge conflict between us, certainly.

What methods do you use to talk to traditionally conservative people about your organization, and how does someone best be a Second Amendment advocate to those who believe that it’s a solely conservative venture?

Pink Pistols: The method that I use is focus on our common interests in arming the people and the 2A. I explain to them the benefits of having diverse communities advocate for this as well, as it dismantles the notion that the people who are pro-2A only come from specific backgrounds. It’s about reassuring to them that this is indeed a positive and will only be beneficial for the fight to arm people at large. To best advocate to those who believe it’s solely a conservative cause is to focus on the need to arm working-class Americans. Most conservative folks agree on protecting themselves, protecting their communities, and that something folks from all sides of the aisle agree on as well. 

pink pistols
Seattle chapter members spreading the good 2A word and getting together for trigger time.

There are known segments of the mainstream gun community that don’t always get along, usually along gear, or purpose-for-ownership lines. Are there any specific issues or stances in your subset of the community that may generate discord that you have to deal with? 

Pink Pistols: The issue that generates discord is whether we should be proudly open carrying or concealed carrying. Lots of folks will argue that if we are to open carry that makes us look too militant; others argue that proudly open carrying is precisely what we need to do to let folks know we are now armed and willing to protect ourselves.

pink pistols seattle

That sounds all too familiar, honestly. What are some specific challenges LGBTQ+ Americans encounter in this space? How do you advise one deal with them? 

Pink Pistols: The challenge that we face is people still expecting LGBTQ+ Americans to have a strong dedication to gun control, and that we are inherently supposed to be anti-gun just because we are LGBTQ+. My advice is for us to continue educating folks on why disarming us is not the pro-LGBTQ position. We also, of course, encounter those who are anti-LGBTQ within this space who are not yet ready to see the changing face of 2A activism. My advice for that is that folks need to understand protecting ourselves is a human right that should be given to every single American, and every American should be advocating for the right to protect ourselves.

pink pistols

What, above all, do you want someone who may never have heard of The Pink Pistols to know about you, and where can we contact you to learn more? 

Pink Pistols: We want people to know that we are tired of the violence against us, and The Pink Pistols are taking serious initiative to protect our communities. We want people to know this is an initiative that we take very seriously and are very focused on changing this public perception of LGBTQ people being defenseless. You can contact us on our Instagram page @PinkPistolsSLC

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2 responses to “Pink Pistols: The Rapidly Growing 2A Org for the LGBTQ Community”

  1. Kevin Starrett says:

    ” But Republicans are, on the other hand, stripping LGBTQ rights. ”

    As a gun rights activist for over 40 years, I have to call bullshit on this. If you are going to make an accusation like that you better provide an example.

    Something better than “those awful conservatives don’t want girls competing against biological males.”

    Which is not a legitimate beef. Sorry professional victims.

  2. Paul n Wi says:

    Good on them and good to see.

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  • " But Republicans are, on the other hand, stripping LGBTQ rights. "

    As a gun rights activist for over 40 years, I have to call bullshit on this. If you are going to make an accusation like that you better provide an example.

    Something better than "those awful conservatives don't want girls competing against biological males."

    Which is not a legitimate beef. Sorry professional victims.

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