The mass shooting in Orlando that claimed the lives of 49 people and injured dozens more at the Pulse nightclub has left many in the LGBT community calling for the passing of gun control legislation, while others are arming themselves out of fear that they may be targeted next.
A gun range in Houston, Texas has started offering free training for those who find themselves in the latter category and wish to obtain a concealed carry license.
“What we thought was going to be two classes, with maybe 40 people total, has now just totally blown up to 13 classes, and we’ve got over 550 signed up, with over a hundred done already,” Jeff Sanford, General Manager of Houston’s Shiloh Gun Range and 3D Archery, told VOANews.
The class usually costs $69.
He says he believes members of the LGBT community are coming not just to save money but to “be around like minded people” where they don’t have to worry about being judged by anyone else in the class.
“There is a target that has been painted on people’s backs now if they are part of the LGBT community,” class member Cheryl Burgin said.
Desaree Reyes, who attended one of the classes with her wife, said she is not sure if she would be ready to defend herself with a gun if it came down to it but wanted to be armed after the Orlando shooting nonetheless.
“I do feel like at least I have that protection, so if somebody were to come towards me or my family I’m already ready to protect myself,” Reyes said.
On the other side of the debate sits the national LGBT organization Pink Pistols, who are encouraging LGBT people to arm themselves against potential threats. The group has existed since 2000 but says they are growing in membership in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting.