'Pink Pistols' Seeks To 'Empower' LGBTQ Communities To Defend Themselves
Two years ago, Ermiya Fanaeian marched to the Utah State Capitol in support of stronger firearm restrictions. Fanaeian, 20, was a founding member of March For Our Lives Utah, the youth-led gun control movement born out of the 2018 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
“I used to think that guns were a scary thing,” she said. “Back then, I would have agreed with Joe Biden's assertion to take everyone's AR-15s away. And now I own one.”
President-elect Biden’s gun control policies include banning the manufacture and sale of assault weapons, as well as buying back guns like AR-15s that people already own — or people can register them under the National Firearms Act.
This July, Fanaeian started the Salt Lake-based chapter of Pink Pistols, which is a national organization whose mission is to arm LGBTQ people. She said they host trainings at shooting ranges and also educate members about gun safety and buying firearms.
As a transgender woman of color, she said she has had a lot of anxiety about her safety in public spaces.
“I didn't know who was going to do what, and there were incidents where I almost got into those [threatening] situations,” she said. “And we've seen trans women get into even worse situations. So it was incredibly hard to kind of access public life on a day-to-day basis.”
A recent report from the FBI shows nearly 1,400 hate crimes last year were based on sexual-orientation bias. And out of 224 incidents targeting people because of their gender identity, 77% were anti-transgender.
Gabriel Misla said he hates guns and doesn’t own one — yet — but the murder rates of transgender people are what drew him to the Pink Pistols. The Human Rights Campaign reported at least 37 of them have been killed this year in the United States.
Additionally, as a gay, Puerto Rican man, Misla said it’s important to him to be able to protect himself.
“I do feel that there is a threat,” he said. “I don't know when it will happen, but it could happen to me. It could happen to my husband, and especially as Hispanics as well. It's not just being gay, it’s also being a minority from a marginalized community.”
Fanaeian said there has been a perception that LGBTQ people are weak and easy targets. She said she wants Pink Pistols to change that — the same way it’s changed for herself.
“I now know that I have something to empower me and to no longer make me a victim,” she said. “It’s liberating. I feel like I do have this new, profound freedom where I no longer have to fear for my life everywhere I go, because now I'm kind of in control of that.”