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Houston Gun Shop Offers LGBT Gun Safety Classes To Hundreds

In the wake of the Orlando mass shooting at a gay nightclub, a Houston-area gun shop has offered up free handgun safety classes to hundreds within the LGBT community.

In the wake of the Orlando mass shooting, President Barack Obama and many others called for gun control. But some members of the LGBT community in Houston have responded in a different way.

Jeff Sanford is manager of the Shiloh Gun Range in Northwest Harris County. He says ever since they started offering free concealed handgun classes to LGBT individuals, “the response has been out of this world.”

“It’s been far more than anything we could’ve ever imagined,” says the shop owner. “What we thought we would get was maybe two classes with 15-20 people each. And we’re now at – I believe the last count was 13 classes, and we’re up over 550 people signed up.”

A friend who is a gun owner within the gay community suggested the idea to Sanford after the Orlando shooting. Sanford says he even wondered if they could actually afford to offer up the $69 classes for free. He had to consult with his mother and other members of the family business.

“I started getting cold feet right around 200,” he says. “And we got the family back together, and I said, ‘Well, how many of these can we possibly do?’ And my mom just looks up and says, ‘Well, all of them!’ So, it became our calling now: Let’s arm and empower this group of people that’s been historically known as a vulnerable group. Let’s get rid of that vulnerability.”

And that vulnerability can sometimes cause anxiety – even for a gun owner within the gay community.

Gwen Patton is with Pink Pistols, an international LGBT gun rights network, whose membership has already climbed from 1,500 earlier in June to over 7,000 just last week.

“There’s an awful lot of us that are willing to come out of the closet,” says Patton. “But because the GLBT community is not as accepting of firearms, we’re reluctant to come out of the gun safe. So there’s a great many of us that aren’t willing to be seen in public as being openly gun owners.”

But Patton adds that it’s not just about guns – it’s about self-defense, advocating that while firearms are the most effective tool, it’s not the only tool.

“Use pepper spray, use martial arts,” the spokesperson says. “Use whatever you have available to you and learn how to use it effectively.”

Pink Pistols recently opened a local chapter in Houston.

Meanwhile, Shiloh Gun Range owner, Jeff Sanford, says the shop has received backlash over the free classes.

“For the people that complain that they’re not getting a free class because they’re not gay, they should pay attention to our website and to other things that we do – our Facebook page, because we’ve offered free classes to numerous different groups of people in the past,” adds Sanford. “And we have never, ever had a turnout like we’ve had, so far, with the LGBT community.”

As of Friday of last week, Shiloh suspended its free CHL classes program to the gay community citing overwhelming demand with the nearly 700 people that signed up.

According to an FBI report, LGBT people are more likely to be targets of hate crimes than any other minority group in the nation, even as the country becomes more accepting towards gays and lesbians.

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Eddie Robinson

Eddie Robinson

Morning News Anchor

A native of Mississippi, Eddie started his radio career as a 10th grader, working as a music jock for a 100,000-Watt (Pop) FM station and a Country AM station simultaneously. While the state's governor nominated him for the U.S. Naval Academy, Eddie had an extreme passion for broadcast media, particularly...

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