We'd been shooting for a while by the time the amiable chatting started up.
This was Friday morning at the pistol range, where it was Sean Spradlin, me, and some other guy firing in another lane.
Sean and the other guy began the obligatory small talk that often crops up when strangers share a small space. Turned out both men are truck drivers, although Mr. Spradlin currently works as a security guard. And, of course, both men obviously enjoy shooting guns.
"I just started a gun club, actually," said Mr. Spradlin, 36.
"Oh, yeah?" the other guy said.
"Yeah, it's for gays and lesbians and bisexuals and transexuals," he said, quickly adding that anyone could join.
"Yeah? Really. OK," the other guy said. He paused briefly and, before returning his attention to the target, said neutrally: "Hmm. Interesting."
Well, maybe the commingling of gay rights and gun rights is unexpected, but that's the aim of the Pink Pistols. As the national organization's Web site (pinkpistols.org) explains:
"Socially, the [gay] and shooting communities are both quite similar. Both are often insular and can be closeted, and both have a stereotypical preconceptions about what the other is like."
Pink Pistols was formed in 2000 by a Boston dot.com engineer for both social and self-defense purposes. Its Web site lists five Ohio chapters, including the nascent Toledo group now being organized by Mr. Spradlin, who explained his initial interest by reciting a Pink Pistols motto:
Armed gays don't get bashed.
Conjuring what nine years later must still be the nation's best-known gay hate crime, Mr. Spradlin said: "If Matthew Shepard had been armed, maybe he wouldn't have been beaten to death."
Mr. Spradlin, meanwhile, has never been beaten up because of his orientation, although his fondness for cross-dressing has put him at risk:
"At [Westfield Franklin Park] mall, I was in full-dress drag one day, and I was going into Victoria's Secret when some [teen] boys said, 'Look at her! Let's get her!' And I turned around and grabbed some pepper spray out of my purse, and they took off."
Mr. Spradlin was kind enough to meet me at Cleland's Outdoor World's shooting range, where he introduced me to basic gun safety and his Sigarms P 226 handgun .
When Mr. Spradlin was asked to pick our paper targets - bulls-eyes or silhouettes? - he didn't hesitate to choose the outline of a human torso. It made me think of another Pink Pistols saying: Pick on someone your own caliber.
Personally, I'm what the Pink Pistols call a "gun bigot," someone who's not crazy about firearms, knows nothing about them, "may never have even fired one, certainly doesn't have any, [and] would gladly subject innocent people to defenselessness."
Let me just say that my fondness for gun control contrasts with the libertarian Mr. Spradlin's appreciation for weapons. Let me also just say that, as someone who never fired a gun until Friday, I found the 40-caliber handgun sure had a kick.
"Aw, man!" said Mr. Spradlin after I hit the 'X' (twice!), "you got him in the kill zone!"
It's an unusual sensation, experiencing pride and dread simultaneously.
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