While some American gay and lesbian groups protest the looming war in Iraq, a growing number are heading in the opposite direction -“ taking up their guns.

Armed Gays Don’t Get Bashed is the opening statement on the website of the Pink Pistols (www.pinkpistols.org), a group for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and polyamorous gun owners.

President and founder Doug Krick told Sydney Star Observer the Pink Pistols provided for social shooting as well as protecting the rights of people in alternative sexualities to own and carry weapons.

It’s hard to pin down what your -˜typical’ member of the Pink Pistols is like. I do know that our members come from all walks of life, with just about every sexual minority represented, he said.

Whenever we receive press a new segment of the population hears about us for the first time and we have an inrush of people. For those of us who have been watching the news, the US has been slowly building a war mentality ever since September 11 and it hasn’t let up. I’m sure we have more members as a result, but how many more, and would they have joined anyway is anybody’s guess.

Pink Pistols started in 2000 with one chapter in Boston. Since then, 36 chapters in 28 US states have opened, and more than 3,200 people have printed membership cards from the website.

Some people join because they believe the Second Amendment [which enshrines American’s right to bear arms] applies to everyone. Others join for the social aspect of going shooting with some friends. I’ve known people to become involved because they want to learn the basics about firearms. Some join because they want to refine their skills, and others join because of our political activism, Krick said.

That activism included an extensive list of individuals, companies and organisations who had ever made statements in favour of gun control, and questioning political candidates on their commitment to maintaining free gun ownership laws.

Member Lisa Miner shot a man who had broken into her house, wounding him in the neck. She later told Associated Press it was wrong for people to assume gay and lesbian people would vote for liberal politicians and support anti-gun legislation.

My gun rights are more important than my gay rights, she said.

Krick said the Pink Pistols did not force members to complete firearms safety courses (because they were already mandatory in some states for gun owners) or undergo psychological tests.

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