11 July, 2016
The killing of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Florida has shaken America's LGBT community.
The attack has led some of the community's members to consider carrying guns.
A gun range in Houston, Texas is now offering free training to LGBT people. LGBT is short for the words lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Many people have signed up for the classes because they fear they could be a victim of violence.
Texas law requires an operating permit for people to carry a gun, whether it is concealed or not.
"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.
Burgin knows how to use a gun. She once served in the U.S. Marine Corps. She now feels the need to have her own gun to protect herself and her wife.
Even with a legal permit in Texas, guns are barred from some public places, such as schools and hospitals. They are also not permitted in most drinking establishments and nightclubs, like the one attacked in Orlando.
Burgin admits that taking a gun into a bar or club would not be a good idea. "You don't want to mix alcohol and firearms. It is not the smartest thing to take it into a club. But if I need to have it nearby, I will make sure I have it with me."
Jess Sanford is General Manager of Houston's Shiloh Gun Range and 3D Archery. He says his decision to drop the usual $69 class fee for the LGBT community has been warmly received.
"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."
He says people receiving the training enjoy being with like-minded people who do not judge them.
Desaree Reyes and her wife, Marcella, said they decided to take the training because of possible hostility to their same-sex marriage. But Desaree admits she is not sure how she would react to an attack like the one in Orlando.
"I don't feel that just because I have my license that I am going to be ready," she said. But she added that carrying a weapon will give her better piece of mind.
"I do feel like at least I have that protection...so that if somebody were to come towards me or my family, I'm already ready to protect myself."
The gay community includes people on both sides of the gun control debate.
Pink Pistols is an LGBT gun rights group. It was already urging members of the community to arm themselves before Orlando. A representative of the group, Gwendolyn Patton, released a statement after the shooting.
"Guns did not do this. A human being did this, a dead human being. Our job now is not to demonize the man's tools, but to condemn his acts and work to prevent such acts in the future."
Other LGBT rights groups, including Human Rights Campaign, have called for stronger gun control measures. "The safety of the LGBTQ community depends on our ability to end both the hatred toward our community, and the epidemic of gun violence that has spiraled out of control," HRC president Chad Griffin said.
Griffin blamed the mass shooting on "a toxic combination of two things: a deranged, unstable individual who had been conditioned to hate (LGBT) people, and easy access to military-style guns."
I'm Bryan Lynn.
Greg Flakus reported this story for VOANews. Bryan Lynn adapted his report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
conceal – v. keep something hidden
piece of mind – n. a feeling of being safe or protected
epidemic – n. a sudden, widespread growth of something
deranged – adj. behaving in a dangerous way because of a mental disorder
gay – n. a person sexually attracted to someone who is the same sex
nightclub – n. a place that offers entertainment and drinks
lesbian – n. a woman who is sexually attracted to other women
bisexual – n. a person sexually attracted to someone who is the same sex or the opposite sex
transgender – adj. a person who expresses or identifies with a gender different from the one they were born with