After 21-year-old Matthew Shepard was tortured and murdered for being gay, some members of the gay and lesbian community raised a call to arms, which led to the formation of shooting and self-defense organization the Pink Pistols in 2000.
In the aftermath of the Orlando terror attacks, this call has been renewed—and according to Pink Pistols President Matt Schlentz, many are listening. Previously, membership in the group hovered around 1,500. Now, it has ballooned to more than 4,000, with 2,000 of those added on the Monday after the incident.
“It’s really sad that something on this scale had to happen for people to realize that this is a need for our community,” Schlentz told The Salt Lake Tribune. But, he says, “The reality is what it is—the world is a violent, terrible, scary place, and people do wish me harm based on who I love.”
Schlentz says the incident also raised awareness among those outside the LGBT community: In the aftermath of the attacks, several gun-range owners have offered to help provide firearms and self-defense training to the group.