USA – Piper Smith, is the founder and director of Armed Equality.
Armed Equality is the largest LGBT gun rights group in the country. Smith founded the group after the terrorist attack at the Pulse Nightclub. On June 12, 2016, an Islamic extremist who had a hatred for gay people, entered the club and killed 49 people. The terrorist thought that being gay was an offense to Islam.
The shooting became the deadliest terrorist attack since 9/11. None of the revelers were armed. They could not defend themselves. Smith realized that needed to change and if no one else were going to do something, then she would.
She founded Armed Equality with the sole goal of enabling the LGBT community to protect themselves against people that would do the community harm. The group doesn't have any other political motivation other than Second Amendment rights and have people from all over the political spectrum.
Smith contacted AmmoLand News about a cartoon she found offensive. The cartoon was critical of the Equality Act. It pictured a very masculine trans athlete competing in a women's competition. We wanted to speak to her about her group and the cartoon.
Piper Smith was curious enough to grant AmmoLand News an interview.
John: What is Armed Equality?
Piper: Armed Equality is a group and movement focused on strengthening the self-defense skills of LGBT individuals.
Historically (~3 years or so) we have focused on facilitating armed and unarmed self-defense training and other similar events with vetted LGBT-inclusive instructors & businesses. Recently we have started to also focus on helping to reform the broader 2A community in terms of inclusivity in non-traditional demographics.
John: The Pulse nightclub shooting was a wake-up call to a lot of people. Do you think an armed citizen could have stopped the shooting?
Piper: It was absolutely a wake-up call for many Americans, especially for those paying attention in the American LGBT community. Something about Pulse that I wish more people were aware of was that law enforcement waited around outside for over two hours!
They prevented nearly all first responders from saving lives due to an active threat that they failed to confront (Note: there was one very heroic paramedic team that risked their careers to enter the area and saved many lives at great personal risk).
Most of us in the 2A community are well aware that we are our own first responders and 911 cannot be solely relied upon, and sometimes I think we take that acknowledgment and mindset for granted. For individuals without military or law enforcement backgrounds who have no idea what the difference between cover and concealment is, I think we owe them the opportunity to learn.
As we well know, not everyone wants to learn these harsh truths, and that's their choice; but I think we owe it to our fellow citizens to at least offer. It's painful to see individuals in the LGBT community be so complacent and negligent in their lack of prioritization of development in terms of a self-defense mindset and training.
I explained to a BBC reporter from the UK recently that while there is, of course, no way to know for sure if a well-trained, well-armed individual could have made a difference that night inside of Pulse, it certainly would have changed the odds.
We have seen time and time again the difference between mass murder incidents where the aggressor is immediately confronted with force, versus those where they go unchecked until eventually, finally, someone shows up to confront them after the damage has already been maximized.
John: What is your background when it comes to guns?
Piper: It's funny, I get questions on social media all the time from people that have relatively in-depth questions about the mechanics of particular firearm models, etc., and I always have to correct their assumption that I know a lot of firearms themselves. I really don't.
I refer them to our 2,000+ national Facebook group where their questions can be answered by true hardware experts.
I own more bolted-down safes, alarm systems, and guard dogs than I do firearms! To me, firearms are tools, each type with a specific and niche purpose. I care a lot more about the inalienable right to self-defense that supersedes the Second Amendment.
I feel I understand quite well the intentions of the founding fathers in their creation of the Second Amendment. I believe their micro level intention was for individual self-defense from all deadly threats. I believe their macro-level intention was for societal self-defense and deterrent against a tyrannical government.
I believe the LGBT community would do well to remember that the Japanese were rounded up based on US Census data. I think the LGBT community would do well to remember that we were rounded up right alongside the Jewish people in WWII.
I believe LGBT individuals should also examin their local 911 response times and consider just how many minutes they think they can withstand an attack from multiple aggressors.
John: If you believe the media, the LGBT community falls on the left of the political spectrum, and gun owners are more right wing. Is it hard convincing people that these stereotypes are not always true?
Piper: I think we all know that a majority of LGBT Americans lean left and a majority of firearm owners lean right. It doesn't take too much analysis to figure out why this has trended the way that it has.
Social conservatives have treated their LGBT fellow Americans quite poorly, to say the least, for entirely too long. Privileged liberals have treated their fellow Americans of whom exercise their civil rights in relation to self-defense quite poorly, to say the least, for entirely too long.
The mainstream media on all sides loves division, loves conflict, loves the money that is raked in from the viewership and the ‘clicks.' 30,000+ hours of political science study left me pretty jaded toward our two-party system, and I don't think I am alone in that feeling these days. I judge individuals and issues on an individual and case by case basis.
As a member of the Liberal Gun Club, The NRA, Firearms Policy Coalition, Second Amendment Foundation, San Diego County Gun Owners, California Rifle & Pistol Association, and so many state-level groups I can't keep track. I can tell you one thing above all else: the right to self-defense and the tools needed to do so effectively is undeniably one of the most important civil rights to exist since humans began walking this planet.
John: There is so much division in the gun community. How do we bridge the gap between different pro-2A groups?
Piper: This is something that has been very disheartening for me to discover.
As I have developed more and more contacts and friends within the 2A community, I have become privy to an ever-increasing amount of backstory and drama between various 2A entities.
I try to remember that I think this is relatively normal for all topic-specific communities. It's certainly true within the LGBT community.
One of the many reasons why I started Armed Equality was because I found it nauseating to see the largest well-funded LGBT groups in the US act as if they speak for all LGBT Americans when they push ignorant anti-civil rights perspectives and legislation when it comes to our right to practical self-defense.
John: Expanding the 2A community will be essential to safeguarding our rights as Americans. How can the everyday gun owner help with this effort?
Piper: I have reflected on this often since attending SHOT Show and NRAAM this year. I have come to a similar conclusion as I did many years ago when studying political science in college and engaged in some libertarian activism.
That conclusion is that I think most Americans are under the impression that they have little to no chance of truly influencing our government. I have personally seen ample evidence that this is simply not accurate, especially when it comes to the state and local levels.
One of the primary reasons we have the ability to get concealed carry permits right here in San Diego is due to a local 2A PAC named “San Diego County Gun Owners.” As important and influential lawsuits dragged on regarding concealed carry and “good cause” requirements (still dragging on…) SDCGO got involved in very direct and very impactful ways when it came time for elections of local leaders.
The right to effective self-defense was only enshrined in the Constitution after significant direct action by a relatively small number of Americans. Even back then political tribalism and division were the norms, so don't let that dissuade you from wading into the fray.
If you truly, absolutely, and honestly believe you just can't spare the time to get involved directly, then I would encourage all who profess to understand the importance of the right to keep and bear arms to put their money where their social media mouths are. Join their local 2A group, their state-level 2A group and whichever national 2A group best represents them. In that order.
- Do not underestimate the impact you can have…
- Do not underestimate the impact you can have.
John: How fast is the gun culture growing in the LGBT community?
Piper: I think I see it more as an intersection and overlap between niche communities that are already a part of the larger American community.
As we bridge these unnecessary traditional divides more and more, people are starting to realize that their neighbors aren't the demons the media wants us to see. We all pretty much seek the same life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness as we do our best to make ends meet and overcome the curve balls of life.
We forget that all too often.
John: AmmoLand ran a nationally syndicated cartoon that you thought was divisive. What was offensive about the image? Was it the depiction, or the message?
Piper: “Offensive” or “Offended” are unfortunately words with little meaning left these days.
Essentially, all of the above.
I could break it down in terms of the reprehensible depiction. I could break it down in terms of the misleading and ignorant message. I could launch into an explanation about the hard science of endocrinology in relation to the topic.
Instead, I do my absolute best to remain positive and focused even as hate is thrown my way for what I do.
When I talk to the Liberal Gun Club, I get called out by the right-leaning 2A crowd. When I talk to the National Rifle Association, I get called out by the left-leaning 2A crowd. When I talk to the 2A community at all, I get called out by the anti-2A crowd. When I talk to the anti-2A crowd, I get called out by the 2A community.
I seek to understand people, and I firmly believe that most people truly see themselves as the good guys. We are all ignorant about 99.99%+ of this universe, and I will never fault a person or an organization for being ignorant on a particular topic.
I do, however, recommend that individuals and/or organizations should consider refraining from commenting on topics of which they are ignorant.
When I meet a heart surgeon at a cocktail party, I don't tell them my firm and poorly-founded opinion on a particular heart surgery technique that I heard about for 7 minutes from a talk show host who for whatever reason is anti-heart surgery. I might, however, bring it up and ask for his subject matter expertise should he feel inclined to share it.
Beyond all of this, the much larger issue is that the image was placed under the banner of “GUN RIGHTS NEWS.” It was without a doubt, undeniably, and objectively NOT Gun Rights News.
At the end of the day, we need to remember that protecting and defending our right to effectively defend ourselves is INFINITELY more important than whatever the hot button poorly understood social wedge of the moment happens to be. The Second Amendment needs as many individuals defending it as possible; because of this fact, we should be very careful what we think is truly worth alienating allies over.
John: What is your stance on the Equality Act? (Note: This is Piper's personal stance and should not be considered the stance of Armed Equality.)
Piper: If the purpose of “The Equality Act” is that the Civil Rights Act be amended to include LGBT Americans, I support it. I say this as someone who once gave entire deontological argumentation-based lectures for and against it from the angle of libertarian property rights theory.
Here is why…
In the vast majority of Americans states, even now in 2019, there are little to no legal protections preventing LGBT Americans from getting fired the day after they marry the love of their life. In the vast majority of Americans states, even now in 2019, there are little to no legal protections preventing LGBT Americans from getting discriminated against in their medical treatment.
I believe this is undeniably morally unjust.
For many years now we have seen conservative/Republican leaders fall back on a federalism objection stating that they don't have a problem protecting LGBT Americans but that they want to see it done via the legislative branch as opposed to the executive branch. (note that this claim was primarily made while ‘their guy' wasn't occupying the executive branch).
Now here we are in 2019 with the Equality Act in Congress, and you probably won't be too surprised with how many names supporting it are beside a (D) rather than an (R). I firmly believe that many Republicans are on the wrong side of history on this specific issue and that they are likely to regret not altering their position sooner.
John: A lot of people are against the act because it expands “public accommodations” to goods and services. Some think that it is a response to the baker that refused to bake a cake for a lesbian wedding. Would you be OK with the bill if there was an exemption written in for people with religious objections to things like providing services for gay weddings? (Note: This is Piper's personal stance and should not be considered the stance of Armed Equality.)
Piper: I am currently planning my wedding with my female fiancée.
When I started contacting venues, I was very upfront in asking if they considered themselves to be LGBT-inclusive.
While they all responded in the affirmative, the way in which they responded was noticeably different. Never wanting to misconstrue intention, we met with them all. Sure enough, the “vibe” on the topic matched the words chosen in their initial responses.
We obviously went with the venue of which was unquestionably inclusive and met all of our needs. We live in California, and with or without the federal Equality Act we enjoy the privilege of having equivalent state-level protections.
Now here is where things get tricky, and we all need to dig deep and consider the following…
There are millions of LGBT Americans living in states that do NOT have the state level legal protections we have, and may NOT have a variety of selection in their region to where they can find and choose an LGBT-inclusive provider.
If I recall correctly, this was one of the primary reasons why the original civil rights act was needed in the first place. It's easy to say that the state forcing any private property owner to do anything is immoral.
It's difficult to empathize with your fellow Americans of whom you may never have met in person who are living their lives in the face of abject hate and discrimination in parts of this nation.
John: Thank you for taking the time in answering our questions. Anything else you want the readers to know?
Piper: Stand up for your civil rights, stand up for inclusivity, stand up for growing the 2A community, stand up for fellow Americans of all kinds,
and never forget…
Armed Equality is real equality.
- Readers can visit Armed Equality on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ArmedEquality
- Piper writes for Truth About Guns. Read her articles at www.thetruthaboutguns.com/author/piper-smith/
About John Crump
John is an NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. He is the former CEO of Veritas Firearms, LLC and is the co-host of The Patriot-News Podcast which can be found at www.blogtalkradio.com/patriotnews. John has written extensively on the patriot movement including 3%'ers, Oath Keepers, and Militias. In addition to the Patriot movement, John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and is currently working on a book on leftist deplatforming methods and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, on Facebook at realjohncrump, or at www.crumpy.com.