In the wake of the terrorist attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando a nationwide movement has grown, including in the Triangle, to gather a group of firearms enthusiasts to offer free instruction to members of the LGBT community who want to learn to defend themselves.
The project began after a number of gun enthusiasts stepped up, offering to instruct new shooters from the LGBT community. After several dozen signed on, it was evident that the effort needed to be more organized.
Out of this outpouring of support Operation Blazing Sword was born.
Operation Blazing Sword is a resource for people in the LGBT community, to find one of the more than 1,500 people who have offered to teach them to use firearms for self defense, to help deter another tragedy like the Orlando terrorist attack.
The platform is built off of a Google Maps program to allow user to quickly find a trainer near them.
Sean Sorrentino is one of those people who stepped up to train anyone seeking his help. So far he has trained one person and is set up to train more.
Sorrentino said that the hardest part is to get the new shooter behind the gun and more comfortable with the process, but also dealing with the stigma coming from the LGBT community.
“It has been a real problem,” Sorrentino said. “They certainly feel as ‘why would Republican white male, conservative people treat us decently, what’s going on?’ So it certainly is a very interesting situation. I’ll teach anybody else to shoot, why not teach you?”
Sorrentino said that it all started after a friend of his posted on social media about people she knew willing to train LGBT people, and it grew from there.
“It just started out as a Facebook thing. [She said,] ‘Well, I’ll just put down a list of people on Facebook that I know are willing to teach people,’ and then it blew up into like 1,500 people on a map,” he said.
The list quickly grew and then became the map that is Operation Blazing Sword.
For Sean, it’s just like teaching any other novice to shoot.
“It’s not really any different. I’m teaching the most basic stuff imaginable,” he said. “I have gone through the NRA basic pistol instructor course but I’m not teaching people NRA basic pistol. I’m just like, ‘Here’s the gun, here’s the holdey end, here’s the flamey death end, point the flamey death end at the target.’ You know it’s as basic as it gets because the biggest problem is getting somebody behind the gun in the first place. Once you get it in their hand and they can deal with the pulling the trigger and hitting the target, then that’s 90 percent of the problem right there. After that they can go to some high-speed training somewhere, which I totally recommend.”
Sorrentino said that the goal is not to make expert shooters out of the people he is training but to give them enough experience to feel confident coming back to places like Triangle Shooting Academy, where he trains, to develop their skills and be able to defend themselves.
“All I am doing is the most basic stuff imaginable and it’s not just ‘Hey, you’re going to learn how to shoot.’ That’s the hook but what is really happening is, ‘Okay, now you’re comfortable in this location, now you can come in here and you’ve been told its okay to be here and you can converse some of the language that you need to know,’” Sorrentino said. “Because who goes to a new place without having some kind of a bridge to bring in? Your friend has to take you there. It’s very difficult for most people to just walk into a completely new environment and learn something that they don’t know and a lot of their friends don’t like.”
The project is tied to a national organization that pushed for LGBT people to carry firearms for self-defense.
The group, the Pink Pistols, has more than 45 chapters nationwide, including three in North Carolina.
Here at home there is an Asheville group and also a Triad and Triangle chapter of the Pink Pistols.
The chapters make group trips to firing ranges, introduce new shooters to firearms, help people pick a firearm and also help them navigate the process to obtain a concealed carry permit.
The idea is that the more members of the LGBT community are armed, the less they are are a target for hate groups and terrorist attacks.