They meet on weekends for target practice, they’re more than 1,000 strong, they recently formed a new chapter in Northern California and they call themselves liberals.
It’s the Liberal Gun Club, the left-leaning version of the National Rifle Association.
The group’s members share the same fascination with guns that many assign to NRA members, but Liberal Gun Clubs members eschew the NRA’s notoriously right-leaning politics.
"We make ourselves a special place where we don't have to hear about the 'Kenyan Muslim socialist' in the White House," Marlene Hoeber -- a tattooed, transgender, "queer activist" who likens her politics to Emma Goldman, a popular 20th century anarchist -- told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Hoeber, a biotech equipment mechanic, said she is intensely proud of the fact that she is not an NRA member. The owner of several firearms, including an M1 carbine rifle from World War II and a .44-caliber pistol that she had custom-made, Hoeber prefers to meet with other left-leaning members of the Liberal Gun Club to share her love of guns.
The group, like the NRA, supports the right of American citizens to own and carry a wide array of firearms. Most members of the Liberal Gun Club even think recent calls for expanded background checks on gun owners go too far.
However, as the Chronicle noted, that’s where the similarities between the two groups end.
"If I walk into a gun store with an Obama T-shirt -- which I wouldn't wear, because he's too conservative -- I don't fit," Democratic Party activist and Liberal Gun Club member Eric Wooten said.
"We're the NPR of gun clubs -- without the tote bags," another member, Walter Stockwell, said.
Wooten and Hoeber said they meet to share their love of guns, but they also want their group to expand the political clout of like-minded liberals.
Sure, the NRA is "a valuable organization" that has worked hard to educate people about guns, Hoeber said. But the NRA has in recent years been consumed by “reactionary politics.”
The Liberal Gun Club boasts of members who are "consistently left of the contemporary Democratic Party," but the group also includes "Clinton and Obama supporters, and even Reagan Democrats," Hoeber said.
Image source: Liberal Gun Club
The outspoken feminist said many Californians love shooting, collecting guns, sharing gun stories and trying out new firearms. However, she added, many of them are put off by modern gun culture: "[T]hey think gun people are people they want nothing to do with."
The group praised California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown in October after he shot down several gun laws that would have made it more difficult for state resident to purchase and own firearms. The group said the proposed rules, which included a ban on the sale of low-capacity rifles with detachable magazines, were merely “overprescribed political placebos that fail to cure ... the root causes of violence.”
Rather than “window-dressing 'solutions' like so-called 'assault weapons' bans and magazine capacity restrictions,” the group said in an official statement, the government should promote "mitigation for violence prevention: stronger mental health care, addressing poverty, homelessness and unemployment."
The group has also taken a stand against monetary disincentives to gun ownership, the San Francisco Chronicle noted, including taxes on ammunition. The group said taxes on ammo act as "class barriers," preventing lower-income individuals from exercising their Second Amendment rights.
"I have really strong feelings about my distaste for the state having the monopoly on force -- and about my distrust of the police," Hoeber said, adding that gun ownership for her is a political act.
She also likened gun control advocates to anti-abortion groups, claiming both groups hide behind children while attacking the rights of the individual.
"It's an incremental chipping away of rights that has a lot in common with the anti-choice movement," she said, "the argument that 'we're just trying to protect the children.'"
As she spoke about the club and its hopes for the future, an AK-47 was prominently displayed nearby, according to the San Francisco Chronic. The AK-47 is one of the most popular rifles in the world. As Hoeber noted, it’s "the rifle that turns peasants into rebels."
Click here to read more about the Liberal Gun Club.
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