Last Updated:November 29 @ 05:55 pm

Let's take a peek into leftwing gun culture

By San Francisco Chronicle

Marlene Hoeber is feisty, tattooed, transgender, a self-described feminist, a queer activist -- and a crack shot with her favorite "toys," guns of just about every kind.

One thing she's not -- and proud of it -- is a member of the National Rifle Association.

"We make ourselves a special place where we don't have to hear about the 'Kenyan Muslim socialist' in the White House," said Hoeber, a biotech equipment mechanic who says she's politically "somewhere around Emma Goldman," the turn-of-the-20th century anarchist.

Instead, Hoeber -- whose array of firearms includes an M1 carbine rifle from World War II and a custom-made .44-caliber pistol -- and other left-leaning gun lovers have their own organization: the Liberal Gun Club.

A good thing, says Hoeber, since she would never consider joining any club that has "Grover Norquist on the board," as the NRA does.

It's unlikely that Norquist, the conservative organizer, would find much to like about the liberal group that boasts more than 1,000 members nationally, including a recently formed Northern California chapter with about a dozen members.

The Liberal Gun Club backs a wide-open interpretation of the Second Amendment that lets law-abiding citizens possess just about any type of gun. But that's where its similarity to the NRA ends.

"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," joked Eric Wooten, a longtime California Democratic Party activist and member of the Liberal Gun Club.

Wooten and Hoeber have banded together not only to reinforce their love of a sport and a hobby, but to flex political clout from the left side of the spectrum.

NRA's 'reactionary politics'

The NRA is "a valuable organization" that has helped educate people about the safe use of guns, Hoeber said. But in recent years, its leaders "have attached themselves to reactionary politics," she said.

"I can't put money into a group that gives campaign contributions to people who (say) how terribly wrong it is to walk down the street holding my girlfriend's hand," Hoeber said.

Club members enjoy hanging out with like-minded leftist "gun geeks" put off by what Hoeber called the "current antics of the gun culture."

The group's members are generally "consistently left of the contemporary Democratic Party" but include "Clinton and Obama supporters, and even Reagan Democrats," Hoeber said.

And she insists there are many politically liberal folks in California who are eager to shoot, learn marksmanship, buy and collect guns -- or even own guns for self-protection -- except "they think gun people are people they want nothing to do with."

The group, through its website,, has ramped up membership efforts and also plans on forming a nonprofit advocacy group to speak out on gun legislation.

The club praised Gov. Jerry Brown when he vetoed seven gun-control bills in the last legislative session, including one by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, that would have required gun owners to register their low-capacity rifles as assault weapons if they had detachable magazines. New sales of such weapons would have been banned.

More regulations on lawful gun owners "are overprescribed political placebos that fail to cure ... the root causes of violence," the gun club said in a position statement. Instead of "window-dressing 'solutions' like so-called 'assault weapons' bans and magazine capacity restrictions," the group argued, government should back "mitigation for violence prevention: stronger mental health care, addressing poverty, homelessness and unemployment."

The group also views monetary disincentives to gun ownership, such as ammunition taxes, as "class barriers" blocking the poor from exercising their constitutional rights.

For Hoeber, gun ownership is a political act.

"I have really strong feelings about my distaste for the state having the monopoly on force -- and about my distrust of the police," she said.

Gun-control advocates, she said, show "the same kind of faith-driven disconnect" as antiabortion activists. "It's an incremental chipping away of rights that has a lot in common with the antichoice movement," she said, "the argument that 'we're just trying to protect the children.' "

Even background checks go too far for most members of the Liberal Gun Club.

Wooten says requiring lawful gun owners who have already passed background checks to go through the process again for additional purchases is burdensome and unnecessary -- "kind of like having to take a driver's test every time you change cars."

Guns and socializing

The liberal gun owners meet every few weeks in ranges around Northern California to shoot together, try out each other's weapons and socialize.

But they also relish the opportunity to educate the public on firearms and gun safety, and happily give visitors the opportunity to learn the basics alongside experienced shooters.

"We're the NPR of gun clubs -- without the tote bags," said Walter Stockwell of San Jose. He said he joined the club to improve his marksmanship among people who view the world like he does.

On a recent Saturday, club members showed up at the Chabot Gun Club in Castro Valley with an array of weapons that might horrify most of their left-leaning friends.

On display was an AK-47, one of the most widely used guns in the world -- or what Hoeber laughingly called "the rifle that turns peasants into rebels."

There was also Hoeber's M1 carbine, considered an assault weapon under California law because it holds more than a 10-round magazine. It was a favorite of 1960s leftist revolutionaries such as the Black Panthers, and Hoeber said she bought it partly because "I live in Oakland -- and the Black Panthers are important part of our history."

Members also took target practice using a semiautomatic Ruger 10/22 rifle, a Winchester rifle dating from 1892, a .357 Magnum and an AR-15 rifle.

Hoeber's childhood love of such guns has morphed into collecting, tinkering and even making her own bullets.

"I grow my own vegetables; I bake my own bread," Hoeber said. She makes her own ammunition "for the same reason ... cost savings, more control and higher quality."

For years, she said, she thought "there's got to be somebody else out there" with her political views who shared such passions.

Isolation among liberals

Living in the Bay Area, it took a while to find them. She and other members acknowledge that left-leaning gun lovers are one group that's still very much "in the closet."

Larry, a retired Episcopal priest who declined to give his last name for publication -- he's worried about what friends and co-workers may think -- says he found the club "the same way everyone else here did: I Googled 'liberal' and 'guns.' "

The Liberal Gun Club is "the only place that would have me," he said with a laugh, while loading his weapon. "A lot of us here have been kicked out of other gun forums because of our liberal views."

Carla Marinucci is senior political writer for The San Francisco Chronicle.


(c)2014 the San Francisco Chronicle

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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  1. braines57Comment by braines57
    January 2, 2014 @ 11:54 am

    The only thing scarier to me than having all of the weapons in our nation in the hands of the Osama-controlled police and military is the notion of libtar self-described “revolutionaries” amassing huge weapons collections. Talk about shades of Ted Kaczynski! Of course, Osama won’t ever try to get their guns away – he only targets conservative gun owners. Just one more reason for all law abiding citizens to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights before its too late.

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    • Mark L.Comment by Mark L.
      January 2, 2014 @ 1:32 pm

      All of the reasons this person has given, except for the reason she owns an M1 carbine perhaps, are the same reasons I joined the NRA.
      Revolutionaries are the reason there is a USA in the first place. Some of the founders were just an inch short of being anarchists, and if you really had the same outlook as Constitutionalists, most of our “representatives” both Repulicrat, and Democan would be out of a job and possibly running for their life.
      Obama is a Communist. He will take their guns away, because its all about the Government control.
      Pretty much all of the “revolutionaries” were purged after Russia became the Soviet Union.

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    • gary1206Comment by gary1206
      January 2, 2014 @ 3:13 pm

      I don’t know where to begin.

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    • dealerdeb1Comment by dealerdeb1
      January 2, 2014 @ 5:10 pm

      I find someone who call Black Panthers an important part of their history as one that should probably not pass the background check. Nothing to do with gays but that is a violent racist group or is that just liberals in general

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    • dealerdeb1Comment by dealerdeb1
      January 2, 2014 @ 5:13 pm

      On anither note I am so confused about these designations . What is a Transgender? is she a person that thinks she’s ahe? IF so she/he has a girlfriend? What a mess

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  2. Jota_Comment by Jota_
    January 2, 2014 @ 12:12 pm

    Give anything enough twist and it will return to where it started, but it is still twisted.

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  3. pistol packing mamaComment by txgoatlady
    January 2, 2014 @ 1:55 pm

    I have a co-worker who voted for Obama twice (he voted his skin color, I don’t think he is all that liberal). I sold a compact 9mm pistol to the guy and then took him to the range to teach him to shoot. I don’t begrudge liberals owning guns, I just wish they would realize that their politicians want to take them away from everybody. Maybe if we brought more liberals to our side on the gun issue, we could begin succeeding in bringing them to our side on other issues as well. I know we seem to share a common interest in curbing the NSA.

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    • gary1206Comment by gary1206
      January 2, 2014 @ 3:17 pm

      Then again, maybe not. Your co-worker friend is lost…get over it. Just as these folks who were shocked…shocked mind you by insurance cancellations or premium hikes voted for The One….they’ll still vote dem; don’t kid yourself.

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  4. steamdiamondComment by steamdiamond
    January 2, 2014 @ 2:00 pm

    three cheers for them. their ethics seem to be centered on liberty. dont mess with me and i wont mess with you. freedom makes for strange bedfellows. lol.

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  5. marc16Comment by marc16
    January 2, 2014 @ 2:10 pm

    This is great news. This is a group who understands and espouses liberty and the value of the Constitution, and who can be very influential with a segment of the population that we need in our fight. Remember … the enemy is the government. We who value liberty can’t afford to be splintered. The government win’s by pitting freedom lovers against each other. We may have some differences in other areas, but I’m happy to stand with these folks on this issue.

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  6. chrisknoxComment by Chris Knox
    January 2, 2014 @ 2:36 pm

    The notion that the Second Amendment is a liberal/conservative issue is one of the great misunderstandings of modern politics. The real question is how much power and control over our lives We the People should cede to the government. Unfortunately, there are Big Government Republicans just as there are Big Government Democrats. For this registered Republican, a pro-gun Democrat is always good news. I’d like to see a pro-gun consensus and then we could hash out the other issues on their merits.

    Chris Knox
    The Firearms Coalition

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  7. wyomanComment by wyoman
    January 2, 2014 @ 2:42 pm

    Life is indeed stranger than fiction. We must defend the rights of these people for all the standard reasons plus they obviously do think about their positions. Thinking people will disagree all the time but must keep the lines of communication open and support mutual freedom to make up our own minds.

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  8. nhpollackComment by nhpollack
    January 2, 2014 @ 3:46 pm

    “On display was an AK-47, one of the most widely used guns in the world — or what Hoeber laughingly called ‘the rifle that turns peasants into rebels.’”

    Actually, it’s not a rifle that turns a peasant into a rebel, it’s a tyrant.

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    • larryaComment by larrya
      January 4, 2014 @ 2:07 am

      A tyrant turns an unarmed peasant into a slave, or kills him.

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  9. Pingback: Let's take a peek into leftwing gun culture - ALIPAC

  10. freebirdComment by freebird
    January 2, 2014 @ 4:46 pm

    If you agree with everything someone else believes, one or you is unnecessary.

    This woman? believes in many of the same principles I do, and many on this site do. If you’re looking for a perfect match, go to a clone factory. Take the common issues and work with that. Disagree or sidestep those issues that will divide you. If your goal is to protect the 2ed A, take the help you can get.

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    • hkazComment by hkaz
      January 2, 2014 @ 9:50 pm

      She sounds more like what l1berals started out as 100 years ago which is closer to libertarians than Democrats. In this article, I’m hearing many things that I could agree with and I’m pretty far to the right.

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  11. geoinsdComment by geoinsd
    January 2, 2014 @ 4:50 pm

    Ms. Hoeber is more of a classic liberal, not what is commonly thought of as liberal today. What is thought of today as a “liberal” (e.g. liberal Democrat) is not a liberal at all, and is very close minded and seeks to impose his/her views on everyone, including by force through government.

    Ms. Hoeber is basically what you get if you take the typical Conservative but reject traditional religious values (and by implication views about a civil society vs. anarchy). My impression is that Ms. Hoeber and her group would have next to nothing of substance in common with the typical Democrat Leftist.

    I might actually be able to get along with members of the Liberal Gun Club as long as we never discuss religion or anarchy.

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  12. acommontaterComment by acommontater
    January 2, 2014 @ 4:56 pm

    I would take transgenders and lesbians more seriously when after they reject being a man, they stop atttempting to walk, dress, style their hair, and try to “out-crude” us in language whenever they have a forum. This person is a sad human being that should just be observed as an oddity and not taken seriously.

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  13. David in MAComment by David in MA
    January 2, 2014 @ 5:34 pm

    another whacko group the DEMONcRATS will infiltertrate and set up as useful idiots for the socialist cause.

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  14. m1919a2Comment by m1919a2
    January 2, 2014 @ 8:51 pm

    The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

    Back 20 odd years ago in Washington State the was I-676(think that was the number). It was anti-gun. On the ballot was a homosexual initiative and a pot initiative.

    I-676 was won by the pro-gun side – 76% of the vote.

    The homosexual (pro side) won by 60 odd % of the vote.

    The pot (pro side) won by 60 odd % of the vote.

    Think about it – there were a LOT of pro-gunners in the other two categories!

    Just saying!

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  15. davidusafComment by davidusaf
    January 2, 2014 @ 9:12 pm

    OK, let me see if I understand this. They are concerned about their rights. However, they don’t want to be associated with the NRA, because the NRA is concerned about the rights of those that haven’t gotten to breath yet. Honestly, what is the difference between taking the life of an innocent child and theirs. What is the difference between taking away the rights of an innocent child, and theirs. They are liberal because they are pro-choice because, they believe that their rights trump the rights of the innocent. I’m sorry, but this double standard pi$$es me off.

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    • davnkatzComment by davnkatz
      January 2, 2014 @ 10:44 pm

      I knew there was something amiss but just couldn’t put my finger on it. Thank you for doing that for me. It’s ALL about what HER choice is and to heck with anyone who disagrees – even the unborn.

      Another thought! Which side of the line will these liturd gun owners take when push comes to shove between conservatives and obozo’s civilian defense force?

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  16. hkazComment by hkaz
    January 2, 2014 @ 9:57 pm

    I think I’m in the same state of confusion as dealerdeb. Hoeber transgendered from a man to become a woman but she is partnered with a woman? Huh? She likes women but she wants to have a homosexual relationship rather than a heterosexual relationship? If my math is correct, I am very confused. Doesn’t seem as logical as her gun thinking.

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    • shellyComment by shelly
      January 2, 2014 @ 11:25 pm

      hkaz: it appears that Marlene is a biological woman who transfers her gender identity to being a man, and prefers women (mascuine lesbian).

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  17. dukhookerComment by dukhooker
    January 2, 2014 @ 11:46 pm

    Can’t this slovenly broad just give us her political views and reasons why she disagrees with the NRA without throwing her penchant for carpet munching in our faces? Boy, they can NEVER give it a rest!

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  18. kaimynas67Comment by kaimynas67
    January 3, 2014 @ 8:56 am

    “I have really strong feelings about my distaste for the state having the monopoly on force — and about my distrust of the police,” she said.”


    Now if you can just come out of your liberal shell we may very well have more in common.

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