After George Floyd’s murder in 2020, the National Shooting Sports Foundation reported a gun sales jump of 58% among Black Americans. According to NBC News, in 2021, 90% of gun shops reported a marked increase in sales to Black customers, with an 87% increase, specifically, to Black women.
“You look at Buffalo, and the feeling of ‘This could have been me’ is there. We could be the next target,” Michael Moody, a federal government employee, told NBC News. “And when it’s you, what are you going to do? Are you going to run and hide? Or are you going to be able to protect yourself? Protect your family? I didn’t want a gun; I’m not a gun person. But this world has made me get one. Getting one for my wife next.”
Of course, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Black Americans feel a need to protect themselves and their families. Before the shooting in Buffalo, New York, by a self-proclaimed white supremacist left ten Black Americans dead, there was the mass shooting at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine Black church members were slaughtered by a white supremacist. And let’s not forget the Jan. 6 insurrection, led by 18 militias and 34 hate and extremist groups.
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“Seeing those people climb the walls and attack the Capitol—on top of all the other shootings of Black people—just confirmed why I stood in the cold and got my firearm. The bottom line is that we have to protect ourselves and our homes. But we purchase guns differently,” said Destiny Hawkins, a mom of one child who lives near Atlanta, Georgia.
In a recent interview for the podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show, Maj Toure, founder of Black Guns Matter, explained that in his opinion, “all gun control is racist.” He adds:
“At the time of the Black codes and the slave codes, Black people could not bear arms. After emancipation, Black people were given full citizenship, but soon after, prohibitions were put in place. … The Second Amendment has it that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. Extra measures on guns, and restrictions on that freedom, are rooted in racism. These policies began in order to stop Black people from having the means to defend themselves.”
Toure uses the example of a Black American applying to get a license to carry a gun in Orange County, California—a mostly white, wealthy area. He says in that area, one is likely to get the license, whereas if that same Black person lived in Compton or South Central, they’d likely get denied.
Despite gun rights overwhelmingly favoring white Americans, according to Philip Smith, who started the National African American Gun Association (NAAGA) in 2015, his organization has gained over 1,000 new members per month since 2020.
“There’s been a polarization racially and politically that’s driving that narrative for Black people purchasing guns for protection. … Folks are saying they don’t want to be out in public without a gun or they might end up like Ahmaud Arbery or Trayvon Martin or countless others who have been killed in the streets,” Smith says.
For the record, researchers at the Pew Research Center found that 75% of Blacks, 72% of Asians, and 65% of Latinos felt that gun laws should be stricter, compared to only 45% of white people surveyed. This is also no surprise; Black people are disproportionately affected by gun violence, especially when it comes to police brutality and homicide. According to research from Everytown USA, 68% of homicide victims in cities are Black. In recent years, Asian Americans have also found hate crimes rising against their community, thanks in no small part to the Trump administration’s open xenophobia in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. And, as we are all now acutely aware, the town of Uvalde, Texas, is some 70% Latino and, in the wake of the shooting at Robb Elementary School that killed 19 children and two teachers, Republicans still refuse to address the issue of easy weapons access and stick instead to racist conspiracy theories.
NAAGA currently has 48,00 members in 120 chapters nationwide, NBC News reports.