America needs more black gun owners, say activists

Promoting gun training and ownership among more law-abiding black Americans will make the nation’s minority communities safer from both criminals and the preconceived notions of police officers, according to the leaders of a growing black gun ownership movement.

In a refreshing interview on NPR’s “Here and Now” Monday,  National African American Gun Association Instructor Marchelle Tigner talked about the reasons more black Americans, particularly women, are becoming 2nd Amendment advocates.

“I believe that we have to change the stereotypes that are associated with  black people and firearms,” Tigner said. “Every story we see about black people and a firearm is a negative story. It’s about someone getting shot … or someone robbing someone.

“So I wanted to change that narrative and make it normal,” she continued. “We can exercise our Second Amendment rights just like everyone else can. And it’s not just a bad thing … making you a criminal. And I think education is key.”

Tigner works to instruct newcomers to firearms through her organization Trigger Happy Firearms Instruction, which focuses on empowering women to safely use their 2nd Amendment rights to defend themselves.

From her website:

My firearms background stems from the military. I was in the Army National Guard for seven years and became a pistol instructor when I left the military in the summer of 2016. I fell in love with shooting while working a local Atlanta gun range. I’ve learned a lot about firearms in the last 16 months but I would never consider mysef an expert. I’ve always been a student first.

My end game is to effectively teach a million women how to shoot before I leave this realm. I also plan to open my own gun range. As a domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor, I think it’s important that women feel like they’re in control of their safety. I’m just here to empower women and make sure that no one else becomes a victim.

With regard to police shootings of law abiding gun owners like Philando Castille, Tigner says law-abiding black gun owners need to make their presence known by becoming more active in the 2nd Amendment community.

“I think it’s the stereotypes that are associated with black people with guns that make it such a frightful thing  for law enforcement– because it’s not normal to them,” she said. “So when they see black people with firearms, they’re automatically thinking ‘OK that person is a bad guy.’ And if we normalize it and have everyday African American citizens and minority citizens carrying firearms and shooting firearms like everyone else does in this country, then it won’t be such a fearful thing.”

The full interview is worth a listen, it begins at 26:00:

Tigner’s position is spot-on at a time when liberal do-gooders are constantly preaching firearm abolition as the only answer to inner-city gun violence that affects black Americans disproportionately.

As we’ve seen in places like Chicago,  gun restrictions do little to stop senseless violence. And for law-abiding people living in neighborhoods where the violence is the worst, it creates a terrifying reality of defenselessness against armed and irrational criminals who now rule the streets in some areas.

It’s also worth noting that most of the nation’s earliest gun restrictions were designed to disarm against black Americans. 

As I noted in my 2013 column Gun Control Has Always Been A Part Of American History: 

Throughout the Nation’s history, the gun-control laws that have been the harshest are those that were levied against blacks, who, as any compassionate, serious and well-informed student of history would be remiss to deny, have endured tyrannical force at many times since the Nation’s founding.

In the years leading up to the Civil War, States all over the Nation grew increasingly fearful of the prospect of a black uprising that they felt could be carried out by slaves or freed blacks. Nat Turner’s Rebellion in 1831 kicked off a number of gun-control laws aimed at blacks in America’s States.

Virginia responded to the rebellion by prohibiting free blacks the right “to keep or carry any firelock of any kind, any military weapon, or any powder or lead…” Later, in 1834, the Tennessee Constitution was changed from “That the freemen of this State have a right to keep and to bear arms for their common defence” to “That the free white men of this State have a right to keep and to bear arms for their common defence.” The antebellum South was rife with racist calls for gun control.

These abuses did not stop following the Civil War with the onset of black freedom and, in fact, continued through the Jim Crow-era South right up until the civil rights era.

Martin Luther King Jr., upon whose Bible Obama swore to uphold the Constitution on Monday, reportedly kept an arsenal of firearms in his home to ease his mind about the near-constant death threats he received. The peace-promoting civil rights leader even applied for an Alabama concealed carry permit, but was denied due to racism on the part of the police that had the authority to issue the permit. The Alabama permit law under which he was denied had been an NRA-backed initiative.

King knew that if his life was in danger, he could not count on the police for protection. His willingness to exercise his 2nd Amendment rights was also shared by other notable civil rights activists. Among them, Malcom X, who famously posed on the cover of Life magazine with an M1-Carbine.

The Black Panther Party took Malcolm X’s firearm brandishing and made it a part of their persona. At a time when police harassment of blacks was epidemic throughout the Nation, members learned about gun safety when they weren’t studying Marxism.

The YouTube videos of people open carrying through neighborhoods today to assert their 2nd Amendment Rights are reminiscent of similar armed displays by the Black Panthers in the late 1960s. Panther leaders Huey Newton and Bobby Seale said that because government was “either unable or unwilling to protect the lives and property” of blacks, they ought to defend themselves “by any means necessary.”

The Panthers took to patrolling urban neighborhoods while brandishing firearms to essentially “police the police,” who were infamous for abusing black Americans at the time.

Throughout all of this, the NRA has been on both sides of the gun debate and even supported a measure signed into law by then-Governor Ronald Reagan that set California on track to having some of the Nation’s strictest gun control laws. The 1967 Mulford Act effectively neutralized the Panther Police Patrols by prohibiting the carry of loaded guns in public.

At the NRA national convention in 1977, the group was overtaken by 2nd Amendment purists who shaped the organization more into the lobbying machine that it has become today. Oddly enough, the views the organization’s leaders now espouse are more Black Panther when it comes to gun control than target practice.

That’s why it was so shameful that the NRA dawdled in responding to the Castille shooting.

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