Instead, when it comes to Black people, much of the narrative around guns is associated with gun violence in Black and poor communities. I empathize with people who have been traumatized because of gun violence. I feel for those whose only experience with guns has been violent or negative. It is tragic and it is painful. But the narrative around guns and Black people must include the full range of experiences.
I want to challenge my community to seek out responsible gun owners and talk to them about why they chose to arm themselves. Further, even as groups attempt to reduce gun violence, we should be careful not to villainize responsible and legal gun owners or people interested in gun ownership.
The last thing that any of us need is more laws that will criminalize us.
Further, when we talk about gun ownership, we should be clear about two things. First, gun ownership in the Black community is not a new or novel concept. In “This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible,” Charles E. Cobb Jr. debunked the myth that all civil rights advocates were anti-gun.
Many carried weapons and openly questioned notions of non-violence at all costs. While beloved leaders faced threats on their life, families, and homes, and others were assassinated or faced assassination attempts, some advocates wanted to arm themselves. This is not a revolutionary response: it’s a rational one. You defend what you care about.
Additionally, in “Force and Freedom,” Kellie Carter Jackson offers a historical analysis highlighting the tactical use of violence among antebellum Black activists. Carter Jackson’s book details how African-American abolitionists contemplated the limitations of non-violence when it came to provoking social change. I am not suggesting that we become violent, but I am suggesting that there is a long precedent for considering arming ourselves.
My main point here is that the notion of gun ownership among blacks as “radical” is one that is advanced by people divorced from history and by people who benefit from Black people’s refusal to embrace all of our rights. Black people have always wrestled with how to protect themselves and their families. Today is no different.
– Michael Render in Black People Must Embrace the Second Amendment