According to this Washington Post article, the percentage of Americans who own guns has jumped from 32% to 39% in the past year. That’s due to huge waves of new, first-time gun owners, of all political and cultural persuasions, deciding that owning a firearm is a good idea.
For many new gun owners, though, the decision to arm themselves is a political pivot — an accumulation of anxieties that led them to discard long-held beliefs. It’s a decision that is particularly difficult for people who belong to groups at higher risk of being on the wrong end of gun violence.
Jabril Battle, a 28-year-old account representative at a financial services company in Los Angeles, had always believed that “anyone who had a gun was a gun nut,” he said. “I really bought into the whole idea that the more people have guns … the more likely it is for people to start killing each other.”
But as the pandemic paralyzed the nation, Battle said, “I just saw how crazy people got.” He found himself conjuring the worst scenarios: “I was like, if my block has 10 houses, how many people in these houses have guns? If the food and water gets cut off, [if] supplies run out … what does that look like? Is this going to be a ‘Mad Max’ situation? Like ‘The Walking Dead,’ but not with the zombies?
“I was just, like, ‘Do I want to be the person who has a gun or doesn’t have a gun?”
Battle bought a Beretta 92FS, then added a Glock 34 pistol.
Still, he had reservations: “Being Black with a gun is a very high risk, a way higher risk than other races,” he said. “You are seen as a threat without a gun, and with a gun you are seen as a super threat.”
He kept imagining the scene if he were stopped by a White police officer.
“It’s still in my head, honestly, when I go to the gun range and I have my gun in my car,” he said. “If I get pulled over, and they ask, ‘Are there any weapons in the car?’ [and] I say there’s a gun, and then I hand in my registration, will they shoot me?”
But he’s enjoying the new world that guns opened to him — classes, an organization of Black gun owners, shooting competitions.
“Once I started being around guns more, and I kind of saw the culture and the environment, I’m falling in love,” he said.
In Battle’s family, guns were “not a good thing,” he said. “It kind of represented crime, especially for Black people. It’s just different for African Americans.”
But his family has accepted his decision, he said. His grandmother and two aunts came to the range with him and are considering returning to take lessons.
— Marc Fisher, Miranda Green, and Andrea Eger in ‘Fear on top of fear’: Why anti-gun Americans joined the wave of new gun owners