BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — 2020 was the year. The death of George Floyd ushered in a racial reckoning unlike before. At the same time, a new wave of gun owners would emerge.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation found the sale of guns to African-Americans rose 58 percent in 2020, the year George Floyd was murdered. It was the highest increase in gun sales of any racial group that year. At the start of 2021, the NSSF found that 90 percent of gun retailers reported an increase in Black customers, including an 87 percent spike among Black women.
“If you have a weapon, I think you are more confident,” explained Natalie Thomas, a social worker who has a concealed carry permit. “When people look at me, and I think they may be threatening, I look at them straight in the eye and they’re not going to attack me.”
Natalie is a member of the PBS Pinchback Gun Club, the only Black gun club in Baton Rouge. Ashley White is the vice president of the group. She practices shooting often and hardly misses a shot.
“For me, it was channeling the true American spirit of our country. It was built on the ability to bear arms,” White said.
Then there’s Reshad Williams. He took an interest in shooting after getting robbed on the job.
“I went and got my concealed carry, and I’ve been carrying ever since,” he said proudly.
They all practice and own firearms for different reasons, but their gun club binds them all.
“A couple of us got together and said, ‘We don’t have a gun club here, we don’t have a Black gun club here, so let’s be the ones to start that,’” said White.
The group has several members and they host meetings and range days twice a month, steadily growing year after year. Corey Thomas is the president of the club.
“We not only advocate for gun rights and to put a positive spin on Black gun ownership, but we’re also here to do work in the community,” said Corey.
Reasons for the increase in Black gun ownership include a rise in anti-Black hate crimes, which rose 40 percent in 2020. But if you were to look beyond that year, history shows a fraught and complicated relationship between Black people and the Second Amendment.
Before the Civil War, it was illegal for slaves to own guns. After the war, laws were passed to keep Blacks from owning them, but still, some carried them as an act of defiance. Even during the civil rights movement, guns were present. Voting rights leaders carried them as a means of self-defense. Birthed out of the turbulent and raging 60s came more militant groups like the Black Panther Party. The BPP encouraged Blacks to own firearms in response to violent acts of white supremacy and police brutality.
Just like the Black Panther Party, the PBS Pinchback Gun Club also uses knowledge of the law as a weapon. In fact, the gun club hosts classroom sessions to explain the laws and rights. And as long as crime and hate exist, this group says they will be armed.
For more information, visit their website: pbspinchbackgunclub.org