Three months into 2018 and there have already been over 50 mass shootings in the United States. And once again, the National Rifle Association (NRA) is center of criticism after a teen shooter took the lives of 17 teachers and students at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
According to the FBI, mass shootings are incidents where four or more people are shot in a single event, at the same general time and location, not including the shooter.
Amid boycotts and criticism the NRA is looking more than ever to appeal to audiences outside of their traditional middle-aged white male member. Since 2013, the association has made attempts to appeal to minority communities.
Leading campaigns where they call themselves “freedoms safest place,” the NRA has begun featuring African Americans talking about where they grew up and why having a gun is so important. The association is even expanding to female audiences.
In one campaign a black woman is featured saying, “I’ve been told that black women aren’t supposed to support the second amendment. I’ve been told I shouldn’t want to be able to protect myself.”
“But aside from featuring black faces in their campaigns, what the NRA is actually doing for black gun members remains to be seen.”
But aside from featuring black faces in their campaigns, what the NRA is actually doing for black gun members remains to be seen.
In July 2016, it took the NRA three and a half weeks to comment after 32-year-old, Philando Castille was shot by police officers in Minnesota. When they finally did, they called his death a “terrible tragedy”– that’s all.
The NRA is the same organization that was so vocal about supporting laws like Stand Your Ground, which gave U.S. citizens the right to use lethal force anywhere to protect themselves at any time, without retreating if they feel threatened.
Attorney and civil rights advocate Robert Patillo tried overturning the law once he witnessed just how much it disproportionately affected black people.
“The problem with these laws is that it allowed for community biases; it allowed racial animus; it allowed other personal subjective justifications to interfere with the legal apparatus. Therefore it denied due process to African Americans in particular…” Mr. Patillo said in an interview with theGrio.
But the problem of racial bias and gun rights in America runs deep. Professor of Psychology, Jennifer Eberhardt, analyses the subconscious correlations Americans make between black faces and crime and how these connections may distort justice.
“Most people know that African Americans are associated with crime and that they’re stereotyped as criminal — in fact it’s one of the strongest stereotypes of blacks in American society,” Eberhardt said in a statement to theGrio. In one of her studies studies, groups more easily identified a distorted image of a gun when shown fleeting images of black faces as opposed to white ones.
Historically, this correlation between blacks and crime has played into the limitation on black gun rights overall, many of which we’re still recovering from.
After slavery ended, black codes limited former enslaved people from owning guns. And in 1967 after the Black Panthers marched on the California state capital armed with rifles and shotguns to protest gun control, Governor Ronald Regan quickly banned carrying loaded weapons in public.
Today that bias remains; although blacks have the “right” to own guns just like any other ethnic group. A study conducted by the Washington Post analyzed 990 cases to find that police exhibit shooter bias by falsely perceiving blacks to be a greater threat than non-blacks. The results concluded that blacks are 3 times more likely than whites to be killed by police.
So, the injustice and disproportion of rights in the United States is systemic. But the solutions to staying safe can be just as simple as learning more about ones’ rights.
Attorney Robert Patillo has been working with the NRA as well as minority gun rights organizations to teach black people about their gun rights and how to legally defend themselves in a system that seems to be against them.
He advises black Americans to look into state gun laws and research how new gun laws can affect them. He also says that blacks need to be more concerned with congressional leadership.
“As Black communities we have no eternal friends, no eternal enemies, we have eternal interests,” Patillo told theGrio. “We have to make those interests heard as opposed to simply being victims to what everyone else does, and what everyone else decides for us.”
Black gun owners can learn more about their rights and how gun laws pertain to them by reading up on the Institute of Legislative Action and researching their state gun laws. In addition, the National African American Gun Association (NAAGA) hosts events and offers opportunities for African American gun owners to get involved and stay informed.
And as for the NRA, the real question still remains; when will they eventually put their money where there mouth is and do more to support the rights of the minorities they have been campaigning for?
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