More Black women are buying guns for safety; data show gun ownership increases risk of violent death
Although the percentage of African Americans who own guns in the United Stares is rising, roughly three out of four of these owners are white Americans.
The COVID-19 outbreak, the protests that followed the police killing of George Floyd and the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol all had at least one thing in common: They prompted a spike in handgun sales, especially among first-time buyers.
Findings of a recent study — which were published on the website of the National Center for Biotechnological Information — and an article in The Washington Post suggest that Black women make up a growing portion of these new gun owners.
Patrice Parker once shied away from firearms because she believed they were to blame for the violence that had destroyed so many lives in her Prince George’s County community in Maryland. As a nursing aide, Parker had spent a lot of time helping victims of gun violence, but nothing could have prepared her for the agony she felt when she lost her 24-year-old son to it.
“I always felt like you needed to take the guns off the street. But the way things are now … I don’t feel safe anymore,” Parker — who practices shooting at the Choppa Community, a gun range in Southern Maryland — told The Post, referring to the shooting death of her son, Markelle Morrow, near their home. “You can’t trust nobody.”
Although the percentage of African Americans — exponentially among women — that owns guns in the United States is rising, nearly 75% of gun owners are white Americans, The Post reported. Not surprising given the history of people of color being denied a number of fundamental rights, including the right to keep and bear arms, which is a Second Amendment protection. Also, another historical contributor to the lower percentage of gun ownership among Black people was the escalating levels of violent crime in many of their communities that was tied to the crack epidemic.
Like Parker, Keeon Johnson and Janae Hammett — founders of the Second Amendment Sista Society, a group for Black women interested in weapons in the Washington, D.C. region — formerly believed guns were the main cause of community violence.
Hammett asserted that a desperation and a desire to have the legal right to defend herself in a society where illicit firearms appear to be everywhere are responsible for her change of heart. “I don’t think the government, police or anybody will ever get a hold of the illegal guns,” she said.
Philip Smith, founder and president of the National African American Gun Association, said Hammett is not alone.
“More and more African Americans are looking at themselves in the mirror after hearing for years and years that you shouldn’t get a gun for any reason, and saying, ‘You know what, I’m going to get a gun’, ” Smith said in comments to The Post. “This is a movement that has really swept the whole country.”
Surveys reveal, The Post reports, that most gun owners buy weapons to protect themselves. As for Black Americans, they are more likely than white Americans to know others who have been shot or to have been threatened by someone armed with a gun.
“We welcome these new gun owners to the greater community of law-abiding Americans who choose to own a firearm for lawful purposes, including self-defense, recreational target shooting and hunting,” Joe Bartozzi, president and CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) said in a statement posted on his organization’s website.
Deborah Azrael, research director at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, is concerned that a sector looking to attract new customers is preying on the legitimate fears of those who face the possibility of violence every day.
“It’s naive not to think that there are gun sellers who have a pecuniary interest in expanding their markets, and in a narrative that says that African Americans and women need guns now more than ever, whether or not that’s something true,” Azrael told The Post.
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