In 2020, roughly 8.5 million people purchased their first firearm. The National Shooting Sports Foundation said that that amount was nearly 40 percent of the total gun sales. Experts say the increase was influenced by three major events in a year that could only be described as uncertain and unprecedented: the coronavirus pandemic, national protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death, and the presidential election.
A report from industry experts and gun rights advocates, which previously stated that most gun owners last year — whether they were adding to their collection or first-timers — were often male and white, now reveals that more and more Black women are purchasing guns for personal protection.
They were triggered partially by fear of crime, especially as cities in Michigan have recently seen a climb in shootings and murders on all scales. However, much like what prompted consumers to purchase guns last year at a record rate, displays of public anger, pandemic restriction, and political disruption have contributed to Black women emerging in the proverbial arms race.
Valerie Rupert of Detroit spoke to The Associated Press about her experiences handling guns. “I was a little nervous, but after I shot a couple of times, I enjoyed it,” she said. The 67-year-old grandmother was among 1,000 people, the majority of whom are Black women, partaking in a series of free weekend gun safety and shooting lessons at two Detroit-based ranges. The trade association for the firearms industry also noted that gun purchases by Black men and women increased by more than 58 percent over the first six months of last year.
Daniel Webster, a professor of American Health in Violence Prevention at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy, told AP that gun ownership increases as trust in the government and law enforcement decreases. “We’ve seen such an increase in white nationalist violence,” Webster explained. “Some combination of the lack in faith in police protecting you and hate groups has motivated a lot of Black people to arm up.”
In April, Philip Smith, founder and president of the National African American Gun Association, an organization based in Griffin, Georgia, near Atlanta, told Forbes, “We are arming ourselves for self-defense.” But, he added, “We are not arming ourselves to go out and attack. We just want to live our lives peacefully with our families and loved ones, and we just don’t want to be attacked.”
Black firearm owners are a small proportion of the gun-owning population, with 9.3 percent of gun owners being Black men and 5.4 percent Black women. Nearly 56 percent of U.S. gun owners are white men. Over 16 percent are white women, the Newtown, Connecticut-based National Shooting Sports Foundation says.
Lavette Adams, a Black licensed firearm instructor who participated in the free Detroit-area training sponsored by gun advocacy group Legally Armed In Detroit, said for many Black women, it’s really about self-care. “Crime against women is nothing new. Women protecting themselves, that’s new,” she said.
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