The National Shooting Sports Foundation, one of the most significant national trade associations for firearms, released a report identifying a 58% increase in gun purchases among Black Americans with a 40% increase in gun sales in first-time gun buyers from the beginning of 2019 to 2020.
In 2020, there was a sharp increase in hate crimes– reaching an all-time high in the past ten years, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In 2020, the U.S. saw the highest number of hate crimes in more than ten years, according to the FBI. Notably, anti-black hate crimes rose by almost 40%. In just 2020 alone, 2,755 reported crimes targeted Black people – raising African Americans to be the most targeted racial group in America.
The correlation between the two is not random, as told by many national news outlets in the wake of rising violence against Black bodies.
Nikki Duncan, a member of the National African American Gun Owners Association, a group that’s seen about 1,000 new members every month recently, told ABC News that the group helped her learn about guns with people who understand the Black experience and the nuances of existing in a time like this.
“Not only Breonna Taylor, but the young man, [Botham Jean], who was shot in his home while watching television where an off-duty police officer came into his home and shot and killed him,” Duncan told ABC. “With the kind of climate that we’re living in right now, I wanted to be a gun owner, but I also wanted to be a responsible gun owner. I have two daughters. I wanted them both to know that it’s OK for you to own a weapon, and it’s OK to have them in defense of your home.” She said,
A devastating shooting in Buffalo where a white man killed 10 Black people caused family man Michael Moody to change his views on gun ownership. In the wake of the mass casualty event, Moody decided that he “needed a gun. Needed, not wanted,” according to NBC News.
While purchasing a gun, he was shocked by how many other Black people were waiting in line. “A lot of us have the same idea. It’s getting bad when someone specifically targets Black people to shoot. We have to be prepared to fight back. And you can’t survive bringing a knife to a gunfight.”
“And you wonder why?” Moody continued, “You look at Buffalo and the feeling of ‘This could have been me’ is there. We could be the next target. And when it’s you, what are you going to do? Are you going to run and hide? Or are you going to be able to protect yourself? Protect your family? I didn’t want a gun; I’m not a gun person. But this world has made me get one. Getting one for my wife next.”
The increasing feeling of danger and unease in Black Americans is sparking up a new market in the gun purchasing world – which white people have predominantly dominated.
Phillip Smith, the National African American Gun Association founder, said the shift wasn’t necessarily bad. “There’s been a polarization racially and politically that’s driving that narrative for Black people purchasing guns for protection,” Smith said. “Folks are saying they don’t want to be out in public without a gun, or they might end up like Ahmaud Arbery or Trayvon Martin or countless others who have been killed in the streets.”
Rather than the desire to harm others or for sport, Smith believes it’s because of “the social breakdown: mob violence; shortage of food; gas prices rising. Lines were long. Then there’s the social unrest that was going on, and those forces made our community collectively say, ‘You know what: I’m going to get a gun.’ And I think all that is a good thing.”
The statistics show that many Black people share the same sentiment. Fearing violence from other citizens and the police, there’s been a desire for systematically oppressed people to secure themselves.
Despite the stigma, “Having a gun is OK as long as it’s done in the right way,” he said. “We try to use a lot of images and imagery that really connects our people to good experiences and positive images for families, for husbands, for mothers, for kids. It’s something we should embrace and use that positive energy in a legal, law-abiding way.”