A national black American gun club has doubled its membership numbers since Election Day, and more black Americans seem to be taking an interest in their constitutional right to bear arms. Gun sellers say they have noticed more black customers buying firearms since the election.
CNN reports that the National African American Gun Association, which launched Feb. 28, 2015, has added 9,000 members to its roster since Election Day. That’s 4,285 more members than were added over the same period the previous year, between Nov. 2015 and Feb. 2016. The group now has more than 18,000 members in 24 chapters across the country.
NAAGA National President Philip Smith told CNN, “I’d be lying to you if I said Donald Trump hasn’t affected our numbers. They have jumped off the roof.”
According to CNN, in 2008, overall gun sales surged after Barack Obama’s election amid fears that the then-president and Democratic Congress would move to restrict gun ownership. The overall sale of guns and ammo dipped immediately following Donald Trump’s election.
NAAGA leaders say that the recent increase in their membership is driven by different concerns. One of the group’s newest chapters formed in response to the election result, launching just weeks after Nov. 9, and now counting 66 members.
Dickson Amoah, the chapter’s president, said several members were alarmed by attacks on African-Americans at Trump’s campaign rallies and hateful rhetoric from Trump supporters on social media. That motivated them to organize the new chapter, he said.
Smith cited the recent rise in the number of hate groups in the United States as one factor in NAAGA’s growth. “I think the main thing that has really changed is that two years ago, fringe groups were just that: fringe groups,” he said. “But now those fringe groups are kind of like, ‘It’s cool to be racist,’ and they’ve taken that and we — our community sees that, and it scares us. You know what, let me get a gun just in case something happens, just to make sure.”
As CNN notes, black American gun ownership has typically been lower than that of whites. A Pew Research study showed that in 2013, 21 percent of black households said they had a gun, compared with 46 percent of non-Hispanic white households. In 2014, 19 percent of black households reported owning a gun, compared with 41 percent of non-Hispanic white households.
Buying and owning a gun was not always an option for black Americans.
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When Martin Luther King Jr.’s home was firebombed in 1956, he applied for a concealed carry permit in the state of Alabama. Local police at that time had the right to determine who could and couldn’t get a license. King’s application was denied, despite the fact that his life was frequently threatened.
Being a legal gun owner while black can also be a dangerous proposition today, black gun owners say, pointing to the death of Philando Castile, a licensed gun owner who was shot by a Minnesota Police officer during a traffic stop last July. Castile’s girlfriend said he clearly told the officer he was legally carrying a gun before he was shot. The officer involved was charged with second-degree manslaughter and two felony counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm.
Members of NAAGA say that the Second Amendment should be for all Americans, and it’s a freedom that they plan to exercise and encourage.
Nationwide, black women make up the largest percentage of new NAAGA members, according to the group.
Mike Cargill, who is the owner of a gun shop in central Texas, said that a group of 100 black women had recently called and asked him to set up a class on gun safety and the proper way to shoot.
Cargill believes that the recent wave of interest in owning a firearm is due to several factors.
“Because of the climate in the White House … people in the African-American community and other communities are concerned about their safety,” Cargill said. “I’m seeing people who want to learn how to shoot and then have us help shop for the right gun.
“It’s something that I haven’t seen in years past,” Cargill added.