Ever since George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, concerned Americans have purchased 8.3 million guns since late June. Handguns have outpaced shotguns by a two-to-one margin, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). Estimates from NSSF showed that 40 percent of sales came from first-time buyers and that 40 percent of first-time buyers were women. Even in California, gun sales rose sharply in the past month. Why is it that after slavery, segregation and Jim Crow, redlining and the current epidemic of police brutality that black Americans own fewer guns than white Americans? Owning a gun may be the last line of defense to protect your life, the lives of those you love, and your economic livelihood from anyone: be it an abusive cop or violent criminal.

According to Reason Magazine, black ownership of guns has lagged behind whites at a rate of 32 percent to 49 percent. This 2017 Pew Research Center study even accounts for recent instances of police brutality and increases in hate crimes during the presidency of Donald Trump. However, in Minneapolis, Minn., some black business owners, as well as protesters, have had enough of not being able to defend themselves in the face of racism or violence. Videos posted to Twitter during the riots in Minneapolis showed armed black civilians guarding black-owned businesses in downtown in order to deter any looters or arsonists from destroying their livelihoods. 

This should be celebrated. Multiple black businesses were torched and looted in Minneapolis, with one ex-firefighter Korboi Balla’s newly opened sports bar being burned to the ground. “I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Balla told CBS News in tears according to The Daily Signal. “It hurts, man. It’s not fair, it’s not right. We’ve been working so hard for this place. It’s not just for me, it’s for my family.” Balla’s entire savings were put into his new sports bar, only for it to be burned down by rioters.

Imagine if Balla stood outside his business with his firearm of choice as a deterrent to those who wanted to burn down his business. Imagine if Balla had been a member of the National African American Gun Association (NAAGA). He would have had access to a community of black gun owners, who would’ve given him the tools to protect himself and his business in a city where the police have long been unfairly targeting black people. Thankfully, people fundraised nearly $1 million towards rebuilding Balla’s sports bar, but the lost potential in marketing will surely impact his business and the ability for him to provide for his family.

Balla’s experience in Minneapolis goes to the very heart of American civil liberties, as well as the problem with policing. When the police are the ones brutalizing you, who will come to help you? The answer to that question is you. Had Balla owned a gun like other business owners throughout America, their economic lifelines would not have been reduced to ash. However, protecting one’s livelihood is not the only argument for black Americans arming themselves. Arming oneself also makes it impossible for anyone, be it the police, other citizens, or criminals to violate your civil liberties. Several activist groups have recognized this reality and have started to use their guns to protect fellow protestors, including Black Lives Matter activists.

A man who calls himself the Official Grandmaster Jay is the leader of the Not Fucking Around Coalition. The NFAC is a black group that he said is composed of ex-military shooters that have become commonplace at George Floyd protests in Minneapolis “showcasing their armed support and protection of the protestors.” The NFAC is an embodiment of the most fundamental reason why the black community must own firearms: owning a gun allows Americans the ability to personally protect their freedom of speech and their right to protest. The NFAC has acted as protection for protestors, appearing in the neighborhood where Ahmaud Arbery was killed in order to protect the Black Lives Matter activists who staged a rally there. Black activists who truly understand the power that responsible and legal gun ownership gives the individual have cropped up across the U.S. and they are using their guns to remind Americans that they too have a voice.

One of these activists is Phillip Smith, the founder and president of NAAGA. According to the association’s website, the purpose of the organization is to “have every African American introduced to firearm use for home protection…We are a pro 2nd amendment organization focused on the preservation of our community through armed protection and community building.” In an interview with CBS Smith recalls the first time he held a gun, “I felt free…I had a chance to kind of have some power in my hands.” When Smith founded the NAAGA, he thought he wouldn’t get more than thirty people. 

Today, NAAGA boasts 75 chapters across the country and 30,000 members, 90 percent of whom are black. Based out of Atlanta, Ga., Smith’s organization has “folks from every walk of life…black doctors, gay, straight, Republican, Democrat…you name it we have it.” Currently, over sixty percent of NAAGA members are women. One woman, Neizda Davis said that she joined the organization to be able to protect herself from crime in her community and because of the threat posed by white supremacists. After the Charleston shooting and Charlottesville protests in 2018, many black Americans like Davis want to be armed. In her own words, she’s “not goin’ down without a fight.” 

NAAGA seeks to arm, educate, and train African-Americans nationwide on the benefits of self-defense. Members of Smith’s organization state that they’re ready to defend themselves if they must. This type of community action should be celebrated as well, yet many of the same politicians that represent the black community work to disarm them as well. Black folks are meant to choose between trying to interact with a systematically racist and corrupt police force or possess nothing to defend themselves and their families due to gun control restrictions. 

“The notion that only the police need guns cannot exist in the same place as the cops are racist and will kill you” said Charles Cooke of the National Review. These arguments against gun ownership arise from the same group of people who also hold the notion of police being insanely corrupt from top to bottom. If you’re a member of the black community, then this puts you between a rock and a hard place. I argue that leaders cannot call the cops racist, but work to disarm black people at the same time. This hypocrisy is sheer lunacy. Organizations like the NAAGA have stepped up to fill a need in the black community, especially in the southern U.S., where the racist history of gun control grew out of the fear of slave revolts. 

Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) has so far been the only black politician to not attempt to disarm black communities. “Defending their lives and property as they see fit is exactly what those who have been abandoned by the authorities are doing in droves,” further elaborated Charles Cooke. It’s time for victims of historic injustices to invest in the ultimate form of defense. If you wish to learn the requirements for firearm certifications in your home state, I will personally ensure you have all the right information.

“The only case where a proposed lynching did not occur, was where the men were armed themselves.” -Ida B. Wells