When Lesley Green was a little girl in Houston, Texas in the 1960s — just a few decades after the routine lynchings of blacks in the South — her father would go off to work a late-night shift and leave a gun and a pile of bullets behind.
If any strangers came looking for trouble, he told Green and her sister, you blast them into the stars.
Nobody ever came looking. But even as an 11-year-old, learning to shoot a gun she could barely lift, Green said she recognized the important lesson her father was teaching her about being black in America: it’s a dangerous world out there, and neither the government nor the police are likely be there to save you if trouble decides to make a visit.
Green kept a gun of her own into early adulthood but got rid of it once she settled down and had a family. In the 25 years since, Green, now 60 and living in Cleveland, hasn’t touched a gun. At least, not until the election of President Donald J. Trump.
“There’s some fiery rhetoric that some would say is incendiary racist rhetoric from the White House,” Green said on a recent evening, sitting in her living room sipping British tea from her finest tea set and nibbling on marble pound cake, cheese and crackers. “White supremacy groups are kind of feeling emboldened.”
And so Green, a grandmother, is now in the market for a handgun.
“It’ll be one of those smaller ones that can be concealed very easily,” she said. “And nothing that’s going to be so powerful. I’m not into that. I don’t need nothing powerful. I just need something that stops somebody if they come after me.”
That same sense of anxiety appears to be responsible for a growing number of black gun owners. While no agency or group keeps track of gun sales by race, interviews with firearms dealers and gun clubs across the country strongly suggest a sharp rise in the number of African-Americans buying guns since Trump’s election. Many are walking into gun shops to arm themselves out of fear that his election has rekindled old racial flames, emboldening white supremacists and stoking tension between the races.
Owners of gun ranges say first-time black gun buyers are flocking in, filling open seats in gun-safety and concealed-carry classes, and diversifying the ranks of enthusiasts, who tend to be older white males.
“People feel that they have, perhaps, a president that they don’t feel is going to protect them, that’s there for them,” said Kevin Jones, the Ohio director of the National African-American Gun Association and co-owner of Urban Sports Unlimited in Cleveland.
Jones said that since the election he’s seen about a three- or four-fold increase in African-Americans coming to his shop to buy firearms. Most of them are black women, he said, followed by senior citizens, younger people and college students. Many of them have also joined black gun clubs and the African-American gun association. Jones said that on a good day his chapter of the NAAGA can get as many as five to 10 inquiries about joining.
“People feel like they don’t have a voice in the government and that the government is changed to a point where it doesn’t care about protecting them,” he said. “It cares about something else completely. So when you have that, you’re going to have people losing confidence in police protection and losing confidence in their political structure and everything surrounding that.”
SOURCE: TRYMAINE LEE