Tamela Mann - Overcomer

Black Women Who Once Hated Guns Are Now Embracing Them to Feel Safer as Crime Soars

Paul Lewis, left, instructs Lori McPherson on how to shoot a firearm at the Choppa Community, a gun range in Southern Maryland. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

A 16th week had passed with no arrest in the murder of Patrice Parker’s son, another week in which she had struggled through grief for him and fear for herself and her surviving daughters.

It wasn’t just that the person who had turned a gun on 24-year-old Markelle Morrow was still at large, but that so many other armed criminals were as well.

Shootings were ravaging the nation’s capital, on track for its highest number of homicides in two decades. In Prince George’s County, where Parker lives, carjackings had more than quadrupled since 2019.

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But there was a place where she felt safe, and that was here, at a remote property amid thick woods an hour’s drive south of her home in District Heights, Md. And there was no time the 52-year-old felt safer than when holding a weapon like the one her friend Mark “Choppa” Manley now handed her: a 9mm pistol similar to those that regularly ring out in neighborhoods experiencing the worst of the region’s bloody summer.

“I’ve got some ammo for you,” Manley said, “when you’re ready.”

There was a time when Parker never would have been ready. During a long career as a nursing aide she had cared for countless shooting victims. Like many Black women in Southeast Washington or just across the D.C. border in Prince George’s County, she’d viewed guns for most of her life as the root of the violence that had wrecked countless lives in her community.

That changed, paradoxically, after her son was shot to death in a parking lot not far from her home. Exasperated with the police response and in despair over the sheer number of weapons on the streets, Parker decided there was only one way to protect what remained of her family. And that was to pick up a gun herself.

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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Peter Jamison

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