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Opinion | Black and Armed

When I went away to college, my mother gave me a pistol, “just in case.” (Luckily, no such case presented itself.)

When I moved north, first to Detroit and then to New York, I moved into a mental space of more stringent gun control. In general, people weren’t hunting. There was law enforcement everywhere, reachable as quickly as one could dial 911. There were cellphones.

Armed crimes were rampant as well as shootings and gun-related homicides. There were mass shootings and drive-by shootings, all phenomena foreign to me. In my mind, city dwellers simply didn’t have the same need for weapons as the people in the rural community where I was raised, and many were also not reared with the respect for and knowledge of weapons we possessed.

I, like many, were convinced that fewer guns in the Black community would make it safer. But, for many Black people, that sentiment has turned. Since the gun-buying surge in the wake of the Obama presidency, the unrelenting series of unarmed Black people being killed on video and the uncertainty brought on by the pandemic, gun sales to Black people are surging. According to an October CNN report, gun sales among Black Americans were up 58 percent through September.

I, as much as anyone, would like to live in a society in which all citizens felt safe without the need of personal firearms. America could have created such a society. However, it chose not to.

Sure, there are still hunters and farmers and people living in rural areas who use rifles as a tool. There are people who use guns for sport or who collect them. But, there are also people who buy and hoard guns because they have been fed a dystopian fantasy of a race war or a government takeover.

It seems to me that the surge in Black gun-buying is in large part simply a response to that. As has been the case since slavery, many Black people feel the need to defend themselves from their own country.

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