First of a Two-Part Series
Over the last year, the National African-American Gun Association (NAAGA) has seen their membership double to 18,000 members, attributing a large portion of their growth to the election of President Donald Trump.
In fact, the association’s president, Philip Smith, says “gun sales have jumped off the roof.”
Many of the new NAAGA members admit that they joined out of fear of racist fringe groups that began to spring up after Trump took the lead in last year’s Republican primary.
Blacks have continued to purchase guns at greater rates than whites — some citing fear and the need for self-protection as their primary reasons.
Data from the Southern Poverty Law Center points to 867 cases of hateful harassment in the U.S. in the 10 days after Election Day. Still, no direct correlation can be proven between the harassment cases and the number of Blacks who have recently purchased guns. Further, it should be noted that while Blacks are beginning to buy more guns, they represent only about 19 percent of registered gun owners in the U.S.
Ironically, as whites would rush to purchase guns whenever President Barack Obama would deliver an anti-gun speech, allegedly for fear of their Second Amendment rights being stripped away, Trump’s takeover of the Oval Office appears to have caused many in the black community to take up arms with greater urgency.
Meanwhile, gun store owners, according to an NBC News report, indicate that gun sales to Black and minorities customers have quadrupled since November 8 [Election Day]. Many Black gun groups have reported that twice as many attendees have been showing up at their meetings.
Gun sales reportedly increased into record highs with up to 2.3 million background checks being performed, but gun manufacturers stock numbers slacked off after Trump’s election victory. Nonetheless, recent numbers have risen and gun store owners remain surprised by how much of that increase can be traced to minority buyers.
Do More Guns Equate to More Violence?
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, the first to hold the office in the District, says he’s been a part of several discussions with other Blacks who have expressed great concerns over the future with the new administration now in charge.
“From my core sense and data informed, the immigrant and minority communities have a greater sense of anxiety and fear as to whether the federal government will move forward with strategies that suppress the vote,” Racine said.
“That fear may translate into law-abiding citizens who are in minority communities or African American feeling the inclination to go out and get the appropriate licenses and purchasing firearms to protect their families. That’s based on supposition and multiple conversations.”
“But here in the District, the mayor and my office want people to feel welcome and to feel safe. My office has filed lawsuits against the Trump Administration on the Muslim ban. We’re critical of any anti-Semitic acts or threats including a recent increase in bomb threats and a surge of harsh statements and violence aimed at the LGBTQ community,” he said.
The District recently released a report indicating that hate crimes in D.C. rose last year from 2015 with an increase in incidents targeting religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity. There were 107 hate crimes reported in the District in 2016, up from 66 the previous year — then the lowest in five years. Still, the number pales when considering that more than 35,000 crimes were reported in D.C. in 2016.
Mayor Bowser has described the rise as “disturbing” while MPD Police Chief Peter Newsham has vowed “we will not accept this as the new norm.”
Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie has had his hands full with a recent spike in gun violence and homicides. In response, he called for an emergency public safety meeting in early March, in which both the Mayor and Newsham participated.
“I wanted to hear from our residents and allow them an opportunity to express their concerns. Many don’t feel safe in their own homes. Others believe we have some businesses that allow loiterers to hang out in front of or near their stores — some of those loiterers appear to be involved in drug activities,” said McDuffie, adding that over 300 citizens showed up for the meeting.
“I can’t honestly make a connection between the national trends of gun sales rising among Blacks to the District or to Ward 5 but as for the local issues, they’re crystal-clear. Residents want more effective policing and they want police officers to get out of their cars. They want solutions to be implemented that get to the causes of crime and which address the needs of the District. And they want to see a return to the days when residents knew the names of the police officers that patrolled their community and could engage with them in a meaningful way,” said McDuffie, who chaired the Council’s Judiciary and Public Safety Committee for the past two years.”
Next week we’ll look at several bills that McDuffie has authored, some of which have passed, others still waiting for the appropriate parties to implement. And both McDuffie and Racine will discuss new diversion strategies that they collectively support to keep youth out of the criminal justice system.