Damon Barrs is an NRA-certified pistol instructor. He teaches a concealed weapons permit class in the Daytona Beach area. (Courtesy of Damon Barrs)

Black Florida gun enthusiasts tell the Florida Courier why they believe it’s necessary to stay ‘strapped.’

Damon Barrs is an NRA-certified pistol instructor. He teaches a concealed weapons permit class in the Daytona Beach area. (Courtesy of Damon Barrs)

by Karsceal Turner
Special to the NNPA from The Florida Courier

The ongoing epidemic of shootings in various venues once deemed relatively safe – among them, the massacre at Emanuel A.M.E. Church, in Charleston, S.C.; the Aurora, Colo. movie theater shootings; shootings at a recruiting center and a Navy facility in Chattanooga, Tenn. – has the attention of the entire nation.

Gun control as a whole, and Florida gun laws in particular remain a hot topic.

In Florida, the “Stand Your Ground” law has been the subject of much scrutiny.  The law removes the duty to retreat before using force in self-defense. It generally allows people to “stand their ground” instead of retreating – if they reasonably believe doing so will “prevent death or great bodily harm.” Florida passed the law in 2005.

‘Concealed carry’ requirements
In Florida, one must be 21 years of age or older; be able to demonstrate competency with a firearm; currently reside in the United States; and be a U.S. citizen or deemed a lawful permanent resident alien, unless serving overseas in the United States Armed Forces.

Reasons an individual may be denied a concealed weapons permit include a felony conviction (unless civil and firearm rights have been restored by the convicting authority); a conviction for violation of controlled substance laws or multiple arrests for such offenses; or a record of drug or alcohol abuse.

Why carry?
The Florida Courier reached out to various gun enthusiasts in Florida to determine why they feel concealed carry licenses are necessary.

South Daytona resident Damon Barrs is a National Rifle Association (NRA) -certified instructor.

Barrs has held a permit since 2012 and stressed the importance of obtaining one.

He is employed by Mason Avenue Pawn in Daytona Beach and is well-acquainted with firearms. He personally owns a Glock 19, but has plans to obtain more guns.

“A CCP (concealed carry permit) allows you to protect yourself outside of your home,” Barrs said.  “I always tell people, ‘It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.’ I believe it is well worth it,” he said.

Barrs said a CCP course is a great educational tool. He teaches a basic gun safety class.

“We spend about two hours going over the dos and don’ts, and when you can and can’t carry,” Barrs said.  “In addition, we spend an hour at the gun range, teaching you how to handle the gun, and what to do if it jams and in other situations.”

Barrs charges $65 for the course, including the gun range use and the class. In addition, the class allows participants to qualify for a concealed weapons permit – barring any civil injunctions set by courts.

Blacks ‘afraid’
“For the average responsible Black person I believe it is very beneficial to have a CCP.  I believe that many Blacks are afraid of guns. The reason is they have never been properly trained on how a firearm works.  Once they get that understanding, they are eager to own and carry a firearm,” he added.

“If enough Blacks obtained a CCP and were properly educated, then many of our neighborhoods would safer – one street at a time,” Barrs concluded.

Barrs is also an NRA supporter.

“There are a lot of benefits of NRA membership,” he said.  “They not only advocate for Second Amendment rights, but also provide insurance for one’s weapons along with other perks.  I’ve been a member for two years and strongly advise becoming a member,” he continued.

Society ‘brainwashed’
Byron Brown believes mainstream society has been coerced into thinking Blacks are savages, even though the vast majority of recent shooting atrocities were committed by non-Blacks.

He has been a Florida resident for 11 years. The 29-year-old has been a weapons enthusiast for as long as he can remember.

“I’ve been fascinated since I first heard the report of a weapon. My father was a hunter,” Brown said.

No license
Although Brown does not possess a concealed carry permit and isn’t an NRA member, he currently owns three weapons – a rifle, shotgun, and a handgun. (A CCP is not necessary to legally own a firearm in Florida.) He trains about once a month.

“I really need to get to the range more often; I don’t get out as often as I should.  I mainly go for sport and target shooting, but I am armed and prepared to protect myself,” Brown said.

“A CCP is necessary for people in business to have one. It’s not necessarily needed for non-business owners or people that don’t handle cash or anything of value,” Brown opined.

“It’s important that Black people undergo weapons training to have a knowledge and understanding of what one is dealing with regarding firearms such as how to handle and load them, etc.”

Black ‘savages’
“Africans are viewed as savages, so other ethnic groups already try their best to stay away from us.  I only feel afraid when I encounter a mass of Caucasians or Caucasians in a position of power,” Brown declared.

He gave his thoughts on the recent shootings in public venues.

“Nowhere is safe. We are human beings capable of horrible things at any point in time. Our reasoning is the only thing that separates us from animals. One ethnic group is continuously showing us who the real savages are.

“There is a fear of Negroes with guns because the Caucasians know exactly what a mass of Africans can do with knowledge and power (firearms),” he continued. “We will revolt and take the power right out of their possession.

“The war between the African and the Caucasian never ended,” Brown concluded.

Family protection
Charles Thomas also believes that legally carrying a concealed weapon is important. Thomas has had a CCP for nine years.

After growing up on Jacksonville’s Northside, the 34-year-old felt the need to be armed for his personal safety and that of his family.

“I just joined NRA within the last year,” Thomas said.  “I was sketchy at first, knowing the NRA has more of a political nature. But ultimately, they support our Second Amendment rights, which apply to everyone, regardless of skin color,” he said.

Thomas has been a weapons enthusiast since childhood. “I’ve had a great love and respect for firearms since I was small,” he exclaimed.

Currently he has a large collection of weapons ranging from pistols to semi-automatic rifles – commonly known as “assault rifles.”

“I make sure my weapons are in good working order. I train every three or four months; I don’t have as much time as I used to,” Thomas told the Florida Courier.

‘Polite society’
In explaining the need for persons to possess a concealed weapons permit, Thomas cited a quote from novelist Robert A. Heinlein: “An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.”

“I think when criminals know that law-abiding citizens have no protection, it’s a very bad situation for the law-abiding citizen. Criminals prey on vulnerable people. A CCP changes the tide and gives people the ability to defend themselves,” Thomas believes.

‘Different beast’
“For Blacks, carrying a concealed weapon is a necessity because we face a different beast.  People should invoke their Second Amendment right to bear arms.

“Although it was not written with me in mind as a Black man, it still applies to me in this day and age. We have the right and should exercise that right,” Thomas said.

“There is all-out warfare against the Black community and we must have the ability to defend ourselves. This doesn’t mean anyone should become a vigilante. But law-abiding citizens, including people of color, should have the ability to defend themselves at all costs.

“We must be mindful when becoming the aggressor after someone has invaded our home, that everyone has the right to defend themselves at all costs,” he added.

Doesn’t feel safe
Thomas said as a Black man he does not feel safe in America.

“I am heartbroken about what has happened in our country today. I am close to the Trayvon Martin family. Seeing our community being taken advantage of…I do not feel safe for my children or the children in my community. We are not being protected properly and are not protecting ourselves.  I don’t feel safe, but I am optimistic that the country can do better.”

Thomas said there is a fear of “Negroes with guns.”

“America hates the idea that the same laws written to arm the mainstream now works both ways for Black people. Law-abiding citizens don’t come in a certain color. If a law-abiding citizen has a gun, that isn’t a problem. If a criminal has a gun, it becomes a problem. America needs to clean its glasses,” he added.

Friend killed
Thomas knows from personal experience that carrying a concealed weapon has its own risks.

“My concern in having my permit is that I lost a friend who had a concealed carry permit.  One night in Tampa, someone tried to rob him.  He reached for his weapon, but instead was shot and killed by the robber. From that point, I didn’t carry my weapon for a long time. I questioned whether the incident would have occurred without the weapons being introduced.

“We must be mindful that we must be safe with guns. And when dealing with criminals, it is always in our best interest to adhere to what’s going on at that moment and try to make it home safely.

“Guns are not always the answer. Sometimes we need to slow down and think and not rush to that option before attending to our own safety.  Safety is always number one.  One isn’t invincible just because one has a gun.”

“I would never want to pull my gun and kill someone. I prefer to live and let live,” Thomas concluded.

Damon Barrs will teach a new CCW class this month. To sign up, contact him at 386-682-0478.

Karsceal Turner is an award-winning independent journalist regularly covering Central Florida human-interest features and sports.

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