The goal of the National African American Gun Association is to introduce black Americans to guns and also instruct them on how to use them.
Some see the group as an alternative to the National Rifle Association for black gun owners, but it has some notable differences. Organizers say it is a civil rights organization that aims to build community and promote self-protection.
Since its creation in 2015, the group has seen rapid growth with roughly 30,000 members and 75 chapters nationwide. Leaders expect another 25 chapters by next year.
Overall, 4 in 10 Americans say there is a firearm in their household, according to a 2017 study by Pew Research Center. Broken down by race, 24% of African Americans say they personally own a gun, compared with 36% of whites and 15% of Hispanics.
“Black folks and guns usually get a negative stereotype reaction like: ‘What is that guy doing with a gun?’ ” says Philip Smith, the president and founder of the group.
Membership spiked after President Trump was sworn into office, Smith says, attributing some of that growth to a political climate where people with racist views feel emboldened to talk about and act on those views.
“Does law enforcement, or more importantly larger society, view black men with firearms in a certain way? Let’s have that discussion,” Smith Says. “That’s a hard discussion, but that’s a discussion we need, as an organization, to be involved with.”
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