More African-Americans Joining Gun Clubs
As mass shootings continue in the United States and students across the country come out to protest and call for dramatic changes in gun laws, Second Amendment supporters and the National Rifle Association are digging in their heels.
There’s also an increasing number of African-Americans who are taking action related to guns. Over the course of the last year, the National African-American Gun Association (NAAGA) has tripled its chapters from 14 to 42.
Geneva Solomon, director of a National African-American Gun Association chapter in Southern California, talked with The Show to talk about NAAGA's expansion.
STEVE GOLDSTEIN: Geneva, how much of this expansion do you think is tied to reaction to President Trump taking office in 2017?
GENEVA SOLOMON: I can't really speak to why at this time. Ever since, you know, Trump was placed in office of why African-Americans have joined the club in higher numbers, but I could definitely say that we have seen an increase in membership with both chapters that are here in Los Angeles to ust learn how to, home-defense tactics, how to properly possess the firearm, making sure they're going about things the right way, and proper firearm protection.
GOLDSTEIN: Does it seem more necessary now just the way things are going regardless of the politics of it? I mean, just in terms of the situation that the people are seeing there have been more shootings that are making people more nervous. So is this is this more about self-defense protection, that kind of thing?
SOLOMON: I don't think so. I really don't know. I know that what I'm hearing from members that joined our club is that they've always wanted to learn how to you know shoot firearms. They just didn't know that there was a comfortable space for them to learn. And so that's what I've heard from some of my members once they've learned about the National African American Gun Association, they want to come out and they understand the mission and the goals of the organization, And they really love that we teach history about firearms within the African-American community and we also teach, you know, the basic rules of firearm ownership.
GOLDSTEIN: How recently established were the California chapters, the chapters you're involved in?
SOLOMON: So my chapter that I’m the president of, we celebrated our one-year anniversary last month. So I own a firearm store here in California. One of the only black-owned gun stores here, and started to do some research if there was a organization out there. And I found out about NAAGA. And because of that and my experience when I learned how to shoot a firearm I wanted to change that experience. And that motivated me to start the chapter.
GOLDSTEIN: Would you mind give me a little more about your experience with firearms? Was that somebody that you learned as an adult? Was it a part of your family experience?
SOLOMON: It was not part of my family's experience at all. Actually, as I grew up my mom and dad were very much so, “Don't shoot guns ... guns are taboo.” Especially in the black culture, we were always told the firearms were bad. And so I kind of grew up in that sense. However, I became a single mom after, you know, I went through a divorce and I was at home by myself a lot and I wanted to learn how to buy a firearm, wanted to protect myself, but I didn't know how to go about doing that.
And I went to a few gun stores and no one wanted to really help me. I took a number and you know they were like, “What do you want to buy,” and, I'm like, ”I don't know.” You know, I was like “that one,” and it was not the right firearm for me at all. But I bought it.
Walked out the door with the $700 firearm and then paid for gun training. And I don't want that experience for anybody that's new to firearms. I really, you know, I teach basics classes for first-time gun owners and we have a in-depth conversation. I consult them throughout the process and then talk to them about training. And that's very important.
GOLDSTEIN: Is NAAGA a counter to the NRA? Is it something where maybe some of the members didn't want to be members of the NRA? Is there any crossover there?
SOLOMON: I believe we have members that are affiliated with both the NRA and the National African-American Gun Association. I have members that were didn't even know about the NRA. They only knew about us and we have some that are actually NRA instructors. So we have a different model and different vision of the NRA but we don't say anything against what they're doing or not doing. We're more focused on what we're doing here at NAAGA.
GOLDSTEIN: Does NAAGA as a whole have a philosophy about whether there should be any sort of gun reform legislation on certain things?
SOLOMON: We do believe that there needs to be a conversation about what's motivating the individuals that are committing the mass shootings. And we do believe that when these discussions are happening, a gun owner should be at that discussion. There needs to be firearm experts during the conversation, because you can't implement laws if you don't truly understand the gun owner’s perspective.
GOLDSTEIN: Do you think that we have enough people who are responsible gun owners? There are some who are nervous about the amount of guns and the amount of ammunition that people can buy, and I imagine you're a responsible business owner and whatnot based on what we've talked about. But is that a legitimate concern for some people that there is too much out there? Maybe there's too easy access for some things?
SOLOMON: I don't think that there's too easy access to firearms. I mean if you're following the laws and making sure that your guns are locked up and not accessible to children, firearms is a tool. And it's the person that's committing the crime, it's not the gun. And when you're teaching and you're consulting that's something that you need to make sure that you're telling you're member and you're telling your customer. You need to make sure your firearms are locked up and inaccessible to people who should not have firearms.