A Solid Majority Of African-Americans Support Gun Ownership

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Apr 04, 2015 7:15 PM
A Solid Majority Of African-Americans Support Gun Ownership

African-Americans are starting to see gun ownership for self-defense as a good thing. This is partially due to the fact that some black neighborhoods simply do not trust to police to arrive promptly when they call 911. Even some pastors are urging their parishioners to obtain concealed carry permits from the pulpit (via NPR):

When James Craig was a young man in the 1970s, he says law-abiding people wouldn't dream of carrying guns. But then he left town to pursue a career in policing. In the years he was gone, Michigan liberalized its gun laws, making it easier for people to get concealed-carry permits.

When he came back to become Detroit's police chief in 2013, he found a whole new reality.

"You would have thought, given the dynamic of people who carry weapons, that we were maybe in Texas," he says. "But in fact, we were in Detroit, Michigan!"

Police chiefs usually don't like the idea of citizens carrying concealed guns for self-defense, but Craig says he had to be realistic about the situation in his hometown.

"It was a well-known fact here in Detroit," he says. "People didn't have a lot of confidence that when they dialed 911, that the police were going to show up. In fact, we know they didn't."

So he endorsed a trend that was already well under way — the trend toward more people carrying legal guns.

According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, 54 percent of blacks now see gun ownership as a good thing, something more likely to protect than harm. That's up from 29 percent just two years ago. In places like Detroit, more African-Americans are getting permits to carry concealed weapons.

At a practice range just outside of Detroit, Rick Ector trains new gun owners. He says the new chief's attitude is a welcome change.

"He's the only one that I can ever recall who has been fervently in support of 'good Americans,' as he terms it, carrying firearms for personal protection," he says.

Ector thinks African-Americans nationally have been slower to embrace concealed-carry because so many of them live in places where it's still more restricted. Both Chief Craig and Ector are black.

"When you look at New Jersey, you look at New York, you look at California, D.C. and Chicago, really it's still a foreign experience," he says. "When you really look at the city of Detroit, we're kind of leading the way in terms of urban areas with law-abiding citizens carrying guns."

Detroiters are even taking their guns to church. When Rosedale Park Baptist had trouble with drug dealers and car thefts, Pastor Haman Cross Jr. told his congregants from the pulpit that they should consider getting concealed-carry permits.

There are studies that show an increase in concealed carry permits reduces crime. Illinois was the last state to grant concealed carry permits to their residents. It resulted in the lowest murder rate in 56 years. In Chicago, things are getting out of hand again. USA Today oddly reportedPolice Superintendent Garry McCarthy said the city has made significant progress in reducing overall crime in the past few years, but his department is challenged by gun laws that he said make it too easy for dangerous criminals to get access to illegal weapons.” Tragically, there’s been a 40 percent increase in shootings and a 29 percent increase in homicides.

Then again, Illinois is still one of the most anti-gun states in the country. Second, any point that suggests the laws are to blame for making it easier for criminals to obtain firearms is moot; no criminal actually follows the law.

Before the Illinois concealed carry law went into effect, McCarthy pretty much said in 2013 that his officers would shoot concealed carry holders (via Bearing Arms):

“You put more guns on the street expect more shootings,” McCarthy said. “I don’t care if they’re licensed legal firearms, people who are not highly trained… putting guns in their hands is a recipe for disaster. So I’ll train our officers that there is a concealed carry law, but when somebody turns with a firearm in their hand the officer does not have an obligation to wait to get shot to return fire and we’re going to have tragedies as a result of that. I’m telling you right up front.”

Bob Owens of Bearing Arms aptly noted that police officers (the responsible ones with firearms) are five times more likely to shoot the wrong person than citizens with concealed carry permits.

As Jazz wrote in January, some police officers in Illinois felt the new concealed carry law was “a non-event,” and have yet to experience bloodbath that was predicted.

Via Chicago’s News-Gazette:

For us, it's been a non-event," said Joe Gallo, deputy chief with Champaign police, echoing a similar sentiment as law-enforcement officials in other area counties.

When Illinois became the last state to enact concealed-carry in January, after the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down its long-time ban, police expressed concerns about safety. One of their biggest fears: police interactions with licensed gun carriers during traffic stops.

Champaign County Sheriff Dan Walsh said deputies made one DUI arrest of a concealed-carry permit holder in 2014. The driver was completely cooperative, he said.

The Chicago Tribune reported in February that there are 92,000 concealed carry permits in Illinois. Adding to what the Gazette reported, despite the unpleasantness in Chicago, expansion of gun rights is being pushed since bloodshed didn’t ensue, but neither did the city see an increase in law-abiding citizens stopping crime. Though, the former in crime statistics is one of the gauges both sides look into in making their points:

Martha Rosenberg, of the National Gun Victims Action Council, said the effect of the law was not as bad as she feared, but had a different theory as to why.

"Even though, legally, people can bring firearms out, there's a lot of places where they can't bring it," she said. "So the law is going well because the carriers aren't all over the place."

Gun advocates see the matter just the opposite way. Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, said concealed carry helped Chicago see its lowest homicide rate in nearly 50 years last year. He argued for expanding the law to allow guns on public transportation, for instance, to reduce the number of robberies there.

Under the law, there are more than 25 types of establishments where guns are banned, including schools, government buildings, airports, parks, bars, casinos, zoos and libraries. Businesses that don't want guns must post a state police "no guns allowed" sign.

The most active battleground over gun rights is in the courts, where about 300 lawsuits have been filed against the state by people denied licenses. Some applications submitted by those who have sued have been sent back to the state for review and been awarded, while others are pending.

Yet, just like on any issue, there are some in the black community who disagree with “more guns, less crime” hypothesis, and note that there are more legal dangers blacks face when they use their legally owned firearms in self defense.

In NPR piece wrote about Pastor David Bullock, who admits that members of his congregation are sometimes armed during service. He doesn’t consider it a sin to carry, but will not promote concealed carry in his church for a simple reason:

"If you use it, you're going to get prosecuted," he says

He's convinced the justice system still tends to see armed black people as aggressors, especially in situations where the facts are murky. If they're going to defend themselves with a gun, he says they better have money for a good lawyer.

The Tribune somewhat mentioned this legal danger concerning blacks and gun ownership in their piece:

Keith Hearn was getting out of his car in front of his home in Chicago's South Shore neighborhood when, as he tells it, police pulled up and told him he had committed a minor traffic offense.

Hearn, 34, has a concealed-carry license and said he voluntarily told the officers he had a handgun on him. Nonetheless, he said officers arrested him and took him to their station, claiming his gun was partly showing. After checking, he said, police found the concealed-carry law allows a gun to be "mostly" concealed, and let him go without charges.

"I was disgusted," Hearn said. "Why was I arrested, handcuffed in front of my neighborhood, when I didn't break any laws?"

At the same time, it’s always prudent never to discuss anything with the police without a lawyer present.

Nevertheless, Pastor Cross added that blacks are beginning to wake up regarding their rights in carrying concealed firearms–and that’s a good thing.