The House, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security held a hearing on “Community Responses to Gun Violence in our Cities” on Thursday, and while most of the speakers were fully in favor of a wide range of gun control laws, one panelist had a very different point of view. Maj Toure, the founder of Black Guns Matter, told the assembled lawmakers that the very title of the hearing was not only misleading, but misses the point completely.
“We do not have a gun violence issue in our urban centers, but we do have a host of other issues that, coupled with the lack of de-escalation tools, lead to violence. What we are experiencing is not an issue with guns, per se, but more a lack of an ability to navigate trauma. If we are going to address violence in urban America, we need to address violence of all kinds. Singling out firearms is a tremendous misstep in terms of solving the issue.”
Toure believes that the solutions to violent crime have to come from education and training, not gun control laws that have obliterated the culture of lawful gun ownership in many urban areas. When education has been replaced by ignorance, Toure argued, crime rates soar.
“Guns are a taboo topic in urban America, therefore safety training has purposefully been withheld in our communities and homicide rates are a direct reflection of that ignorance.”
Toure explained to the representatives how Black Guns Matter began in Philadelphia a few years ago as a direct result of a lack of education and training opportunities in his neighborhood.
“In 2016 when we started Black Guns Matter it was the result of a steady barrage of media images that depicted our communities as violent and savage. That year, one of my best friends was shot in the head because of negligence. As news of his death circulated, I couldn’t help but think how easy it would have been to ensure he knew the basics of conflict resolution and safety. I recognized that in addition to doing a voter registration drive that year, we needed to do a license to carry drive by inviting people in my community to be safe and responsible gun owners. That year we hosted our first class in north Philadelphia, where I’m from, expecting 35 people. Instead, 350 showed up to learn.”
That passion for training, education, and the right to keep and bear arms has been on display in cities across the country, as Maj has conducted classes in some of the most violent neighborhoods in America. Even in those high-crime areas, he notes, most of the people living there aren’t criminals. What’s more, Maj believes that not every criminal has to be one. While Black Guns Matter isn’t an anti-gang program, de-escalation techniques are an important part of the classwork.
Ultimately, as Toure put it, the federal government is going to end violence with more gun control laws. The work that needs to be done has to happen, not on Capitol Hill, but block by block in America’s cities. Changing communities means changing mindsets, and that comes back to education and training.
“In the last four years, we have developed a curriculum based on lived experience and case studies all around this nation in some of the areas that suffer the most poverty, human rights restrictions, and negligence in the country. Our experiences with applying these solutions have been that most people [unclear] political affiliation, respect, or people-powered initiatives, communities can solve these problems on our own.”
Maj Toure will be joining me on Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co. this afternoon as well, and we’ll dive deeper into his testimony before the House subcommittee, but you should also watch it for yourself below.