Dozens of men and women, many of them armed, held a rally entitled Blacks And Latinos Against Racist Empowerment at the Michigan state capitol in Lansing on Thursday, decrying the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and George Floyd in Minnesota while calling for accountability for those responsible. Rally organizer Rick Ector said the deaths are a “sober reminder that the world is not a safe place,” but he believes it can be made a little safer with effort.

Ector is the owner of Legally Armed in Detroit and says he turned his sadness and anger over what happened into putting on the “Rally Against Hate.”

“I said you know what, I’m surprised someone hasn’t done it already. Okay, I’m going to do it I’m going to organize a rally against hate. Let’s hold the the evil, dangerous people in our society accountable and let’s talk about eliminating this dreadful scourge in our society,” said Ector.

I’ve known Rick for a long time, and he’s been a tremendous advocate for the right to bear arms in Michigan and a tireless champion of responsible gun ownership. Each year, usually around Mothers Day, Rick hosts an event to provide a free gun safety lesson to women, and last year more than 800 women turned out for the training session. Thursday’s rally may have been smaller, but the message was a powerful one, and on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, Ector tells me that based on the online reaction to the event, he may try to put together a similar rally in the near future.

Ector says there were no issues with the Capitol Police and the armed protesters and Second Amendment advocates on hand, though some politicians in Michigan have been pushing for a ban on firearms on the capitol grounds and in the state capitol building. Bearing arms wasn’t a requirement to attend the rally, and Ector says he neither encouraged or discouraged attendees to carry at the capitol, but was pleased that armed self-defense was a central component of the messaging from several speakers, including Maj Toure of Black Guns Matter and Lansing activist Mike Lynn, Jr, who recently provided an armed escort to a lawmaker who had said she felt intimidated by a reopen rally at the capitol last month that also featured a number of armed protesters.

The men and women at the rally in Lansing aren’t the only ones calling for black Americans to embrace the Second Amendment. Michael Render, aka “Killer Mike”, who’s been an outspoken advocate for black gun ownership, wrote a powerful piece for the website Color Lines this week on why he believes the right to keep and bear arms is so important.

God gave you the right to use whatever tools are available to defend your rights. Nothing—including gun ownership—should be discarded. I encourage gun ownership to my wife, my son and daughters, your sons and daughters and all Black people. I wish the Black woman in Baltimore, Korey T. Johnson, who was recently chased and followed by a deranged brother, had a gun to protect herself. She found no safety at a hotel or from the police. My heart goes out to her and her running buddy. ­

The challenge is for Black people, Black media and allies to normalize gun ownership. We should be highlighting and showcasing responsible gun owners. We should be looking to Black organizations such as the National African American Gun Association, which offers firearms training, self-defense training and other services. They understand the cultural nuances of gun ownership and speak directly to our needs. We should be looking to people like Marchelle “Tig” Davis, a Black woman who owns My Sister’s Keeper Defense and teaches women how to shoot, stay safe and defend against threats. We should also be considering the perspective of people like attorney Colin Noir, who is a gun rights advocate with a plethora of online resources ranging from reviews of firearms, commentary on gun laws and educational content. We should also be talking about Black Freedom Fighters (see Harriet TubmanIda B. WellsMalcolm XDeacons for Defense and JusticeRobert Williams, etc.) who embraced gun ownership and protected their families and community in the process. Even the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. applied for a concealed carry permit in 1956.

Meanwhile, attorney Benjamin Crump, who’s representing the family of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, wondered in a column for USA Today whether black Americans truly can enjoy the right to keep and bear arms. In his piece, Crump contrasts the arrests of Gregory and Travis McMichael in the death of Ahmaud Arbery with the arrest of Kenneth Walker, Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend.

Only after the case made national news when a video of the shocking killing surfaced months later were suspects Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael finally arrested and charged with murder.

Contrast the treatment of the McMichaels’ with that of  Kenneth Walker, a black man who fired one nonfatal round from a legally registered firearm against armed intruders in the middle of the night. Walker was defending his castle and his woman when police burst into his apartment unannounced on a misdirected drug raid.

Just before 1 a.m. on March 13, Walker was asleep alongside his girlfriend, Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT and hero in the COVID-19 pandemic, who daily put her life on the line to help others. Three plainclothes Louisville Metro Police officers stormed into Taylor’s apartment on a “no-knock warrant.” Walker called 911, grabbed his gun and fired a single shot.

After an officer was hit in the leg, police opened fire, spraying more than 20 bullets. Taylor, who was shot at least eight times, died. Walker was charged with attempted murder of a police officer. And unlike what happened to the McMichaels, it didn’t take months for authorities to press charges. Walker was charged immediately. The charges were dropped only after months of advocacy and national media attention.

The police were looking for narcotics but didn’t find any. The suspect they were seeking was already in custody. Walker was a licensed gun owner who thought someone was breaking in. Clearly, he felt threatened. Where was his right to self-defense?

Obviously there are some big differences in the two cases, but Crump is correct in noting that in both situations, it took media attention and a public outcry for charges to be dropped against Walker and to be filed against the McMichaels. Will the media ever get behind the idea of armed self-defense for racial minorities? I tend to doubt it, simply because of the anti-gun attitudes that so many in the news media have. However, even if the media can’t or won’t embrace the idea, I do believe that the Second Amendment community is squarely behind the idea that self-defense is a human right, that the right to keep and bear arms is a right of all people, and we’ll do everything we can to ensure that every law-abiding American is empowered to exercise their right to armed self-defense.