Reluctant or Not, These Philly Residents Are Embracing Their Right to Own a Gun

AP Photo/Morgan Lee

The influx of new gun owners across the country over the past few years is undeniable. From polls showing households with firearms at an all-time high to reports from gun stores and ranges that are seeing more and more first-timers walking through their doors, there’s plenty of evidence to back up the idea that more Americans are embracing their Second Amendment rights, especially since the run on firearms that coincided with the COVID-related shutdowns in 2020.

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That doesn’t mean that every new gun owner is enthusiastic about it, however. We are talking about folks who, in many cases, had made the conscious decision not to own a gun for various reasons. But even those reluctant gun owners are still appreciative of the fact that they have the right to keep and bear arms, as a new story in the Philadelphia Inquirer shows.

The paper interviewed several Philadelphia residents who’ve concluded that they’re better off with a gun than without one, and even those who never thought that would be the case, like Tamika Murray, are now all-in on exercising their Second Amendment rights.

She had been sitting on the idea of owning a firearm for years. She had even applied for and received her license to own a firearm in 2013. But Murray couldn’t bring herself to actually purchase one.

“There’s a lot of trauma in our community … from firearms,” said Murray, who is Black. “So many of us have lost brothers and cousins and uncles — it’s been a plague.”

Guns were always taboo in Murray’s community when she was growing up. Murray herself never expected to become a gun owner. And it wasn’t until 2018 — five years after she first received her license — that she decided to buy her first gun, after having worked in probation and parole.

“It just opened my eyes more to saying this is a safety concern I need to address, and I need to learn what I need to do,” Murray said. “As a single Black mother, in the area that I live in, I just want to protect my family.”

That’s when she went to Founding Fathers, a small gun shop in Montgomery County. It was like trying on a pair of shoes: She had to feel the weapon, grip the weapon, to determine whether it was right for her. She felt empowered.

Since purchasing her firearm, Murray has been taking training classes to increase her knowledge around gun ownership and safety. She knows gun ownership is a catch-22 (“The same way it can help, it can hurt,” she said.), but to Murray, education is an answer.

“If we had more education, more resources, it wouldn’t be such a strong issue,” Murray said.

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The taboo nature of lawful gun ownership in Philadelphia is a common theme among those interviewed by the Inquirer, though that phenomenon is hardly confined to the City of Brotherly Love. For decades now, the left has declared that owning a gun not only isn’t a right, it’s not the right thing to do. They’ve worked hard to make gun ownership socially and culturally unacceptable. Heck, they’ve tried to make gun ownership illegal, not just untenable.

Despite those efforts, and more importantly because of the public safety failures by the Democrats in charge of these cities people like Murray and Janice Totso are choosing to take more responsibility for their own security.

Someone was shot and killed near the laundromat where Tosto takes her clothes. Citizen app alerts about nearby robberies and shootings make her tense.

But it wasn’t until she read an interview with Republican mayoral candidate David Oh in the Philadelphia Sun toward the end of his campaign that she got serious about getting a gun. Without mentioning statistics or specifics, Oh spoke generally about Philadelphians who are more fearful than ever about the crime and violence in the city.

“A lot of people don’t venture out of their homes. They don’t want their kids going outside,” he said in the interview. “A lot of people have already purchased guns. And these are not people who love guns.”

Tosto felt like Oh was speaking directly to her; she eventually voted for him. As she awaits approval of her license, Tosto has spent time thinking about what it would mean to not only own a gun, but have to use it to defend herself and possibly take another person’s life.

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Totso told the Inquirer that she doesn’t want to hurt an innocent person, but if she has to harm someone who’s attacking her, she’s at peace with that.

I think most of us feel the same way. If I never have to pull the trigger of one of my guns in self-defense, that’s perfectly okay with me. In fact, I hope that’s the case. But we don’t get to choose whether we’re the victim of a violent crime or the target of a carjacker or home invader. Our choice is how we respond if we’re ever put in a situation where our lives are in danger, and I’m glad to see these Philadelphians have decided that exercising their Second Amendment rights is one way they’re going to ensure their own safety going forward.

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