I've always believed that every gun owner has an interesting story to tell, and that's certainly the case for Rev. Willie Anderson. The owner of My Brother's Keeper Security Solutions in Grand Rapids, Michigan has led a fascinating life; working in security as a teenager in New Jersey, earning multiple bachelor's degrees along with a master's in clinical counseling, and serving stints in the Minneapolis Police Department as well as the local correctional system as a crisis counselor before making the switch to running his own gun store.
Anderson has been selling firearms and offering training to customers from his current location for four years, and says he views the gun shop as another part of his ministry; helping to educate his customer base on their Second Amendment rights as well as teaching them how to be safe and responsible with their firearms.
At My Brother’s Keeper, Anderson said he’s trained more than 700 people. People are more receptive to learning from someone who looks like them, he said, and he’s able to explain gun law from a Black man’s perspective.
“That’s my goal, not just to make a dollar, not just make a revenue but making sure that my people, people brown-skinned, Black-skinned people understand, ‘Hey, you got a Second Amendment right, you got the right to bear arms, but let’s do it the right way,'” he said.
Anderson also has a gun lock program, offering free gun locks to any firearm owner. He reminded parents and others that it’s their job to keep guns safe.
“Too many firearms out there with no locks on them,” he said. “Then you hear a tragedy, somebody got hurt with that firearm and the person that owns it got to … pay the consequence.”
He also offers free basic firearm training to kids 17 and under. Inside the shop is a simulator, which kids have fun with because it’s similar to a video game, and Anderson uses it to teach kids about respecting weapons as a dangerous tool and teaching them the gun safety rules.
“We take them and show them how to respect that weapon… teach them the the universal rules, teach them how to respect that weapon, how to respect that tool,” he said.
Real gun safety, in other words, not the anti-gun activism labeled as such by groups like Giffords and Everytown. Anderson's giving teens an actual knowledge base on how to be safe around a firearm, instead of the abstinence-based approach of "don't even think about guns" taken by gun control outfits.
Anderson isn't just a fount of knowledge when it comes to firearms training and education. He knows his history as well, including the racist gun control laws of the 18th and 19th centuries that are being used by folks like California Attorney General Rob Bonta to defend today's modern restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms.
As the community celebrates Black History Month, he said he’s humbled to have the first Black-owned gun dealership, and hopes it eventually won’t be the only one. He hopes the month will encourage kids to strive to be more and to be part of history.
“Being part of history, it’s hard. It’s hard work, but it’s worth every bit of it,” he said.
For him, he said Black history is a huge reason for why he does what he does: “I carry proudly because my ancestors couldn’t.”
I wish we had guys like Anderson running gun shops in places like New York, Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., where for decades there've been legal and cultural taboos on gun ownership. Those restrictions have largely killed off the culture of lawful and responsible gun ownership, though they certainly haven't eradicated violent crime.
The work that Anderson is doing, however, is helping to restore and build back that lawful gun culture, at least in Grand Rapids, and he's turning his shop into an invaluable part of his community. Through his partnership with the U.S. Concealed Carry Association, Anderson offers classes on everything from basic handgun fundamentals to the training required to obtain a Michigan Concealed Pistol License, helping Grand Rapids residents to lawfully carry in a state where simply possessing a gun in public without a license is punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison.
I've reached out to Rev. Anderson, and hopefully we'll be talking on a future episode of Bearing Arms Cam & Co about his life-saving and life-changing efforts to educate others about the importance of their Second Amendment rights and how to exercise them responsibly.