Are Racial Tensions Behind Surge In Black Gun Ownership?

Gun ownership is up across the board. Further, support for gun control is down. It seems that everyone is going out to buy guns, regardless of any ethnicity or gender.


This is a good thing. The more gun owners there are, the less support for gun control you tend to find. While having a gun isn’t a guarantee that someone will vote for a particular party, it does mean they’re more likely to oppose particular bits of policy like universal background checks or assault weapon bans.

Hopefully, anyway.

But why are so many people buying guns? We know many feared civil unrest or increased crime during COVID. Yet it seems that some are looking at different reasons.

Luther Thompson never thought he’d be a gun owner. But in April, the 41-year-old obtained a concealed carry license and bought his first firearm—a $400 Smith & Wesson pistol—after feeling, for the first time, that he was not safe raising a family in the South as a Black man.

“Down here, it’s totally different,” he says. “They’re bold with their racism.”

The purchase came two months after a white father and son fatally shot Ahmaud Arbery while the 25-year-old Black man was jogging. The killing stunned Thompson, a father of five, who lives in Cartersville, Ga., about 300 miles away from where Arbery was gunned down. “I never visualized that it would be this way,” he says.

Thompson’s concerns have only grown since the election, as President Donald Trump refuses to concede and as his supporters grow angrier over what they falsely believe was a stolen election. On Saturday, thousands of Trump voters protested the election results at a rally in Washington, D.C., where violent clashes with counter-protesters erupted into the night. On Monday, the FBI reported the highest number hate crimes in the U.S. in a decade in 2019, with Black people the most numerous targets of racially-motivated bias crimes.


Sorry, I have to interrupt here for a moment. Note the bias? How Trump supporters “falsely believe” the election was stolen? There are legitimate questions, which Time doesn’t care about even acknowledging. They’ve already determined the narrative and they won’t allow themselves to be neutral because Orange Man Bad.

Regardless, let’s move on.

“It makes you feel on higher alert,” Thompson says. “I have to be able to protect my family.”

Amid a record-breaking number of firearm sales, Thompson is among the nearly 6.9 million people in the U.S. who became first-time gun owners this year, according to estimates by the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The gun trade group said gun buyers were nearly 56% white males during the first six months of 2020, citing an industry survey of 104 retailers, which tracks with other national demographic surveys done on gun ownership trends. But there was a 58% jump in firearm purchases—the highest overall sales increase—among Black men and women, compared with the same period last year. The survey said 9% of new gun buyers were Black males and 5% were Black females.

“People are becoming very concerned for their personal safety,” says Foundation spokesman Mark Oliva. “That’s not a concern of just white guys. That’s a universal concern.”


The thing is, I’m not sure there’s really that much racial tension.

I’m a white man living in the South. While I understand that people like Thompson genuinely fear for their lives, I don’t really see a flip side of that around here. White folks aren’t looking at their black neighbors as if they’re about to be gutted.

So what gives?

To be sure, there are problems, but while I think what happened to Ahmad Aubery shouldn’t have, it wasn’t as cut and dried as the media likes to present it. Aubrey was apparently mucking around where he shouldn’t have been and was, indeed, acting suspiciously. He doesn’t look like he was just out for a jog as has been alleged.

That’s not excusing people trying to chase after someone with their shotguns and pickup trucks, either.

Yet we don’t know that it’s motivated by racism, either. That particular spin has come from the media, which has painted everything as racism and failed to look at any claim skeptically since Trump became president. I can’t help but believe that Thompson may have gotten caught up in much of that.

Now, I’m not saying racism doesn’t exist, but I do think it’s been over-hyped over the last four years. I mean, how does the same country that elects a black man to the presidency twice suddenly come to hate people solely because of the color of their skin? No one has adequately explained that to me. Then again, these are people who believed all opposition to Obama was due to racism and nothing else.


Regardless, I think a better explanation for why some black men and women are buying guns is that they fear racial tensions, rather than such tensions truly exist.

For me, that’s enough reason all on its own. If you think people who hate you for some idiotic reason mean you harm, you’d be foolish not to arm yourself.

I just don’t know that the issue is as bad as the media has been trying to make it.

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