The concept of black gun owners is far from new. We’ve had them with us always. In fact, some civil rights leaders actually advised people to have guns for self-defense. Non-violence is great for advancing a cause, but it’s not an idea that deters violent thugs from caving your head in.
Today, black gun owners are one of the fastest-growing demographics in the firearms industry.
Unfortunately, for some, there’s still a perception problem. Now, a photojournalist and an activist are teaming up to try and change that.
Dismantling the stereotypes connected to Black gun ownership in this country is the mission of two everyday citizens: Christian K. Lee, a photojournalist based in Austin, Texas and Paquita Wiggins, an LGBTQ activist residing in our nation’s capital. Both believe there is a misconception that lies at the heart of gun ownership in the Black community. Lee and Wiggins are working to change outdated notions they say deem being Black and armed as dangerous, threatening, and antithetical to what it means to be a law-abiding citizen in the United States.
Wiggins and Lee are just two out of the many who want to change misconceptions about gun ownership in the Black community and put forth a positive narrative about Black America’s right to bear arms. With law enforcement mistrust and crime at an all-time high, according to Pew Research, these two myth busters see gun ownership as a means to create safe and thriving communities, as well as protect Black households and neighborhoods.
As a gun owner and award-winning photojournalist, with features in Rolling Stone, Buzzfeed, ABC News, National Geographic and the Washington Post Magazine, Lee has been laser-focused on creating positive imagery on Black people and guns. “My work is not about me, it’s about others and I utilize my camera as a tool to learn about people from all over,” said Lee.
In a recent project, entitled “Armed Doesn’t Mean Dangerous,” Lee photographs Black Americans with their firearms to dispel a longstanding myth about danger connected to Black Americans and their Second Amendment right to possess a firearm.
I kind of have to take issue with the idea that they’re not dangerous, but only in so far as they are clearly dangerous to those who mean them harm. As law-abiding gun owners, though, I see them as offering no danger to anyone else.
It seems that many of these folks are buying guns because of concerns about far-right extremists. While I think the idea that these are all universally racist is something of a misnomer, the great thing about the Second Amendment is that my assessment of the validity of their concerns doesn’t matter. If they have concerns, they should arm themselves accordingly.
Many have, and I’m glad.
See, I’m not infallible. Whether I think there’s this huge surge in white supremacy or not doesn’t have an impact on who gets to exercise their Second Amendment rights. It’s why I have an issue with rules that require an acceptable reason for getting a carry permit.
For what it’s worth, I’ve seen some of Lee’s and Wiggin’s work in various places, and I think he’s doing a good job of reframing the image of the black gun owner for many Americans. These are and have typically always been your average citizens seeking to exercise a basic constitutional right, but some have been stuck with the image we got from Hollywood.
After all, the hero with a room full of guns he uses to bring justice to the city? That’s typically a white guy. Meanwhile, the black guy with a gun is either part of a drug operation or a gang member.
Lee and Wiggins are changing that in ways I doubt I ever could, so good for them