A group of Black gun owners in Colorado are coming together to protect themselves during this time of nationwide racial unrest.
The 1770 Armory and Gun Club is the first of its kind in the state and opened its doors recently as an increasing number of African Americans are arming themselves across the U.S.
Shawn McWilliams, an Aurora resident and a member of the club, recently spoke with the Associated Press and explained the importance of practising shooting and teaching other members to do so. Most of those enrolled in the club are new and all of them are Black.
“If you just got your concealed carry permit this year, we want you here,” McWilliams said. “I want to train you.”
In the first six months of 2020, a record 10.3 million firearm transactions were processed by U.S. retailers, according to a report from the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Among those sales, Black men and women were the highest overall increase in purchases, buying 58.2 percent more guns in the first half of 2020 when compared with the same period in 2019. The report also finds that, overall, Black men made up 9.3 percent of all firearms sales while Black women accounted for 5.4 percent during that period.
A Pew Research Center study, however, found that Black people are still less likely to own guns than white people. In 2017, about a quarter of Black Americans owned a firearm while 36 percent of white people did.
“Given the place in which we are in America — politically, racially — African Americans don’t feel safe anymore,” said Wanda James, the gun club’s co-owner. “It’s a sad scenario when people don’t feel comfortable in their homes, walking down the street or in their cars.”
The 1770 Armory and Gun Club is located in the historically Black Five Points neighborhood in Denver, a location agreed upon by the group’s founding members.
“I want people to know that in the middle of this reconstruction there are still Black-owned businesses in the community,” lead instructor Master Young told the AP.
The owners chose the name 1770 representing the year the American Revolution started and the time in which Crispus Attucks, a Black man who is widely considered the first American to die in the revolution, was killed.