More African-American Women Arming Themselves For Self-Protection
African-Americans are disproportionately more likely to be the victims of gun violence, but new research shows that more black women are becoming gun owners.
Here & Now‘s Robin Young speaks with firearm instructor Marchelle Tigner, assistant director of training for the National African American Gun Association.
On how her attitude toward gun ownership has evolved
“Initially, when I was growing up, my parents kept us away from firearms. We didn’t have them in the home, and the things that I saw on TV led me to believe that only the police officers have firearms, and criminals. And when I joined the military, my thought process changed. They’re not just for criminals to have, they’re for law enforcement and the general public to carry them, if they so choose, for self-defense purposes.”
On the intersection of gun ownership and race in America
“I believe that we have to change the stereotypes that are associated with black people and firearms. Every story you see with a black person and a firearm is a negative story. It’s about someone, you know, getting shot, or someone robbing someone, so I wanted to change that narrative and make it normal. We can exercise our Second Amendment rights just like everyone else can, and it’s not just a bad thing or making you a criminal. And I think education is key to changing that narrative.”
On the significance of the Second Amendment
“The reason why the Second Amendment right is there is to protect and defend our First Amendment right of free speech, so in the black community we can’t speak freely if we cannot defend our right to speak freely.”
On the importance of discourse around armed African Americans
“I believe that it’s being more popularized, the stories on the internet and the news about, you know, African Americans being shot by law enforcement officers. And it’s extremely unfortunate, and I think that it’s bringing up the conversation more, and African Americans are not thinking of firearms necessarily as a bad thing, as they used to. They’re thinking of it more as self-defense, and I think it’s a good thing.”
On the importance of female visibility in gun rights discourse
“A lot of the women that come to my classes, they feel as though they don’t want to tell anyone that they’re getting trained with firearms because it will make them a target, and I feel like we can’t have that fear. I’m traveling the country, I’m taking these photos, these images are getting out there, again, so that we can normalize this … I think everyone should know that we are armed. I think the attacker in the alley, all the way up to the white supremacist group, should know that, ‘Hey, we’re armed, we’re not defenseless as we once were, 40 or 50 years ago when there were laws in place specifically to keep African Americans from owning firearms.’ We have defenses now, so we’re not going to be easy prey.”
On teaching women to use guns, and the importance of having a woman for a firearm instructor
“I don’t necessarily teach the information differently. I think it’s the fact that there’s a woman teaching the class that makes them more comfortable in the classroom. That makes all the difference.”
On the National Rife Association and its politics
“They’re very open and loud about their political stances. In their eyes, it’s like if you don’t support the current presidential administration, then you’re completely anti-gun, and that’s not necessarily the truth. You can say, ‘I love firearms, I love your advocacy for firearms rights and gun rights. However, I also disapprove of some of the things in this presidential administration.’ They’re alienating an entire group of people who may want to be a part of the National Rifle Association and take advantage of the opportunities that they have.”
On the group The Well Armed Women, and the intersection of blackness and womanhood in gun rights discourse
“I was a member at one point, in the south chapter of Atlanta. Our chapter is actually all African-American women, so I felt really comfortable. And then I would tell other women across the country, ‘Hey, check out this organization,’ and they would go to their website and they wouldn’t see any women of color. And they felt like, ‘Well, is this organization for me? Because I don’t see myself represented, you know, on their website, so I don’t know if I feel comfortable there.’ So I think they could get more members also by opening up their minority group.”
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