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Pew Survey Shows Black People’s Attitudes Toward Gun Ownership Changing

Huey P. Newton Gun Club members march through the Dixon Circle neighborhood of Dallas.  (Bobby Scheidemann)

Huey P. Newton Gun Club members march through the Dixon Circle neighborhood of Dallas. (Bobby Scheidemann)

A Reuters article says attitudes on gun control are changing in the Black community. According to Reuters, more Black people are opting to arm themselves, having lost faith in the police’s ability to protect them. The massacre of nine Black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C. has also motivated more Black people to start carrying weapons.

“[Horace] Augustine, now an account executive with a staffing agency in Atlanta, has recently found himself at odds with his mother’s views: He wants to buy a gun, in part to protect the church he attends,” Reuters said. “Augustine began thinking last year that he should buy a gun for protection, and the shooting last month at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston intensified his conviction. As an African American and a board member of his church, Augustine worries about someone coming in with a firearm during services, and he wants to be prepared.”

In the past, Black people have been strong supporters of gun control, having witnessed the effects of gun violence in urban neighborhoods. However, a Pew research survey said that attitude is slowly changing.

“To be sure, attitudes toward guns are still deeply divided along racial lines, with 60 percent of blacks prioritizing controls on gun ownership over protecting gun rights, while 61 percent of whites say they consider gun rights more important than gun controls, according to a December poll by the Pew Research Center,” Reuters reported. “But the level of African American support for gun control has fallen by 14 percentage points since 1993, when it stood at 74 percent according to the Pew data.”

According to Reuters, the Pew survey also revealed more Black people believe guns are needed for self protection.

“The idea that guns provide protection appears to be quickly gaining currency among American blacks,” Reuters said. “In December, 54 percent of blacks polled by Pew said they believed guns were more likely to protect people than to put their safety at risk. That figure was up from 29 percent two years earlier. For whites, 62 percent said guns protect people, up from 54 percent in 2012.”

Some Black people are copying tactics used by the Black Panthers in the 1960s. The Black Panthers openly carried weapons and shadowed the police to make sure they were not assaulting Black men. That tactic has been revived by the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, a group of activists who have begun conducting armed patrols of Black neighborhoods in Dallas, Texas.

Darren X, a member of the New Black Panther Party (which is not affiliated with the original Black Panthers), said the gun club is taking a proactive stance towards addressing some of the problems in the Black community. He also added what they are doing is perfectly legal.

“We accept all oppressed people of color with weapons,” said Darren X in an interview with VICE. “The complete agenda involves going into our communities and educating our people on federal, state, and local gun laws. We want to stop fratricide, genocide—all the ‘cides.”

The Huey P. Newton Gun Club received national media attention for its marches and donations poured in from across the country, including some surprising sources. The group received support from Russell Wilson, a bureau chief in the Dallas district attorney’s office.

“They have an absolute right to do what they do,” he told VICE and says the gun club is, “restoring some people’s confidence and saying, ‘We’re not going to keep getting pushed around here.'”

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is paying attention to this development and is now marketing its services to Black gun owners. Collins Idehen, a Black attorney in Texas, produces YouTube videos under the name “Colion Noir” for the NRA. Idehen is trying to change the perception of Black gun owners.

“The image of Black gun ownership has been hijacked and vilified by an anti-gun mainstream media,” he said in a YouTube video.

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