The general election is swiftly approaching, and Black gun ownership is concurrently soaring in Michigan, a recent report claims. Those in the gun industry and first-time Black gun owners cite concerns over a potential race war among the reasons for the increase, the report’s authors contend.
“Since the new president, there’s been an uptick in people being very confrontational about race relations,” Detroit woman Sharon Spivey-Oliver, 54, told Bridge Michigan in an Oct. 12 piece. She and her husband, Vaughn Oliver, both purchased guns for the first time in April.
“I’ve never had the experiences I’m having now. Neither one of us has ever owned guns before, but just seeing the climate made us have to think about the safety of our home. … I believe that some people are preparing themselves for some type of race war,” Spivey-Oliver explained.
According to an article on Petoskey News Review originally published in the Lansing State Journal, a survey by the National Shooting Sports Foundation found Black Americans made up almost 15 percent of those purchasing guns from January through June this year, an increase of over 50 percent (presumably from the same period in 2019). The State Journal did not offer a link to this study.
Since Donald Trump was elected in 2016, there has been a 55 percent increase in white nationalist groups, a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center states.
Trump told one of them — the neo-fascist group Proud Boys — to “stand back and stand by” during the first presidential debate when asked by the moderator to denounce white supremacy.
While advocates for racial justice expressed outrage at Trump’s statement, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio said he was happy with Trump’s comments. Some of the group’s members even saw it as a call to action, incorporating the phrase with their slogan and sharing it widely on social media.
Add to that the COVID-19 pandemic, continued police killings of Black citizens with impunity, prevalent Black Lives Matter protests, the upcoming presidential election and other societal ills, and Black Americans said they feel compelled to arm themselves.
Tashmica Torok told the Review she wouldn’t have thought of purchasing a gun five years ago. Today she has successfully completed a conceal-carry permit course and she and her family are discussing the possibility.
“But then I also didn’t have white men showing up at the Capitol, five minutes from my house with semi-automatic weapons,” Torok said. “I just didn’t think I’d have those gunmen five minutes from my home during a season of anti-Black violence that has increased and the lack of protection that Black people experience from law enforcement. There’s like this perfect storm of violence and white supremacy that has definitely made me reconsider the purpose of having a gun in my home and whether it’s worth having one.”
Mujahid Abdul-Hameed, 70, is president of the Malcolm Little Gun Club in Lansing, Michigan. He agreed with Torok and blamed “racist talk” from President Donald Trump for the uptick in neo-nazi groups. Trump “is not blowing a dog whistle. He is saying it outright,” Abdul-Hameed said.
“We’ve seen the rise in ultra-right organizations. We’re well aware of the Michigan militia and that Livingston County was the seat of the KKK,” Abdul-Hameed told the Review. “We can be targeted even going to the store. I see those cars with Confederate flag license plate holders. It would be ignorant of me not to take precautions.”
Since he started his club over two years ago, Abdul-Hameed said membership has “blown up” so quickly this year he and his team are having trouble keeping pace.
The trend is a reversal from the typical white-male gun owner that dominated the gun-buying demographic. In Michigan, the increase in sales is even more prominent in Detroit, according to Rick Ector, CEO of a gun safety training program in the city. Ector has also noted the uptick of his fellow Black American gun owners.
“It’s an explosion of interest from people who want to learn about guns,” Ector said, adding “the interest in personal protection is on a level none of us [firearm instructors] has ever seen.”
According to the FBI, gun purchases and conceal carry permit applications were up over 70 percent overall from 2019 in June. Forty percent of that number were first time gun-owners.
The surge in Black gun ownership in Michigan specifically came before the FBI thwarted a plot of a dozen militia members to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who is white and liberal, and overthrow the government. Black Michigan residents see the threat to Whitmer as further evidence that it is necessary they take precautions.
“As such, it is imperative that everyone be alert and vigilant from evil people who wish to harm us,” Ector said.
“It’s not African Americans going into big box stores and attacking minorities. We’re the ones on the defense and we understand that,” Abdul-Hameed said. “I don’t want to call it fear. I want to call it educated caution. We have been struggling in this country for 400 years. We have seen how tides have turned.”