Anubis Heru did the math. With solid numbers, he just needed to provide education, training and space for practice to a record-high new customer base. Heru launched Denver’s 1770 Armory and Gun Club, the Mile High City’s first black-owned gun club, so the thousands of new local gun owners felt welcomed and comfortable.
“We have a huge responsibility,” Heru explained of his mission to reach an underserved community. “There’s a lot of miseducation and misinformation about black gun ownership because it’s been shown that only certain types of individuals carry firearms, and that is the furthest thing from the truth.”
Numbers Don’t Lie
The eye-popping number of 2020 was 8.4 million. That’s how many new first-time gun buyers made a literal investment of their hard-earned dollars in their Second Amendment rights. Of more than 21 million background checks run for the sale of a firearm in 2020, retailer data suggests nearly 40 percent were buying a gun for the first time.
With numbers like those, it’s no surprise the face of the American gun owner is changing fast. Women accounted for 40 percent of 2020’s overall firearm purchases.
While many in the media and antigun interest groups often drawing up a caricature of gun owners as “old white men,” the largest increase of any demographic group from 2019 to 2020 was among African Americans. Gun purchases by black men and women increased 58 percent from 2019 to 2020.
Philip Smith, President and Founder of the National African American Gun Association (NAAGA), understands why.
“We’ve seen a trend of more African Americans choosing to express their Second Amendment rights to own a firearm, especially for personal protection,” Smith explained in a press release extolling the need for safe firearm storage between his group, NSSF and Project ChildSafe®. “Purchasing a firearm is one step to protecting your family, but it also means safely storing your gun away from children, so they don’t hurt themselves.”
The historic firearm sales numbers aren’t slowing in 2021. Earlier this month, Trish Wendt, an African American woman, left the Pittsburgh Gun Show with a couple new purchases.
“I have one for home defense and one for carrying,” Wendt explained. “The others are for hunting. I have kids and we’re alone a lot, and it’s my responsibility to protect my children.”
The coronavirus pandemic, government shutdowns and economic uncertainty in 2020 led off the gun-buying surge, but riots, looting and increased community violence kept it going through the summer. Calls by politicians in communities hit hardest pronounced “defund the police.” Smith noted NAAGA saw membership increase by 2,000 each day at points during 2020. That’s their normal new membership mark for an entire year.
Cities like New York cut $1 billion from their law enforcement budget. Portland, Ore., cut their budget as well; $600 million from Chicago and the pattern continued across America. It’s no surprise that so many Americans chose to act for the security of their homes, businesses and loved ones.
In Florida, Danielle Campbell, also a black mother, recognized the severity of her situation and acted.
“A lot of us are single mothers…We’re learning that we can protect ourselves; we don’t have to be victims,” Campbell said. “People were being robbed and shot down in the street, so I decided I needed to take the safety and security of my family into my own hands.”
2020’s gun purchasing numbers show no signs of slowing down. Two million background checks were conducted for the sale of a firearm last month. One change has been the political landscape. Antigun politicians now control the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris ran on the most aggressive gun control platform in history.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters President Biden is “personally committed” to enacting stricter gun control. It will be a Herculean task to get moderate Democratic senators to agree to the gun control wish list, which includes bans on entire classes of firearms. Other forces are at play, including activists pressing lawmakers on “defund the police” promises and that drives concerns for personal safety.
“A lot of people are reaching out to us, mainly new gun owners and people who wouldn’t have considered owning a gun or firearm for their protection, have been lining up to purchase firearms and access information from our website,” said Derrick Morgan, a national leader with Black Gun Owners Association.
The firearm industry will continue partnering with local gun retailers, law enforcement and pro-Second Amendment organizations to make sure opportunities for education and training for new gun owners abound. The Second Amendment right is an American right.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.