BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — 2020 was the year. The death of George Floyd ushered in a racial reckoning unlike before. At the same time, a new wave of gun owners would emerge.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) found the sale of guns to African-Americans, rose 58 percent in 2020, the year George Floyd was murdered. It was the highest increase in gun sales of any racial group that year. At the start of 2021, the NSSF found that 90 percent of gun retailers reported an increase in Black customers, including an 87 percent spike among Black women.

“If you have a weapon, I think you are more confident,” explained Natalie Thomas, a social worker who has a concealed carry permit. “When people look at me, and I think they may be threatening, I look at them straight in the eye and their not going to attack me.”

Natalie is just one of three gun owners we spoke to. She is a member of the PBS Pinchback Gun club, in Baton Rouge. This gun club is a part of the National African American Gun Association, an organization that promotes gun rights among African-Americans. Ashley White is the President of the Baton Rouge Chapter but serves as the Vice President of the PBS Pinchback Gun Club.

“For me, it was channeling the true American spirit, of our country. It was built on the ability to bear arms,” White said.

Then there’s Rashad Williams. He took an interest in shooting after getting robbed on the job.

“I went and got my concealed carry, and I’ve been carrying ever since,” he said proudly.

They all practice and own firearms for different reasons, but their gun club binds them all. 

“A couple of us got together and said we don’t have a gun club here we don’t have a Black gun club here, so let’s be the ones to start that,” said While.

The group has several members and they host meetings and range days twice a month, steadily growing year after year. Corey Thomas is President of the PBS Pinchback Gun club.

“We not only advocate for gun rights and to put a positive spin on Black gun ownership, but we’re also here to do work in the community.”

Reasons for the increase in Black gun ownership include a rise in anti-Black hate crimes, which rose 40 percent in 2020, but if you were to look beyond that year, history shows a fraught and complicated relationship, between Black people and the Second Amendment.

Before the Civil War, it was illegal for slaves to own guns. after the war. Laws were passed to keep blacks from owning them, but still, some carried them as an act of defiance.  Even during the civil rights movement, guns were present. Voting rights leaders carried them as a means of self-defense,  birthed out of the turbulent, and raging 60s came more militant groups like the Black Panther Party. The BPP encouraged Blacks to own firearms, in response to violent acts of white supremacy and police brutality.

Just like the Black Panther Party, the PBS Pinchback Gun club also uses knowledge of the law as a weapon. In fact, the gun club hosts classroom sessions, to explain the laws and your rights. And as long as crime and hate exist, this group says, they will be armed.

For more information, visit their website: pbspinchbackgunclub.org