Black women carrying guns for protection shouldn’t have to

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Chimere Barron, financial adviser, is totally uneasy. You can see it in his eyes, even though his stance is strong.

“I’ve always been against guns,” she said as she put down her bag and prepared to lock, load and fire 18 rounds into the central mass of a paper man. “But things are different now.”

Barron, 34, is among those to research showed is a rapidly growing group of gun owners in America – black women.

After watching mass shooters devastate their spaces — grocery stores, churches, parades — women who have spent their lives keeping guns out of their homes and away from their families are getting attached.

“Buffalo,” said Monique Chapman, 53. “We as African Americans are sitting here as targets.”

What made this horrible decision more bearable? They found a black woman to teach them.

These two women – among more than a dozen others, black and white – spent two days a few weeks ago obtaining a concealed carry permit under the direction of Mary Pitt, a black woman like them, who was an instructor of firearms both in the Air Force and with the police in Atlanta.

His clientele was mostly what you would expect – armed men. She was often hired as an instructor for the police and the military.

“I see a big increase in women. Over 1,000% recently,” said Pitt, whose company, BOOM BOOM Firearms training, takes its name from the sound produced by its RPG in Iraq. “I have women who came in scared and came out confident. I had women who had never shot at the range before, who had never held a gun. They were crying. They jumped.

Now she’s taking orders in a fire engine red, Kevlar vest, drilling women who know that she knows how complicated it all is.

“I wouldn’t even let my kids play with guns. Water guns. None of that,” said Tanya Butler, a tall, elegant 58-year-old who is clearly more at home in the halls of power than on the firing range.

A recent rise in crime — from carjackings to insurgencies — has surrounded the congressional office where she works on Capitol Hill. “And now I have a gun safe, and I take the gun out at night,” she said. “I’m not ready to wear yet. But I have a choice. »

Over the past two months, the combination of the Supreme Court’s decision lowering the bar for concealed carry permits and the black community’s sense of vulnerability following the race-fueled massacre at a grocery store in Buffalo, Pitt is become a matriarch of the armed, black, female community.

“They call me and tell me they want an instructor,” Pitt told me, when we met about a month ago. I went to the parking lot of Maryland Small Arms Range, the one near Joint Base Andrews, to talk to gun owners after the Supreme Court ruling. I expected to find a lot of white people who love their guns to encourage change.

But the first people I met coming out of the firing range, one after another, were black women.

“I want to be able to keep my community safe,” one of these women told me.

Just about every woman I spoke to at the beach that day — as we took off one ear protection to talk between booms — mentioned Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Alton Sterling, Philado Castile. And Sandra Bland.

Black women are not safe in America. Violence against black women and girls has increased by nearly 34% in 2020 amid a global homicide spike, to around 8 deaths per 100,000 – a rate more than double that of white women, at around 3 per cent. 100,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Data. Five black women – women and girls – have been killed every day in 2020.

More than 40% of black women are assaulted and more than 20% are raped in their lifetime, according to the Women’s Policy Research Institute. These statistics are lower for all other women. And amid this trauma, black women are expected to fulfill a stereotype – rooted in truth – that they are the strongest in a community or family that holds everything together.

No wonder others are considering getting guns. Even if they are not a simple answer.

“You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” said a 67-year-old grandmother of six, who hasn’t handled a gun since leaving the military , but decided to get his concealed carry permit because of all these events targeting black people.

They all said they felt America let them down when it came to feeling protected. And that’s an important part of the gun control conversation. The same people who want to ban guns probably agree that Americans of color feel especially unsafe in the nation they helped build.

“You have to keep your head on a swivel now in the theatre, the grocery store,” said Chapman, who retired from the Navy and was happy to leave the guns behind. She’s a mother and grandmother from the suburbs. “And I don’t mean that all officers are bad. I have law enforcement officers in my family. But you don’t always know if they are on our side.

Barron said it was not part of his culture to grow up with guns.

“Unlike a lot of white people, who grew up hunting or shooting with the family, we didn’t have that,” she said. “So we are not familiar with firearms. Handling firearms. Security. All that.”

Not all shooting instructors applaud new gun laws

This is where Pitt comes in.

She’s not necessarily thrilled with how easy it is to get a concealed carry permit right now. She wants candidates to do more, even after they qualify.

Only 16 hours of training. Presentations of slideshows in the conference room. Paper tests. A maximum of 50 rounds are fired. That’s it.

But Pitt includes the high-tech video simulators that include scenarios where students have to decide whether to film. It’s the same kind that police academies use.

Women have told me that she is more patient and thorough than the male instructors they see around them. Most found her online – her website is hard to miss. And she talks to them about kids and gun safety. Pitt regularly hosts free gun safety seminars for youth throughout the region. Often it is the children who bring the mothers to her.

“I’m honored to have them come to me,” Pitt said. She worries about them.

As their paper goals were reviewed, their scores matched, and they waited to see if they qualified for a license, she gave them some parting advice:

“It can be fashionable to carry a gun,” she warned. “But if you get your license, practice more. Practice before you carry a gun. It’s safer for everyone.

With more guns in America, it’s no wonder black women seek to level the playing field. Imagine a world where they don’t have to.

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