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Gun culture in South L.A.

William Covington | 5/9/2013, 5:11 p.m.
The good, the bad and the ugly

View Park resident and retired Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) police officer David Anthony couldn’t believe his eyes when he entered the Lock n’ Load gun and ammo store in Henderson, Nev.

But there it was right in plain view, a pristine 60mm machine gun positioned high on a shelf for sale; a weapon, he feels, that kept him and his platoon alive during his tour of duty as a 19-year-old machine gunner in 1968 in the Vietnam War.

As Anthony gazed up at the weapon, he explained to his friend, retired State Public Safety Officer David Johnson, how its firepower held the Vietcong at bay when they attacked his firebase.

During his Vietnam tour, Anthony’s daily routine, when he wasn’t engaged in a firefight in the country’s Central Highlands, was to disassemble that M60 and clean it, he explained. The storeowner, overhearing Anthony, looked at him questioningly.

“You can disassemble that M60?” he asked.

“Yes I can,” said Anthony, confidently, even though he had not handled the weapon since his days with the National Guard in 1982.

The owner took down the 25-pound weapon and placed it on the counter in front of Anthony.

“Be my guest,” he said.

Anthony immediately disassembled the M60 and then reassembled it.

“Give me $10,000 and you can take it home,” the owner said.

Anthony smiled. “Next time,” he said.

Anthony’s passion for guns began during his tour in Vietnam and continued throughout his law-enforcement career. He believes it is a result of a philosophy that has been with him since 1968—“I have to depend on myself for protection.”

Both Anthony and Johnson are believers in gun control as a result of the violence they have encountered in South Los Angeles while living and working there. But they belong to a group of African Americans that have a passion for guns. This group consists of a mix of law-abiding citizens as well as some who have had run-ins with the law. Members of this gun-packing posse run the spectrum from gangster rappers to professional athletes, military veterans, peace officers, drug dealers and gang members.

Anthony believes it’s going to be a challenge to change the country’s passion for guns—especially conservatives in gun clubs—because of the constitutional right to bear arms. He believes conservatives think guns are needed to maintain what the forefathers took from others in establishing the nation.

Former state trooper Johnson was asked if African American peace officers belonged to a subculture of individuals attracted to firing ranges and gun shows?

That may be one way of looking at it, he responded. However, you must understand that the gun culture of peace officers, regardless of race, is the same, he explained. There is no difference because of ethnicity regarding guns.

“A 21-year-old being able to legally carry a weapon is a big rush,” Johnson said. “As a young peace officer, you will go out and purchase three or four guns. However, as you get older you realize it isn’t a big deal, but you continue to frequent gun shows and gun stores and examine the newest technology, because you are looking for something that is better for you—a weapon with a greater round capacity, knock-down power. Because if you are in a shoot-out, you only have one chance. In shoot-outs, cops do not have a second chance.”