Black gun ownership on the rise, NRA membership declines

Carol Ozemhoya | OW Contributor | 9/11/2019, 11:12 a.m.

Last week, Our Weekly reported that the National African American Gun Association (NAAGA) will be holding its first convention next year in Atlanta. This week, it’s being reported that NAAGA membership is on the rise, at the same time NRA membership is on the decline.

Membership is down and its board is also losing members, reports CBS News. NAAGA was founded by Phillip Smith, who fondly remembers the first tome he fired his 9mm pistol at a gun range. “I felt free,” Smith said. “I had a chance to kind of have some power in my hands.” Smith formed the first chapter of the National African American Gun Association, or NAAGA, in Atlanta. “I didn’t think I’d get more than 30 people…" Smith said. But in just five years, NAAGA has started 75 chapters with more than 30,000 members, more than 90 percent of which is Black.

“We have folks from every walk of life,” Smith said. “Black doctors, gay, straight, Republicans, Democrats. You name it, we have it … We're not monolithic in why we’re all here. We have different reasons," he said.

When asked why the members didn’t just join the NRA, Smith said that “the NRA is good for some people that are having that perspective. Our perspective is for Black folks.”

Nezida Davis joined NAAGA to learn how to protect herself. She’s not alone: more than 60 percent of NAAGA members are Black women. “I’m usually looked at like I’m a Martian,” Davis said. “I mean, literally, if I come in and I get ready to go into the gun range, people are looking at me like, ‘Why is she here? Black women don’t shoot.’ But we shoot.”

After Black churchgoers were targeted in Charleston and Mexicans were targeted in El Paso, members say they are prepared to defend themselves.

“It’s crime in our communities, but it’s also a White nationalist,” Davis said. “I mean, I do believe they’re emboldened … And, yes, I wanna be armed. I’m not goin’ down without a fight. So I look at it that way. And so by bein’ able to protect ourselves, by training properly and getting our practice in, and learning how to defend ourselves, at least we will be able to fight back if we are attacked -- from White supremacists or White nationalists.”

NAAGA promotes the Second Amendment and social justice. But Smith said he’s aware of the dangers of being Black and legally armed in America. He pointed to the Philando Castille case in Minnesota, in which Castile, who was licensed to carry a gun, was shot and killed by a police officer during a 2016 traffic stop. NAAGA immediately condemned the shooting. Smith pointed out that other prominent gun rights groups, such as the NRA, did not.

“Them not speaking up says more to us than anything. Are you in agreement with that? I couldn’t be silent. Tears came outta my eyes, when I heard this brother got shot,” Smith said. “If you’re an organization that wants to get Black folks to back you up, that’s the best way. Speak out when you see injustice. Don’t sit there silently, like you don’t know what’s happening. ‘Cause we’re a very intelligent group of folks.” NAAGA is talking about endorsing candidates.