In recent years, story after story has furthered the narrative that Black women are the fastest growing group of gun owners in the country, reported The Trace. While there are some surveys and recent academic research to support this assertion, conclusive evidence remains elusive. Yet the narrative rings true to many Black gun owners, including many of the more than a dozen interviewed for this story. It’s also supported by the gender breakdown of the more than 40,000 members of the National African American Gun Association, a majority of whom are female.
The most recent data to support the claim of surging gun sales by Black women comes from Deborah Azrael, a public health researcher at Harvard University. Azrael conducted a nationally representative survey of gun owners during the pandemic, and found that overall 10 percent of gun owners were Black and 37 percent were women. But among respondents who said they purchased a firearm for the first time between January 2019 and April 2021, some 21 percent were Black and 48 percent were women. In an interview, Azrael said the data was notable, but cautioned against drawing sweeping conclusions about Black women’s buying habits because of the survey’s small sample size.
The club’s growth coincided with a nationwide explosion in gun sales — in 2020, Americans purchased an estimated 21.8 million firearms, the highest year on record by a gigantic margin. Sales fell to 18.9 million in 2021, but that was still almost three million more than the pre-pandemic record. This heightened desire for weaponry has been largely attributed to the pandemic and the ambient level of unease it created. Then, the Memorial Day killing of George Floyd spurred a stir-crazy populace to venture outdoors and protest. Those historic demonstrations sometimes bent toward havoc and left a number of people feeling safer with a weapon nearby; with the breakdown in social order throughout many cities, there was no telling if police could respond in time to concerns over rioting or to relatively mundane and personal crises.
Last, the election of President Joe Biden stoked fears that gun control measures were on the way, further driving up sales. While on the campaign trail, Biden vowed to reinstate an assault weapons ban and regulate new categories of firearms. (More than a year into his presidency, those pledges remain unfulfilled, and it is unclear whether or not he will push forward any major gun control bills before this November’s midterm elections, while his party still controls both houses of Congress.)
But there is another reason, rarely captured by research or national surveys, why Black women are arming themselves. It’s the same reason why Brown prioritized being around others like herself before any activity in particular: to cultivate a sense of community.
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