The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent


"Black Women Who Once Hated Guns Are Embracing Them as Crime Soars"


From today's article in the Washington Post (Peter Jamison) (reprinted, without a paywall, in the Philadelphia Tribune), documenting a trend that I generally very much favor:

Like many Black women in [the D.C. area] …, [Patrice Parker had] viewed guns for most of her life as the root of the violence that had wrecked countless lives in her community.

That changed, paradoxically, after her son was shot to death in a parking lot not far from her home. Exasperated with the police response and in despair over the sheer number of weapons on the streets, Parker decided there was only one way to protect what remained of her family. And that was to pick up a gun herself.

"I always felt like you needed to take the guns off the street. But the way things are now …. I don't feel safe anymore," she said. "You can't trust nobody."

Across America, Black women are taking up arms in unprecedented numbers…. Scarred—sometimes literally—by the firsthand consequences of gun violence and disenchanted with decades of urban gun-control policies that they regard as largely ineffective, some Black women in D.C. and other cities are embracing a view long espoused by Second Amendment activists: that only guns will make them safer….

As a child growing up in Southeast Washington during that era, Keeon Johnson learned to fear the weapons that routinely ended the lives of her neighbors.

"I wasn't into guns at all," Johnson said, "because we were told that guns were bad."

Decades later, serving as the Democratic chairwoman of an Advisory Neighborhood Commission in Ward 8, Johnson began to wonder whether her faith in her party's repeated promises of stricter gun control was misplaced…. [Eventually, s]he and her husband, Frenchie Johnson, … became NRA-certified instructors last year. Now they teach classes, catering specifically to Black people from D.C. and Prince George's, out of their home in White Plains, Md….

One of their first students was Janae Hammett, 37, who had gone to elementary school with Johnson in D.C. and whose children's father was shot to death in 2010. Given that history, Hammett said she was initially "on eggshells" around guns. But her comfort level increased the more she shot, and eventually she joined Johnson in forming the Second Amendment Sista Society, a club for Black women in the Washington region who are interested in guns.

Hammett said her transformation was driven, fundamentally, by desperation. Illegal guns, it seemed, were everywhere. If she couldn't count on anyone else to protect her, why shouldn't she legally own a gun to protect herself?

"I don't think the government, police or anybody will ever get a hold of the illegal guns," she said….

As a woman in a dangerous place, she had always feared she would be unable to defend her family. Her son's killers were still out there. But with a gun, Parker felt less vulnerable, especially with the knowledge she had gained at the Choppa Community [a local gun range].

"They took the fear out of me," she said.

Parker was waiting for the paperwork to come through on her concealed-carry license, and in the meantime she was trying to share her revelation with others….

The article cites two experts who argue that gun possession undermines safety rather than promoting it, but none who argues the contrary (and there certainly are prominent criminologists, such as Gary Kleck, who have indeed argued that gun possession generally tends to make the possessor safer). But in any case, I thought it was noteworthy that the article documented this trend, and took a generally positive tone on it.