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The National African American Gun Association, known as NAAG, has tripled its chapters from 14 to 42 since President Donald Trump’s inauguration, as more people of color join gun clubs and refute the NRA. Some say they are defending themselves against racism and supporting a call to arms amid a civil rights struggle. NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Simon Ostrovsky reports.
High ready. Fire.
This gun range is similar to others across America, where firearms enthusiasts, proud and protective of their Second Amendment Rights, can practice becoming a better shot.
Whenever you're ready. How you like it?
I like it a lot.
Move, move, move, move!
But this isn't a gathering of the National Rifle Association.
Usually the clubs that I see is mostly caucasians and so I saw this club, it was pretty unique and so I gave it a shot.
In August of 2017 is when I became a member of this chapter of the National African American Gun Association.
We're with the Denver branch of the National African American Gun Association and chapters like it are opening up all across the country because for an increasing number of people of color the Trump-era has been a call to arms.
You know, some of the things that we were seeing in the news a lot of the things that the President was saying and the reactions that we saw from a lot of members of the white community — not everyone but more white supremacists — it seemed like having some form of protection was a good thing for us to have.
The incident in Charlottesville when you had the White Supremacists, the Neo-Nazis, and the White Nationalists. And they came to that protest armed to the teeth, they had all types of weapons. And when a person got run over by one of their supporters his answer was well there are good people on both sides. My theory is if you're marching under the Confederate flag or you're marching under the Nazi flag which America fought two wars to get rid of you're not a good person.
David Fannings is an Army veteran who believes the President's rhetoric has made the country less safe for minorities.
He's saying what they have thought and felt for a long time, and him being the leader of the country, it's like giving them a green light.
This is a 12 gauge shotgun. This one operates very much like an AR type rifle. For home defense a shotgun is real good. When I heard about NAAG, to be able to be a member of an organization that was run by us, for us, that appealed to me.
With just under 25 thousand members, this gun group is tiny compared to the NRA, which claims around 5 million. But In the last 14 months, the National African American Gun Association, also know as NAAG, has grown from just 14 chapters to 52. Based in Atlanta, the group's leadership doesn't sound so different from its NRA counterpart.
The Second Amendment is an important right just like any other right that we have. And it's one that our community has a complicated history with. But it's a right nonetheless that without that right, it's very hard to assume a position of a fully-fledged citizen in these United States.
But at NAAG, exercising your Second Amendment rights isn't just a way to defend yourself and your family. It's seen as an extension of something much larger: The Civil Rights struggle.
So some of the first gun control laws that came about in this country were related to race. They were related to keeping guns out of the hands of African American people.
To contain the misery and violence of the ghetto Oakland's all-white police department earned a reputation for head knocking brutality that has left a well remembered legacy of bitterness in the minds and hearts of many who lived in that time and place.
Back in the 1960s some young African Americans in Oakland, California responded to police overreach by following the police and observing arrests. They called themselves the Black Panthers. And they were armed to the teeth legally. Their armed patrols and an open carry protest at the state capital alarmed the authorities so much that in 1967 the state instituted an open-carry ban. Ironically, It was signed into law by then Governor Ronald Reagan
There's absolutely no reason why out on the street today civilians should be carrying a loaded weapon.
But as President, he strongly supported the NRA and vocally defended the Second Amendment. As does the current President.
I am also proud to be the first sitting President to address the NRA Leadership Forum since our wonderful Ronald Reagan in 1983.
I'd be lying to you if I said the political arena has not affected our membership. People look at what's going on politically and see some of the comments that are made by certain folks in high places and it makes them a little unnerving. That has definitely been a part of our growth.
While the new political climate is contributing to the interest in personal protection among African Americans.
The reason I pulled you over, your brake lights are out.
Part of the reason NAAG members aren't flocking to the NRA is a policing culture that predates Trump.
Sir I do have to tell you.
I do have a firearm on me.
Don't reach for it then. Don't pull it out.
I'm not pulling it out.
Don't pull it out.
The 2016 shooting of Philando Castile, a black gun owner with a concealed carry permit outraged the African American community. But in this instance the nation's most established gun advocacy group didn't jump to publicly defend Castile's Second Amendment right.
As far as the NRA is concerned I'm a lay it out there because I don't sugar coat it. I'm a give it to you in the raw you take it anyway you want to. But you didn't defend my son the way you would have defended a white person. They should have stood up for my son and gave him the due respect that they do anyone else that's killed in that manner.
I used to be a member of the NRA, but I don't feel supported by the NRA towards my needs in my community. So, it's just, they are not there.
Are you talking about incidents like Philando Castile?
Yes. He announced that he does have a concealed carry and it is lawful and he got shot immediately. The NRA did not come forward and condemn the deadly use of force on a person that was legally carrying.
Anytime there was an issue with someone who look like me or who I felt could be a part of my family, I don't believe the NRA had their back or had their best interest.
Our oldest son is 27, he has a concealed weapon permit. He's allowed to carry. That worries me because if he's pulled over he's going to be treated differently. And he's often targeted and pulled over. It has happened to him more times than I'd like to admit.
The NRA did not agree to an interview with Newshour Weekend. While African American interest in personal protection appears to be rising gun sales nationally are trending in the opposite direction. FBI figures show that background checks made by gun sellers dropped off during Trump's first year in office. The store in Aurora, Colorado, where the Denver chapter of NAAG trains is no exception.
For eight years when President Obama was in office gun sales were incredibly brisk so probably you know 15 to 18 percent drop overall in business since President Trump's been elected.
What do you attribute that to?
I think basically nobody is really too concerned about any new gun legislation so people are taking a big sigh and they figure that they can buy whatever they want fairly easily certainly up till maybe the midterm elections.
For now, members of NAAG will keep sharpening their shooting skills and standing up for what they see as an essential civil right.
One of the things that's always affected me personally is that I've had people say "Hey, you're a person of color, you shouldn't have guns, right? Because you can be a target, it's dangerous." And my answer to that is I should have the right to have a gun like anybody else because I'm not a second class American, I'm an American.
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