On Monday, as part of The Hill’s “Changing America: Shared Destiny. Shared Responsibility” project, in the “Respect: Diversity + Inclusion” section was an article titled “Gun ownership among Black Americans is soaring.”
“‘In times of uncertainty people want to be able to have the means to defend themselves,’ a law professor said,” the article begins.
— The Hill (@thehill) April 5, 2021
The “story at a glance” is that “Black gun owners are responsive to white on black violence,” and that “There is a correlation between the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Philando Castile and Black gun owners, according to reports.”
The tone of the article appears to make the deliberate argument that there is a direct link between “white violence” and “black gun ownership,” while subtly implying that such a link is the primary driving factor.
“Black people are buying guns at a high record rate, partially due to fear and anxiety, according to The Guardian,” The Hill report continued.
“Black people owning guns have gone up 58.2 percent, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) — and gun groups like the ‘Not F**king Around Coalition (NFAC)’ consist of armed social justice advocates who demand justice for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, visibly strapped with handguns.”
Later, the article discussed “The National African American Gun Association (NAAGA), a Black alternative to the National Rifle Association (NRA),” which “saw its membership increase rapidly to about 30,000 members” in 2019 following Philando Castile’s death. The organization, which has been in business since 2015, has 75 chapters nationwide.
“Black people and women of color like to come to our facility because we’re not the typical redneck with a tattoo of the Three Percenters,” said Anubis Heru, the owner of the first black-owned firearm store and simulator range in Denver, according to The Hill.
A brief analysis, however, shows that this report is potentially guilty of cherry-picking from among a small proportion of black gun owners in order to promote the claim that “white violence” is a central concern for the black community.
According to the Pew Research Center, black people make up 24% of gun owners, while white people account for 36% of gun owners and Hispanics make up 15% of gun owners. In terms of total population, black people make up 13.4% of the population. With around 72 million people reported to own a firearm in the United States, this means that over 17 million black people own firearms.
This also means that just 0.18% of these people are members of the NAAGA, and 0.02% are members of the NFAC.
Given that the vast majority of black gun owners are not members of these groups, it seems strange that The Hill focused so heavily on these organizations in particular. Indeed, the original Guardian report referenced by The Hill didn’t provide any insight regarding the proportion of black gun owners who were motivated by a fear of “white violence.”
“Though Black Americans have a multitude of reasons for buying a gun – some new gun owners told the Guardian about stress related to the pandemic, others about the anxiety of seeing scores of armed white protesters rallying against lockdown orders or the election results,” the Guardian reported.
The careful selection of examples, along with the militaristic image chosen for the article itself, suggests that the reality of gun ownership has — yet again — been editorialized to suit a broader political narrative.
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