Young and Lewis comment on rise in Black gun ownership

August 31, 2020

The economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and the upcoming presidential election and the need to assert gun rights are spurring increases in gun ownership, according to an article in the Detroit Free Press .

And in the midst of these changes, gun owners are becoming more diverse, it says. “Nearly 15% of those who bought guns during the first six months of the year are Black, an increase of more than 50%, according to a survey from the trade organization National Shooting Sports Foundation.”

Alford Young, courtesy faculty at the Ford School and Arthur F. Thurnau professor in the department of sociology and a professor of African and African American studies, comments in the article that stereotypes about Black gun owners have persisted especially since the '60s. 

“There is a general discomfort with armed Black people,” Young said. “I’ve had several conversations with Black police officers who say the last thing I’m going to do is pull my gun out in plain clothes. Without that uniform on, they become victims of being perceived as a threatening Black person with a gun,” Young added.  

The article also quotes Ford School professor Earl Lewis, the founding director of the University of Michigan Center for Social Solutions, saying that Black gun owners are perceived differently, pointing to a case in which a Black man was perceived as threatening: Philando Castile was shot by a Minnesota police officer during a traffic stop in 2016.  

“He tried to say he was licensed to carry, which made the police officer more anxious. So, he didn’t survive,” Lewis said. “There is recognition that owning a gun can invite a certain inspection, if not suspicion.”

You can read the article here