By: Robert Davis
When Daniel Boykin was growing up in Biloxi, Mississippi during the 1990s, his father and uncle taught him to shoot shotguns as a way for the men to bond.
But guns weren’t always a recreational activity. Boykin admits he was taunted regularly because of the color of his skin.
“Growing up, I must have been called the N-word more than my real name,” Boykin told Gunpowder Magazine.
No one ever threatened Boykin’s life, but one night, his girlfriend had a bottle thrown at her head by a group of white boys passing her in their pickup truck.
“I was really scared for her then,” Boykin said. “She was completely vulnerable.”
Boykin’s interest in guns deepened as he hit adulthood. Before long, the now-25-year-old realized he could help protect his community with the knowledge his father and uncle passed down to him.
Boykin took a trip into the Colorado woodlands with a couple of friends, each of whom shared similar stories of being victims of racism. Boykin taught his friends the basics of gun safety, rules like always treating a gun as if it’s loaded, never pointing a gun at anything you don’t intend to destroy, and how to load and unload a firearm properly.
“After the trip, I realized I had changed their lives forever. They learned how to defend themselves without harming others,” Boykin said.
After the trip, Boykin started writing the constitution for Ogun Gun Club, an African-American club and National African-American Gun Association (NAAGA) affiliate.
African-American gun ownership has risen drastically in the last few years. According to Pew Research, 32 percent of black households currently have a gun in them, up from 18.1 percent in 2014. NAAGA has added more than 9,000 members since Election Day 2016 and has shown no signs of slowing down. The group was founded in 2015 and currently boasts more than 18,000 members in 24 chapters across the country.
A New Surge in Gun Owners
The election of Barack Obama in 2008 was a boon to the gun industry. According to estimates by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSFF), the industry’s economic impact grew from $19.2 billion in 2008 to nearly $50 billion by 2016.
Black women make up the largest demographic of new gun club members nationwide. Following Donald Trump’s election in November 2016, the non-profit organization Brown Girls with Guns has trained more than 225 black women in self-defensive gun use and gun safety. Those classes have been full since December 2016.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to prepare our students in a different way to give them the best chance of making it home,” Tiffany Ware, founder of Brown Girls Project and Brown Girls with Guns, told Gunpowder Magazine. “But that is our goal, to train them to not be victims.”
Same Worries Still Reside
Though black gun ownership is steadily rising, some minority gun owners are worried about increased restrictions on their Second Amendment rights.
“Throughout American history, gun control has been a method for keeping African-Americans and Hispanics ‘in their place,’ [as almost a type of] a racial control,” Ware said.
Blacks were restricted from owning firearms under the Black Codes during Reconstruction. Even black Civil War veterans were forced to turn over their guns after the war ended.
In 1967, California governor Ronald Regan passed the Mulford Act, which banned the open carry of loaded firearms. The legislation was passed in direct response to the Black Panthers patrolling neighborhoods.
“Openly carrying a gun is an act of violence or near violence,” said Bill Mulford, the bill’s sponsor. The Mulford Act is still on the books in California, the nation’s most populous state.
“Murders of black people with no one paying the consequences for impulsive and hate-filled actions definitely incites even more fear and motivation to exercise our Second Amendment [rights],” Ware said.
In 2012, Melissa Alexander was convicted on an assault charge stemming from a 2010 incident when she fired a warning shot from a gun registered in her name at her abusive husband.
In 2016, Philando Castile was killed by a police officer during a traffic stop when he admitted to having a gun – and a concealed carry permit – in the car with him.
“To me, the issue simple. Everyone has a right to defend themselves from harm, period,” Boykin said.
Robert Davis is a journalist from Colorado. He covers defensive gun use and Second Amendment policy for Gunpowder Magazine. Contact him at RobertDavis0414@gmail.com.