By: Robert Davis
Two groups, Black Guns Matter and Chicago Guns Matter, are teaching responsible gun ownership and the politics surrounding the Second Amendment in an attempt to curb urban gun violence.
“I want to educate urban America about firearm safety, so people who live there can make well-informed decisions,” Maj Toure, founder of Black Guns Matter, a human rights organization from North Philadelphia, told Gunpowder Magazine. “I don’t want to do this forever. I want there to be a solution to these problems. Once the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence become pop culture again, there will be no need for this organization. I don’t want to create a career out of this. I want more people applying the information we give them.”
Firearms and Lack of Information
“I travelled across the country as a hip-hop artist before starting Black Guns Matter. In all the cities I visited, I kept seeing a similar problem: firearms and lack of information,” Toure said. “That’s why I [now] travel across the country and educate people on these issues.”
Chicago, in particular, is a case study on the ills of gun control. Though Chicago police report both murder and total shooting incidents are down in the city, 935 shootings have occurred so far this year, many of them the result of gang violence.
Toure recently spent a month in Chicago conducting seminars.
“Chicago has a high concentration of ignorance, misinformation, and fear,” Toure said. “We can’t attempt to solve these issues with one class. What makes our approach ‘out of the box’ is the fact that we go to where the homicides are. Where people tell us that we shouldn’t go to. But my question is, why would you go to somewhere it’s safe? Where people agree with you? To me, that doesn’t make sense.
“We want to go to the ugly places so we never have to have this conversation again,” Toure said. “We apply solutions. We want to galvanize urban America, stimulate that sleeping giant, and get them voting in a direction where they can vote for people who care about their individual rights.”
‘Criminals Are the Problem’
Rhonda Ezell, founder of Chicago Guns Matter, a gun rights organization that links plaintiffs from Chicago’s major gun rights cases to community members seeking answers to gun violence, points to Chicago’s revolving door justice system that plays catch-and-release with many criminals as a huge problem in the city.
“The political-powers-that-be have used the language of gun control to trick residents into thinking guns are the problem. Guns aren’t the problem; criminals are the problem,” Ezell said. “They take the Second Amendment and use it as a political pawn. In turn, lawful gun owners pay the price. If the judicial system does its job and prosecutes criminals, and [they] do jail time, that’s how you combat violence, unnecessary shootings, and car jackings. We need to make sure they prosecute and convict criminals for their crimes. They cannot use gun control as solution. There are over 300,000 concealed carry weapon holders, and if it were a matter of gun violence itself, more people would be shot and killed.”
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson echoed Ezell’s sentiments to CBS Chicago when he said criminals see the judicial system as “a joke” when it comes to holding gang gunmen accountable.
“They just don’t fear it, and until we create that mental accountability to them to not pick up a gun, we’re going to continue to see this cycle of violence, and it’s just silly, it is,” Johnson told the television station.
‘Denying Law-Abiding Citizens Their Rights’
Implementing accountability has largely been put in the hands of politicians, who have instead distorted the language of gun control away from criminality and used it to blame lawful gun owners.
One example is Chicago’s three-decade-long ban on handguns in private residences. In 1982, the city and several municipalities passed ordinances requiring gun owners to register in a state-wide database if they wanted to own a gun legally.
Similar ordinances were ruled unconstitutional under District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008. Chicago’s Winnetka, Evanston, and Northbrook neighborhoods repealed their ordinances, while Chicago and Oak Park kept them in place. McDonald v. Chicago in 2010 ruled that Chicago could not continue to enforce those ordinances.
After Heller and McDonald, Chicago passed an ordinance requiring gun owners to have eight hours of practice at a range before being issued a Firearms Owner’s Identification Card (FOID). Ezell challenged this ruling in Ezell v. Chicago, which she won.
Chicago responded to Ezell by implementing regulations that made it nearly impossible to open a gun range within the city. An appeals court issued an opinion in 2017 that said, “…Only 2.2% of the city’s total acreage is even theoretically available, and the commercial viability of any of these parcels is questionable—so much so that no shooting range yet exists.”
“They want to make sure no one owns a firearm,” Ezell told Gunpowder Magazine. “It has been three decades since Chicago passed a total ban on firearms. My case came about after McDonald, which reestablished firearm ownership inside the home. I was complying with those ordinances and felt my rights were violated. The city mandated training but prohibited gun training centers. That’s Chicago being Chicago. Denying law-abiding citizens their rights.”
Gun ranges are places where gun owners learn to respect their tool and become responsible owners. Without them, there’s little chance of solving Chicago’s gun violence epidemic.
A Way Forward
Both Ezell and Toure agree that education is a powerful tool against gun violence. They also agree that passing more gun control measures only exacerbate gun violence.
“One, stop adding guns laws,” Toure said. “They don’t work. A thousand bad guys keep doing bad stuff no matter how many laws you pass. But there’s not just one answer. People need more understanding and respect for the tool. [Chicago needs to] allow gun ranges in the city…I’ve noticed people who attend our seminars become more conservative in their approach to life. That’s why we get positive reactions from law enforcement. We’re educating people, which in turn makes their job a lot easier. I want people to master the art of de-escalation. I don’t want to ever be in a situation where I have to use my firearm.”
Robert Davis is a general assignment reporter for Gunpowder Magazine. Contact him with comments or tips at Robertdavis0414@gmail.com.