It’s been a tumultuous couple of years for Black Americans. On top of a global pandemic which affected Black Americans at double the rate of white people, and a U.S. presidential election in which the incumbent Trump stoked the flames of white supremacist rage throughout the country, there was a heavy dousing of institutionalized racism beginning with the murder of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor by Louisville police in March 2020 and culminating months later in September 2020 when the cops who killed her weren’t charged with her death.

Additionally, nationwide protests consumed the time between those two tragedies, as protesters demanded justice for Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man killed on video by Minneapolis police in May 2020. While the eruption of marches, riots and rallies throughout summer 2020 did the necessary work of raising awareness and demanding systemic changes to policing, and even the abolition of police and prisons altogether, these demonstrations were used by racist law enforcement and white nationalists as opportunities to target Black people with racist violence and indiscriminate arrests.

The heightened threat of targeted violence — along with the chaos of riots looming — triggered many Black Americans to consider gun ownership in order to protect themselves. 

“One of the main reasons I’m hearing from people about why they decided to get their FOID card, and come take classes, is the civil unrest,” Kourtney Redmond said. He’s a concealed carry instructor and the president of the 761st Gun Club, which is the Chicago chapter of the National African American Gun Association.

“People don’t want to have to rely on CPD in the case of a riot and you need to defend your family,” Redmond added. 

After Triibe columnist Bella BAHHS’ interview with Kim Foxx, where they discussed how the environment Black Chicagoans live in can inspire them to purchase guns to feel safe, we connected with Black gun owners in Chicago: both newcomers and long-time enthusiasts. With so much conversation surrounding the idea of Black people starting to purchase more guns, we wanted to unpack why Black Chicagoans choose to arm themselves, and how training and carrying has changed the way they view guns. 

According to data from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), gun purchases by Black people jumped 56 percent nationwide in 2020, the largest increase of any demographic that year.


For Redmond, who teaches concealed carry basics, gun maintenance, and defensive gun tactics under his brand Red Hill Gunsmithing at various locations across the state, he’s witnessed a massive increase in enrollment for his gun safety courses

“Black people have always had the same second amendment right to keep and bear arms. I think, more or less, we’re just starting to realize that and enforce it,” Redmond said. 

While Black people have always taken up arms for protection from white racists (see: Harriett Tubman, Nat Turner), our right to bear arms became protected by the Constitution after the passage of the 14th Amendment in 1866. In practice though, we’ve never been safe while exercising our second amendment rights. 

There is the 20th-century example of the Black Panthers, who had their rights stripped in 1967 when the Mulford Act repealed a law allowing open carrying of firearms in California. And there is the the contemporary example of Philando Castile who was killed in 2016 just for telling an officer that he was in possession of a gun during a traffic stop, 

In a conversation with NPR about her new book The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America, historian Carol Anderson explained the Second Amendment itself was written with Black oppression as its subtext.

According to Anderson, the reason the amendment refers specifically to the formation of a well-regulated militia is that, before they voted to ratify the constitution, folks from Virginia wanted to ensure that they could continue to form state militias that could be used to stop slave revolts. Basically, they wanted to protect their guns to keep their slaves in check.

One of the things that I argue throughout this book is that it is just being Black that is the threat. And so when you mix that being Black as the threat with bearing arms, it’s an exponential fear,” Anderson said. “This isn’t an anti-gun or a pro-gun book. This is a book about African Americans’ rights.”

West Side resident Kwame Fisher* had his Second Amendment rights taken from him before he ever got the opportunity to be educated about guns. When he was first introduced to guns as an adolescent, Fisher had no idea he could own them legally. All he knew was that he liked them because they gave him a sense of security in the streets that he didn’t have before. 

At the age of 19, Fisher was arrested for a gun offense in Chicago. Now, at age 37, he said he still cannot legally purchase a firearm. But to this day, he is committed to ensuring that his family is properly educated and equipped with firearms.

“I can’t own guns, but I’m a gun enthusiast. My wife, the rest of the family, they’ve gotten educated. They got their licenses. They own guns,” Fisher said. “I didn’t know anything about gun safety or licenses. I didn’t know there was such a thing as sports that involved shooting guns. My elders always stressed how dangerous and scary they were, but I didn’t feel that way.” 

Gun culture and gun ownership have varying connotations based on geographic setting. According to Pew Research, nearly half of all adults living in rural areas nationwide say they own a gun, whereas urban living adults own guns at a rate of 19%. This disparity is largely based on perception. 

Gun ownership is extremely difficult to measure in the United States, partly because there’s no federal registry tracking who owns them. So, researchers have traditionally estimated ownership with surveys like the Pew one, by looking at gun-suicide data, or other methods. A recent study analyzed federal firearm licenses, which gun dealerships are required to get from the ATF, to estimate gun density in every county in the United States. The study found gun violence was higher in counties that had more gun dealers within 100 miles. In 2019, there were 58 licensed gun dealers in Cook County, (even though there are zero within Chicago). In Coles County, home to rural Mattoon, Illinois, there are 28.  

In urban locales like Cook County, guns are this ominous symbol that represents the scariest type of crime, whereas in a rural town like Mattoon, Illinois, it wouldn’t be unusual to queue up at a store like Rural King with a shotgun in the cart next to your dog food.

“It was especially important to me to have my family educated about guns because I know I can’t always be around,” Fisher said. “I can feel better knowing that my wife has the ability to protect herself and our son.”

Pavielle Goldman, a 32-year-old living in Bronzeville, said she was gifted her first gun by her ex-partner’s father at the start of the 2020 uprisings. She’s among an interesting trend within the increase in Black gun ownership; according to NSSF, 87 percent of the gun stores surveyed nationwide saw an increase in their sales to Black women in particular. 

Once Goldman went to the gun range for the first time, she started to see the value of owning a gun.

“I decided that I always wanted to be able to protect myself,” she said. “Now, as a single woman living in the city, with all of this craziness happening around me, from women being attacked by bitter men to more general violence across the city, I want some sense of security. Having my gun gives me that.”

In Chicago, the fear of guns is more deeply ingrained into the psyche of Black people than any other demographic. Black Chicagoans are most familiar with guns as victims or witnesses to shootings rather than as tools for sport or daily protection. We’ve seen too often the lives of our loved ones and neighbors cut short by gun violence so our relationship with guns is mostly traumatic.


As Black people start to go out and educate themselves about guns, Redmond said, that relationship begins to shift.

“One of the things I take pride in as an instructor is after I’ve taught someone how to carry, how to fire a gun, how to manage recoil, I see them go from clueless to competent and confident that they can protect their family in any situation,” Redmond said.

The caveat, he explained, is that access to firearm education has been intentionally stifled in Chicago with a clear bias against poor people in particular. 

“When you start to look at guns that are banned, many of them are common, cheap guns that anyone could afford. Weapons like the Derringer, and Saturday night special were affordable guns that you can no longer buy legally in Illinois,” he said.

There are no gun stores within Chicago’s city limits. So if you’re a Chicago resident, you’re forced to go through the daunting task of going to the burbs to buy a gun, and if you own a gun and just want to practice shooting you would need to travel to a suburb like Bridgeview, Oak Forest or Riverdale to find the closest gun ranges. 

This physical distance from opportunities to learn how to safely own, carry and use a gun helps foster an environment where the narrative of guns as a tool for criminals remains the dominant one in the minds of Black Chicagoans. 

Dwain Linear, 32, has taken it upon himself to pull his family up out of that mindset.

“I grew up in a household where guns weren’t really a foreign thing, but they were a forbidden thing,” said Linear, a West Side native and open carry license holder. “When I signed up for my CCL class, I took my mom and my aunt with me. I helped my little brother and my niece sign up for their FOID cards. It’s been important to get my family educated and armed.”

Linear said he hasn’t had many issues with being a gun-carrying Black man, but he does worry about how our current gun laws are enforced. Legal education around guns is severely lacking amongst law enforcement as much as anyone. He referenced a query about gun transportation to illuminate the issue. 

“I called six different police stations about what I had to do to make sure I was transporting my gun in and out of the city legally. I got six different answers,” Linear said. “I understand they’re not lawyers or legislators, but it’s unsettling at the same time since they’re the ones who have to enforce it.”

The story of Black gun ownership in Chicago is complicated. For the longest, the conversation has started and ended with a deafening fear of guns amongst Black Chicagoans who have seen them be used to do the worst. But there is a growing culture that encourages education and training above all else, and provides people with a sense of safety that they’ve never felt moving around the city unarmed. 

Fisher gave a simple breakdown of exactly where that newfound sense of safety comes from when you own a gun. 

“When you don’t own a gun, you’re a victim. Meaning that when someone is seeking to do harm to you, they have the upper hand,” he said. “When you have the proper training and knowledge of safety, you’re preventing yourself from being a victim. You’re ready and you don’t have to get ready.” 

*Kwame Fisher is a pseudonym used to protect the identity of the source quoted in the story.

is a staff writer with The TRiiBE. Email him with news tips.