In 1992, my life changed when I testified to the Virginia House of Delegates on changing the concealed carry laws in the state. Local police chiefs controlled who could or could not get a concealed carry permit. If the authorities did not like the way you looked — or, more specifically, if you were a person of color — you could be denied a weapon.
Beginning at the End
Not long before I appeared before the Virginia House of Delegates, I began African American Arms and Instruction, Inc. (A3i), a firearms business dedicated to training civilians and police officers. I wanted to help as many people as I could who did not have access to basic firearms safety training in the Washington, D.C. area. Ultimately, my business failed. But good came out of this defeat, and it would transform my life forever.
I attracted the attention of the Law Enforcement Alliance of America (LEAA), a pro-gun group composed of police officers, crime victims and other people interested in advancing the cause. The organization asked me to testify on behalf of the citizens of Virginia regarding concealed carry laws in the state.
The group put me up in Richmond’s luxurious Jefferson Hotel and sent a speechwriter to my room to prep me on what to say. I declined his help and reminded him that the LEAA had asked me to speak to the delegates. I asked him to allow me to speak from the heart.
The next day, I arrived at the Virginia State Capitol. The lineup included Dr. Suzanna Gratia Hupp, who had watched as a madman gunned down her mother and father during the infamous Texas Luby’s massacre in October 1991. Hupp’s testimony was dramatic and touching; I stood by speechless. (You can hear an example of her compelling testimony here.) Afterward, politicians interrogated her and attempted to discredit her testimony. It left me fuming.
A Choice and a Chance
I was up next. It was my first foray into the gun-control debate. I introduced myself as an active firearms trainer, a federal law enforcement officer and a son of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Continuing, I told the delegates that I grew up in the rural part of the state and was here because Virginia had a history of denying gun rights to people like me — people of color. I urged my listeners to break down these racial barriers. I wasn’t asking for anything special, just a choice and a chance for minorities to defend themselves just like a white person could.
The room fell silent. I thought I had done something wrong. I said thank you and stepped away from the podium. Shaking my head, I walked to the hallway only to be greeted with a wide smile from my new friend in the NRA Institute for Legislative Affairs. “When Suzanne finished, they had questions,” I expressed to her. “Nobody said anything to me.” She joyfully replied, “I know, you left them speechless. That never happens,” and congratulated me. The rest is history.
The Black Man With a Gun website debuted in 1999. Since then, I’ve testified in the state Legislatures of Virginia, Texas, South Carolina, Michigan, Maryland and Wisconsin for concealed carry reform and the rights of all gun owners. I’ve been nationally recognized as the Black Man With a Gun for 20 years. I retired from the spotlight in November 2019. However, gun rights is a never-ending debate. It’s time for younger men and women to pick up the standard and continue the struggle.
About Kenn Blanchard
Reverend Kenn Blanchard is an ordained Baptist pastor, former U.S. Marine, federal police officer and firearms trainer known internationally as the Black Man With a Gun™. He has been active in improving gun laws nationally since 1991, founding many untraditional gun groups. Kenn was one of the champions for concealed carry reform, lobbying the U.S. Congress and in the state Legislatures of Virginia, Texas, South Carolina, Michigan, Maryland and Wisconsin. His podcast, “The Black Man With A Gun Show” (2007- 2019) was one of the first pro-gun podcasts. After being featured in four documentaries and authoring several books, Kenn has semi-retired from gun activism. His newest podcast can be found at http://KennsPodcast.com.