The last two years have added millions of new gun owners, with various statistics soaring above 11-14 million or more! But one of the most exciting statistics to acknowledge is the growth in the numbers of minorities who are joining the 2A community. According to NSSF data, ownership of firearms among Black Americans increased 58.2% through the first six months of 2020. And those numbers remained steady in 2021 — outpacing every other demographic. There have also been notably large pockets of growth with women of color, who have been pushing forward in their firearms journeys and purchasing their first guns. Nearly 87% of gun stores nationwide showed an increase in Black women buying firearms just within the first six months of 2021.
The Slow Start to Diversifying Gun Owners
Personally, I have seen a tremendous amount of variation in the firearms community, especially within the last five years or so. For instance, when I first started teaching instructor and training counselor courses with the USCCA, I mostly saw older white males represented in the classroom. Of course, that’s been rather typical and expected in the industry for many decades. But something really started to change. Slowly but surely, we started to have large groups of women showing up to these programs. We also started to see so much more diversity. For me, this proved what many of us have been noticing, encouraging and sharing for years: The face of firearms ownership is changing … and it looks much more like a representation of America.
My friend Joy Allen, owner of E3 Personal Defense & Safety, LLC, shared her feelings with me on this topic.
Joy noted, “When I first started shooting — and for at least three to four years afterward — I rarely saw anyone who looked like me. Outside of my meetings for The Well Armed Woman and the occasional NRA Women on Target clinic, I rarely came across any females. Even more, I took tons of training courses and visited the range religiously but almost never saw women of color. This was the main reason I became an instructor; I realized that many communities did not have access, or feel comfortable accessing, what was needed to safely exercise their Second Amendment rights. I felt a responsibility to try and fill that gap. From 2020 forward, I began to see so much more diversity. I was blessed to train many women and other minority groups. In 2020, I also founded InHER Piece, for the same purpose. The interest was mind-blowing!”
Joy got her start with firearms through her husband, a USMC veteran.
She recalls, “I wasn’t necessarily afraid of guns, but I was afraid of having them in the home while my children were small. When I was comfortable with their maturity level, I asked my husband to teach me how to shoot. He did the best thing possible: he paid someone else to teach me how to shoot! He enrolled me in a course with Chris Tilley, one of the best! I still remember taking my very first shot. It was empowering! It was liberating! From there, I just started to practice. I visited the range two to three times per week and was pleasantly surprised. I rarely saw females, but the gentlemen were always kind. They coached me. They allowed me to shoot their guns. I was hooked and learned quickly that an entire community was present to help me grow.”
A Need to Self-Protect
I shared the aforementioned NSSF statistics with Joy and asked if she has personally witnessed the growth of gun ownership and training within the African American community during the last few years.
She enthusiastically replied, “I have absolutely witnessed this! As the founder of InHER Piece and a chapter leader within the National African American Gun Association, I’m so excited to see people openly willing to learn about and exercise their 2nd Amendment rights. Guns are taboo in many cultures. The political backdrop of 2020, along with COVID and all the downstream factors, made people, in my opinion, more aware of their needs to ‘self-protect.’ And let’s be honest: Representation matters! When one woman sees another with a firearm, she is more likely to consider it. When an African American sees another with a firearm (without the influence of the media, entertainment or negative press), they are more likely to consider it. I believe we’ve witnessed a domino effect for 2A.”
It’s an honor to stand alongside fellow instructors like Joy and work however, whenever and wherever we can to encourage continued growth while offering a welcoming and accepting environment for everyone who wants to learn to be safe and responsible with firearms. And as she so eloquently sums up to encourage even more new gun owners into the fold, “Never fearful; always prepared! And it’s your right! Enough said.”
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Are you a woman involved in firearms and/or shooting sports? How can we get more women to the range? Share how you got your start in the comments below!