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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Are black gun owners now targets?

Dallas police respond after shots were fired during a protest over recent fatal shootings by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Dallas. Snipers opened fire on police officers during protests; several officers were killed, police said. (Maria R. Olivas/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
Dallas police respond after shots were fired during a protest over recent fatal shootings by police in Louisiana and Minnesota.  (Maria R. Olivas/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

One man told an officer during a Minnesota traffic stop that he was a licensed gun owner, and that he was reaching for his wallet, a witness said. The other was on the ground with police officers on top of him in Louisiana when someone shouted “He has a gun!”

Police in each circumstance thought the black man carrying a gun was dangerous and immediately shot him dead. Activists say black gun owners are often treated differently than white gun owners to a sometimes fatal degree.

The perception of an armed black person has not changed much since the days of slave rebellions, said the Rev. Kenn Blanchard, a former firearms instructor who runs

“If you have a firearm or you scare the wrong people, you’re going to get shot. You’re going to get killed. The perception of the scary black man still exists. The threat of the slave going rogue, it’s still there. The bad gangbanger,” Blanchard said.

Snipers opened fire on police officers in the heart of Dallas, Thursday evening, killing five officers and injuring six others during protests over two recent fatal police shootings of black men, according to police.

The gunfire broke while hundreds of people were gathered to protest fatal police shootings this week in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and suburban St. Paul, Minnesota. Protests were also held in several other cities across the country after a Minnesota officer on Wednesday fatally shot Philando Castile while he was in a car with a woman and a child. The aftermath of the shooting was livestreamed in a widely shared Facebook video. A day earlier, Alton Sterling was shot in Louisiana after being pinned to the pavement by two white officers. That, too, was captured on a cellphone video.

Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, said he told the officer during a traffic stop that he was carrying a gun for which he was licensed. Castile did “nothing but what the police officer asked of us, which was to put your hands in the air and get your license and registration,” she said.

On a video purporting to show the aftermath, the officer tells her: “I told him not to reach for it. I told him to get his hand out.”

“You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his license and registration, sir,” the woman responds.

This all comes during a discussion in the United States about the killing of black men and women by police officers after the deaths of Travyon Martin in Florida, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Freddy Gray in Baltimore. Their deaths have inspired nationwide protests under the “Black Lives Matter” moniker including protests this week over the deaths of Castile and Sterling.

“Would this have happened if those passengers would have been white? I don’t think it would have,” Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said.

“We have seen tragedies like this too many times,” President Barack Obama said Thursday. When incidents like this occur, many Americans feel it’s because they’re not being treated the same, Obama said. “That hurts.”

It can be dangerous for black men and women to own guns in this policing environment, and it shouldn’t be, considering that gun ownership is a constitutional right, said Philip Smith, president and founder of National African American Gun Association.

Sterling was a convicted felon, which would have barred him from legally carrying a gun, according to court records. It was not immediately known whether the gun held by Castile was legal.

That information might not have mattered during their confrontations with police, Smith said.

“They’re not getting any kind of the benefit of the doubt. There’s no conversation. If there is a conversation, it’s a one-way conversation where the African-American male is being yelled at, pretty much, ‘Sit down and be quiet or you’re going to get shot,’ ” Smith said.

Messages left for the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Rifle Association were not immediately returned.

The first gun-control laws were passed to keep weapons out of the hands of black slaves and freedmen in colonial days, said Nicholas J. Johnson, a Fordham University law professor and author of “Negroes and The Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms.” During the post-Civil War period and the times of slavery, Southern states imposed strict gun laws against blacks that lasted through the civil rights movement.

Police have an outsized fear of armed blacks, activists said. The majority of blacks are not armed and the majority of killers of police officers are white. The FBI said 199 law enforcement officers were killed between 2011 and 2014. Of their killers, 133 were white and 70 were black.

Blacks also are only about half as likely as whites to have a firearm in their home — 41 percent vs. 19 percent — according to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey.

But another Pew survey showed more and more blacks becoming comfortable with owning guns, with 54 percent saying in 2014 that gun ownership does more to protect people than endanger personal safety, nearly double the 29 percent from December 2012.

“Historically, African-Americans have viewed guns kind of like the boogeyman — ‘The master told you not to look at the gun and we shouldn’t touch a gun,'” Smith said. “But that mindset is changing very, very quickly.”


Jesse J. Holland covers race and ethnicity for The Associated Press. Contact him at, on Twitter at or on Facebook at


Copyright © 2016 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright  © 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

6 thoughts on “Are black gun owners now targets?”

  1. I have watched for years the abuse placed upon many people by many police officers. For the most part, there is an arrogance, (I have been video/audio recording for years. I have been abused and been along for the ride, while certain people are pulled over and harassed.) that “i’m a cop @!$%#. arrogance that many who read this understand. Now I saw on video plain clear no there needs investigation 2 black people murdered and there are more just recently but it is downplayed now by media. I want to see and hear video from robot with bomb. He was intentionally killed to keep him silent. It is unfortunate that the 5 were killed. I will not riot or protest in the streets for any reason, but do not come to my home, my neighborhood and try anything other than “sir we are bringing you supplies, we are here to protect and serve” Veterans Unite uphold and defend the Constitution of the US at all cost even if current Obama/Clinton admin declares martial law which means no LAW which means no Constitution and no recognition of human rights which again equates to the strongest survive. America your current leaders are selling you out to Big money corporations to shift sovereignty away form US and be governed by the Progressive NWO.

  2. It is very clear that both men were murdered by police officers because they are black.

    But my opinion is that bad cops are rare and most are honest protectors of the public.

    Gun ownership in this country is a disease that needs eradicated.

  3. “Would this have happened if those passengers would have been white? I don’t think it would have,” Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said.

    Wrong. In the years 2013, 2014 and 2015, a total of 782 white people were shot dead by police. In that same time frame, 464 blacks were shot dead by police.

  4. We know now that Castile was not a felon, so it just remains to be seen if he owned the gun legally.

    • Um, Mr. Thomas, isn’t is a fundamental legal right to posses a firearm? “[I]f he owned the gun legally” what, you think he stole it?

      Disagree with you there, Bill, but it’s the 99 bad apples who ruin it for the one guy in a hundred remaining. You might be amused by Mother Jones whose reporter became a prison guard and after a few months, despite trying to be a decent guy, found himself very much happy with his power and happily using and abusing it.

      I don’t know how many cops are bad. I’ve not done a proper double-blinded study. But when they start moving a guy around between prisons to avoid an FBI investigation (See the LAPD) it starts to get real questionable about how many knew and how many didn’t speak up, and how many are also part of the problem.


      • Hi Jon,

        Yes even one bad cop is too many but when you consider that state and local law enforcement agencies employed more than a million persons on a full-time basis, including about 765,000 sworn personnel with general arrest powers, plus over 100 thousand part-timers you will have some bad ones.


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