by Xian R. Brooks
In February of 2017, after seven years of self-reflection, internal debate, and fear, I became a gun owner.
I was not raised with guns. In fact, I was raised to fear them. Fear them because they could kill you. Fear people with them, especially police, because they could kill you.
We were never allowed to play with toy guns or even form finger guns with our forefinger and thumb, as children do, for that very reason. I knew nothing about them, except for the harm that they could cause to my Black body.
During the seven years of reflection and internal struggle I first had to overcome the fear, that was to be, navigating as a Black, masculine/male presenting person in america with a firearm.
Overcoming this fear took me down a path of learning about the politics and laws around gun ownership and how they applied to me. Very quickly, I concluded that none of the protective laws applied to me, and that gun rights advocates would remain stone silent in the event of my wrongful demise and violation of constitutional rights at a routine traffic stop.
It became clear that gun laws were antiquated and rooted in yt supremacy, and never intended for my Black hands to ever touch one, let alone carry one as part of my constitutional right to bear arms.
Contrary to the experience of many cis yt gun owners, I knew that carrying a firearm would not make me safer, it could make me a target. With that in mind, I opted to not carry and left my gun at home.
The second hurdle for me was to reconcile what it TRULY meant to own and carry a firearm. I understood that guns were designed for one thing; to harm or kill.
While people may shoot competitively or hunt for “sport,” there is no such thing. A firearm’s main objective is not for sport. Was I prepared to use my firearm if my life or the life of my partner or future kids were being threatened? Was I prepared (mentally and emotionally) to neutralize a threat, even if it meant loss of life? How would I protect myself (legally) if I did?
I had to figure out if I wanted any of the responsibilities that came with being a gun owner, and the extra responsibilities that came with being a Black gun owner. At the end of it all, I looked to ancestor Malcolm X to make my final decision:
“If a man speaks the language of brute force, you can’t come to him with peace. Why goodnight! He’ll break you in two, as he has been doing all along…… Learn the language that they understand, and then when they come up on our doorstep to talk, we can talk.”
For me, it is important to fully understand this tool of oppression, as well as speak the language of the oppressor, if need be.
On October 24, 2018, in a Kroger in Jeffersontown, KY, Mr. Maurice E. Stallard (69) and Ms. Vickie Lee Jones (67) were murdered by a yt supremacist.
They were murdered at the Kroger that my mother and aunt went to. They were murdered shortly before my mother went to that very Kroger.
She arrived at the traumatizing and chaotic scene of a murderer being apprehended. Ms. Jones was my mothers neighbor. She went to her funeral. She saw her family mourn. She mourned. She was scared. She was mad. She didn’t want to go anywhere, especially to Kroger. The following day, I open carried for the first time. My friends were scared for me. My mom was worried. They told me to be careful. Though I knew they were coming from a place of love and care, I would ask them, “What does careful even mean?”
I am not a fan of open carrying. While I like that it helps to normalize gun ownership among other people of color; making space for questions and conversations, I do not like the overall attention that I feel it brings from yt people and law enforcement.
I did not like that it made me feel like a target. In February 2019, after completing my course and test, I received my carry concealed deadly weapon permit (CCDW). I was intentional about having a teacher of color that was able to speak to the specific fears and concerns that I had.
That said, my new ability to conceal my weapon did not make me feel safer or less of a target. So why carry at all? Because I can!
Due to state sanctioned violence and reverberating disenfranchisement; such as unfair drug possession laws and the legal definition of intent to sell, there is a disproportionate amount of people that look like me and navigate the world as I do that can’t legally own and carry.
Moreover, there is a disproportionate amount of people that look like me and navigate the world as I do that do not feel safe* enough or empowered to do so.
On June 27, 2019, KY Senate Bill 150 went into effect, making Kentucky a constitutional carry state: meaning anyone that can legally possess a firearm or other deadly weapon, can conceal carry it without completing an education course or obtaining a permit.
In the wake of this new law, it is imperative that people of color talk about gun ownership and safety. We must talk about what this law means for us, even if we do not own or carry firearms.
How will we keep ourselves and each other safe*? But more importantly, we MUST know that this law is not for us. If you have your CCDW, maintain it, keep it up to date. If you were considering obtaining your CCDW, still do it. Know the laws. Know the rules. Know your rights. Be safe*.
My family’s outlook on guns has drastically changed. My brother was the first to own, then me. And my mom? She has a sweet .380 revolver. I’m not going to lie, in a world that seems to have lost all mental faculties, allowing open yt supremacy and regressing to segregation era violence, the thought of sharing space with someone in possession of a firearm, that has no training, terrifies the shit out of me! This yt law will, no doubt, affect our Black bodies.
But go on, come up on our doorstep to talk, we can talk.
*Whatever that means.