Theoretically, Black people have always had the right to bear arms, thanks to the second amendment. But, historically, the African American community’s relationship with guns, particularly gun ownership, has always been a mixed one. In Chicago, however, the tide is increasingly turning in favor of carrying a concealed weapon, with data showing notable increases in Black women obtaining concealed carry permits every year since Illinois began issuing licenses in 2014.
According to the Chicago Tribune:
“About 800 Black women got a license in 2014, according to Illinois State Police. So far in 2017, nearly 1,400 Black women have received a concealed carry permit — already more than all of 2016. In all, more than 4,000 Black women have received a concealed carry license in Cook County.”
Though African American women still make up a very small percentage of concealed carry applicants overall, what’s unique to this increase is the underlying concern over personal safety. In their profile of Black women who’ve obtained a license to carry, the Tribune notes, all said they “were spurred by a growing concern for their safety, particularly in neighborhoods where crime has surged in recent years.”
As Javondlynn Dunagan, owner of the women’s self-defense business JMD Defense & Investigations which provides classroom training for firearms, put it: “I think women are finally realizing (that) we’re becoming victims out here.”
Philip Smith, founder of the National African American Gun Association, confirmed he’s seen an increase in Black women buying guns as well. In just the two years since its 2015 founding, the Georgia-based association has spread from four local chapters to 45 nationwide. And out of more than 20,000 members, 60 percent are women.
“Smith, also a concealed carry owner, said the presidential election in 2016 and racial tension contributed to the increase,” the Tribune reported. “For a single woman, especially a mother, a gun replaces a male presence in a home, he said.”
While many continue to debate whether gun ownership is a solution to the problem or adds to the issue of gun violence, for the women who’ve decided to execute their right to bear arms, being able to protect themselves provides a sense of security and community they can’t find elsewhere.
“It’s like a part of me now,” now said 51-year-old Vernetta Robinzine who lives in the Beverly neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. Robinzine’s home was burglarized in 2008, leaving her feeling “totally violated,” but it wasn’t until this spring that she applied for a permit after noticing greater criminal activity closer to her home. She said, “I just didn’t want to feel like a victim or vulnerable.”