One of the least likely demographic groups in Chicago is purchasing more guns, learning how to shoot and obtaining concealed carry permits.
The Chicago Tribune reports that Cook County’s Black women had the “sharpest growth” in receiving concealed carry gun permits, at 67 percent from 2014 to 2016. Three years ago, 800 Black women received their permits. That number ballooned to nearly 1,400 so far this year.
Alexandra Filindra, who teaches political science at the University of Illinois, told the Tribune that the increase in concealed carry permits in Chicago’s Black community represents a change in attitudes about guns. She told the paper, “Given the level of violence and easy availability of guns in minority communities, most people there tend to think guns are the problem, not a solution.”
A Pew Research Center study released in June found a nearly 30 percent increase among African-American households that say gun ownership is a “necessity,” from about 30 percent in 2012 to 60 percent in 2017.
Black women in Chicago are not alone. The New York Times reported that Black women in Texas outpaced all other demographic groups in that state for obtaining concealed carry permits, from 2000 to 2016.
What’s behind this sudden rise? The Tribune said the women interviewed for its article pointed to concerns about their safety in a city plagued by crime and gun violence.
Vernetta Robinzine, a 51-year-old resident of Chicago’s Far South Side, obtained her concealed carry license and takes her weapon everywhere. She told The Tribune that someone broke into her home in 2008, which made her feel “totally violated” and “vulnerable.” However, Robinzine didn’t consider getting a gun until last year, after an uptick in shootings and home invasions in her neighborhood.
Marchelle Tigner, a gun instructor, told The Times that Black women are particularly vulnerable to domestic violence and sexual assault. She told the paper, “It’s important, especially for Black women, to learn how to shoot. We need to learn how to defend ourselves.”
At the same time, politics and police shootings are also part of the reason for the boom in Black gun ownership. According to CNN, Membership in the National African American Gun Association has skyrocketed since the election of President Donald Trump.
From Election Day through February, the organization added about 9,000 new members, the group’s national president Philip Smith told the network. He explained the sudden increase as the reaction of many Black people to Trump embracing White supremacists during his campaign.
Kevin Jones, the Ohio director of the organization, told NBC News that most new customers at his gun shop are Black women. He told NBC, “People feel that they have, perhaps, a president that they don’t feel is going to protect them, that’s there for them.”
Smith also pointed to the upswing of high-profile police shootings of unarmed Black men as a reason for the increased interest in gun ownership. He told The Times that having a gun may be the only way that Blacks can protect themselves.