On one early Saturday morning in North Carolina, and at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of Black LGBTQ folks got together to take a class and hang out. While most of the world had concerns with how many rolls of toilet paper they’d be able to secure, this group of friends had a different concern that spoke directly to the second amendment.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.
Loosely stated, it’s the amendment that gives citizens the right to “bear arms.”
Keeping in mind that the constitution of the United States was not originally written with the equality, protection or success of Black folks in mind, let alone Black LGBTQ folks, a challenge loomed to find a firearms training facility that would empathetically and conscientiously provide training to a group of mature individuals — about 10 — ranging in age from their mid-thirties to sixty-something.
With that in mind, the event organizer set out to find a training facility and instructor that would be able to deliver a class that would take the group’s versatility in mind. Fortunately, he found what everyone was hoping for with Black Diamond Firearms & Training. Their website explains the company’s mission of being “Dedicated to Training and Educating Non-Traditional Consumers in Regard to Their Home and Personal Safety Concerns” and offers a host of services. Consumers can acquire multiple certifications, concealed carry permit training and self-defense classes.
The company’s instructor taught the class with special attention placed upon Black LGBTQ community safety, and all the required rules and regulations for gun ownership and safety were extensively covered. Added attention was given to handling interactions with law enforcement, how to handle overt scrutiny, racial and/or sexual orientation bias, securing an attorney in the event of having to utilize licensed weapons and the importance of transgender weapons owners making sure identifications match appropriately.
In case you’re wondering why all of this might be such a big deal, scour any social media platform and peruse recent (and not so recent) news events reporting the loss of Black lives at the hands of law enforcement, countless murders of Black trans women and a previous presidential administration that seemed to fan the flames of hate, fear and racial injustice.
Now think about what it might feel like to be an aging Black LGBTQ person living alone or with just your partner in such a climate. With such factors at play, it’s no wonder individuals like these in this group of 10 would seek to arm themselves.
Cassandra, one of the group participants and a trans woman in her late 50s, took the class to renew her concealed carry permit license.
She shared her feelings about gun control and citizen’s rights: “I feel like gun control is important in terms of machine guns like MK44s and automatic rifles. Those are important for the army to have, but, as a private citizen, I don’t think we need to have those types of assault weapons.”
“I do believe citizens should be able to carry personal protection weapons like a Glock 19, a semi-automatic and revolvers,” she continued, “When you find yourself in a situation of being an assault victim like I have been, sometimes hand to hand combat — like I’m also trained in — is not enough.”
With mass shootings and neighborhood murders frequently in the news, community organizations and Political Action Committees (PACs) like Pride Fund to End Gun Violence (PFEGV) have advocated for and seek stricter gun legislation.
The proposed legislation is generally aimed at access to assault weapons — with the idea of quelling mass shootings. However, what actually constitutes an assault weapon is as hotly debated as the second amendment itself.
According to CNBC News, the gun industry’s traditional definition of an “assault rifle” is a weapon the military generally uses and has “select fire capabilities,” or the capability to switch between semi-automatic and a fully automatic mode.
The civilian AR-15s, which are routinely mentioned in these debates, do not have select fire capabilities, only semi-automatic settings. It’s because of these details that the firearms industry insists they are not actual assault rifles and should not be considered
PFEGV was seemingly organized as a response to the mass shooting at Florida’s Pulse night club in 2016. Over 50 people were injured and nearly just as many died of gunfire.
The PFEGV website describes themselves as America’s only LGBTQ organization solely focused on gun policy reform to ensure safety for all, with a platform of expanding background checks to cover all gun sales. They work to prohibit suspected terrorists from purchasing guns, restrict access to assault weapons and large capacity magazines.
Supporting federally funded research on gun violence and preventing individuals convicted of committing hate crimes from purchasing guns is also at the top of their agenda.
Not stated is how they feel about the LGBT community arming themselves within those constraints.
The 10 people who took the Saturday morning class at Black Diamond Firearms, however, know exactly where they stand.
They seek to be able to arm themselves within the confines of the law and needed the education, knowledge and skills to be able to do so effectively. With classroom education and a visit to a gun range completed, they’ve met their goal and vow to practice regularly and safely while staying abreast of gun laws regulating licensed weapons carrying and usage.
Through their efforts and others who choose to do so, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.