Ben Poken, NBC News, November 27, 2016
After Donald Trump’s win, Yolanda Scott is upgrading the crowbar she keeps in her purse to a small-caliber pistol.
Scott, an African-American, is one of many minorities who have been flocking to gun stores to protect themselves, afraid Trump’s victory will incite more hate crimes.
“You feel that racists now feel like they can attack us just because the president is doing it,” Earl Curtis, the owner of Blue Ridge Arsenal in Chantilly, Virginia, told NBC News.
Gun store owners told NBC News that since November 8 they’re seeing up to four times as many black and minority customers — and black gun groups are reporting double the normal number of attendees at their meetings since the election.
“It’s best that I be proactive,” said Scott, a fiery 49-year-old financial analyst. “I know where I live.”
She’s from Alpharetta, Georgia, an affluent and diverse northern suburb of Atlanta. It borders Forsyth County, which in 1912 systematically drove out nearly all its black residents for the next quarter century. After two alleged attacks on white women, a black suspect was lynched and two more were hanged after a short trial. Armed bands of whites began terrorizing blacks, torching homes and churches in night raids, firing through the door, telling them it was time to “get” [out of America] and then seized their homes and land. As recently as 1987 the county saw the marching of 5,000 white supremacists.
Scott still sees racist bumper stickers and large Confederate flags flying from the backs of pickup trucks when she ventures across the county line there to go outlet mall shopping. And she pauses to wonder what motivates her white neighbor to tuck a handgun in his pants before driving to the grocery store.
October saw 2.3 million FBI background checks for gun sales, an all-time record; and the 18th month in a row to set a new high. November could be on pace to break that.
But while gun company stocks and firearm sales saw a run-up before the election — based on fears a Hillary Clinton victory would result in increased gun-control measures — shares in gun companies fell as much as 20 percent after Trump’s win.
So, while store owners say that traffic is up overall, the new rush of minority customers arming themselves is something of an unexpected glimmer for the industry.
“They thought Trump won’t win,” said the 53-year-old Curtis, who has noticed an “uptick” in the number of black and minority customers.
Largely, says Curtis, they’re “shell-shocked” first-time shooters looking to get a handgun to protect themselves from “race riots and being attacked by racists” — afraid that what Trump and his supporters have already done is just the beginning.
Michael Cargill, the owner of Central Texas Gun Works in Austin, told NBC News he had given up on advertising to African-Americans — but now he’s seeing as many as 20 a month, and they’re filling up his training classes; along with Muslim, Hispanic, and LGBT patrons with heightened worries about being targeted.
Black gun owner groups are seeing an uptick too, led by African-American women. They report receiving an increased number of emails from across the country from concerned minorities looking to learn more about gun safety, training, and firearm access.
Philip Smith, founder of the 14,000-member National African American Gun Association said his members are buying up every kind of gun, from Glock handguns to AR-15 rifles to AK-47 semi-automatic weapons — though most first-time buyers gravitate toward a nine-millimeter pistol or .38 revolver. He said that twice the usual attendees have RSVP’d for the next meeting of the Georgia chapter, which he heads.
“Most folks are pretty nervous about what kind of America we’re going to see over the next 5-10 years,” he said. That includes members apprehensive about protests against Trump becoming unruly, as well as an “apocalyptic end result where there’s anarchy, jobs are gone, the economy is tipped in the wrong direction and everyone has to fend for themselves.” They don’t know who might be busting down their door at 2 a.m.
He hopes people are just overreacting.
“I tell everyone don’t panic, use your head. If you see something not normal, get out. You’re probably right. And if you’re not able to get out, you’re prepared to do what you need to do,” said Smith.
Since the election, Scott and her family and friends have tried not to venture outside except to go to work and come back home. When she had to get gas for her car, she made sure she stopped at a station where other people were around.
Scott fears a scenario where she’s approached with a gun just because she’s black. She hopes a “few choice words that I learned from my grandfather” would be enough to scare anyone off, but she’s prepared if the situation escalates.
“I’m not the type of person who is afraid of my own shadow. I’m going to protect myself, whatever that means,” Scott told NBC News by phone on her way to the police station to apply for a firearms license.