The stigma associated with Black Americans wielding guns discourages many Blacks from owning a gun or joining a gun club. 1770 Armory and Gun Club, Colorado’s first Black-owned gun club, is here to change the narrative.
The new gun club that started operations in late October wants to allay the growing fears among Black people who are now arming themselves amid the pandemic and racial tensions in the United States.
1770 Armory and Gun Club was named after the year the American Revolution started and the year Crispus Attucks, a Black man who is widely considered the first American to die in the revolution, was killed.
There is a high demand among Black communities, especially in Aurora, where residents are legally acquiring concealed weapons. This motivated Derone Armstrong, a pastor of Leake Memorial Church in Aurora, to spearhead the formation of a local chapter of the Black Gun Owners Association.
“When the pandemic hit, it escalated. People became fearful because they didn’t know what was going to happen with the hoarding,” Armstrong said.
“And then with the rise of racism and white supremacy, people want to protect themselves.”
Armstrong realized there is the need to start a gun club for Blacks and other people of color who would otherwise not feel comfortable joining a predominantly white range. His wife also wanted to finally get a concealed weapon permit and encouraged Armstrong, who grew up hunting, to start the club.
A report from the National Shooting Sports Foundation shows that for the first half of 2020, U.S. retailers processed 10.3 million firearm transactions with the highest overall purchases stemming from Black men and women.
Black men constituted 9.3% of all firearms sales while Black women accounted for 5.4% during the first six months of 2020. This was amid the coronavirus pandemic, lockdown, panic buying, hoarding and the #Blacklivesmatter protests.
Also, comparing the timeframe of the report to the first half of 2019, 58.2% more Black men bought firearms in 2020 than in the previous year.
Regardless of this jump in the numbers, Black people are still less likely to own guns as compared to their white counterparts, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center study on gun ownership in the United States.
In Colorado, there are numbers to prove that there has been an increasing demand among Black people although there is no data that emphatically indicates the racial demographics of the purchases.
“Given the place in which we are in America — politically, racially — African Americans don’t feel safe anymore,” said Wanda James, the co-owner of the 1770 Armory and Gun Club.
“It’s a sad scenario when people don’t feel comfortable in their homes, walking down the street or in their cars,” he added.
The 1770 range in Five Points is now a haven for many anti-gun Blacks who have now changed their stance because they want to protect their families and communities.
“You need to protect your family,” said Beverly, an Aurora resident who grew up in Five Points. “If it comes down to it with a food shortage and it’s the wild, wild west out there, you’ve got to protect your family.”
The owners of the gun club also chose Five Points to make it accessible to people in Denver and affordable as well because the prices of the popular 9 mm ammunition that has gone out of stock as many Americans are hoarding it ranges from $35 to $50.
Denver prohibits a live-fire gun range, so shooters use an infrared simulator, which also cuts down the expenses of members. Computer cartridges shaped like bullets are inserted into a gun’s chamber, and those cartridges send signals to a computer that records the shots fired at targets mounted on the walls, according to The Denver Post. 1170 however has partnerships at outdoor ranges in other counties for its members.
The aim of the gun club owners is to teach people to use their weapons responsibly. All the trainers have multiple certificates and qualifications to instruct people to shoot pistols, shotguns, and semi-automatic rifles, and to help them earn a concealed carry weapons permit.