The Black NRA: How The NAAGA Is Changing The Gun Conversation In America
(Georgia Public Broadcasting)
The National Rifle Association has traditionally been associated with a certain type of person: rural, male, and definitely white. The National African American Gun Association, or NAAGA, is changing all that, but although they're the largest minority gun group in the world, it's likely that you've never heard of them.
The Black NRA
The black community in the U.S. is typically perceived to lean left and therefore anti-gun, but that's a historical oversimplification. In the 1960s, members of the Black Panther Party legally and openly carried firearms, ironically leading the NRA to support gun control legislation. That sort of thing put black gun owners off the NRA somewhat, so in 2015, NAAGA formed to create a space for pro–Second Amendment black men and women who didn't feel represented in the contentious conversation surrounding guns in the U.S. to meet like-minded folks and promote responsible gun ownership. As of June 2020, they had about 30,000 members, about 60% of whom are women.
Normalizing Black Gun Ownership
A black man or woman with a gun is often perceived as more dangerous and threatening than a person of another race in the U.S., but NAAGA hopes to normalize the idea of responsible black gun ownership.
"I'm usually looked at like I'm a Martian," Nezida Davis, a NAAGA member who joined the group to learn self-defense, told CBS News in 2019. "I mean, literally, if I come in and I get ready to go into the gun range, people are looking at me like, 'Why is she here? Black women don't shoot.' But we shoot."
Likewise, the group's founder, Philip Smith, explained to NPR the same year that "My job, and it's a very long-term wish, is to change that socialization process where [when] people see a black guy or a black woman walking with a gun, they won't automatically say, 'He or she is a thug' or 'He or she is doing something illegal.'"
Goals For The Future
Although its goals primarily involve advocating for gun safety and shift social perceptions of black gun owners, they might one day lobby for their interests more directly. They've been tossing around the idea of forming a PAC (or "political action committee," an organization that raises money to influence state and national politics), and they'll make a decision on their political future at a convention in summer 2021. Smith explains:
I think it is selfish at a minimum not to look at other avenues to help our people ... There are some African-American men, specifically in certain parts of the country, that have a very difficult time getting a gun license ... They don't have any background issues, they have clean credit, they have a good job, but for some reason, they get declined. We would like to be an advocate for those types of individuals.