NAAGA: Are Guns Positive Thing For African Americans?

Philip Smith is the founder and President of the National African American Gun Association (NAAGA).

According to a national survey conducted in 2012 by the Pew Research Center, the percentage of African Americans who viewed guns as a positive thing was 29%. However, a similar survey conducted in 2015 showed that the percentage had sharply risen to 59%. Why the sudden change in African American attitudes towards guns? Philip Smith from NAAGA attributes it to the fact that African Americans are opening up to the reality that indeed guns are necessary for personal safety and the safety of our families. As he put it, there are bad people out there, and if you have a gun to protect yourself and your family, that’s the way it should be. The National African American Gun Association was established solely with the purpose of exposing, motivating and educating as many African Americans to purchase a firearm for self-defense and to take training on proper gun use.
Why must there be a Black organization apart from the NRA? What’s wrong with them and what’s so special about us Black people?
Philip Smith
We are not a part of the NRA at all. Not in any shape or form. We’re not connected to them, we’re a totally separate entity. We have our own leadership structure, messaging, branding and communications so we’re totally separate. That’s first and foremost. Two, our organization is focused on primarily one core goal and objective and that is how can American men, women and young people as well, learn about guns legally, and properly. We teach them how to use them, how to shoot them, how to hold them, how to practice under duress, just very common sense pragmatic, legal ownership of a gun.
Do you think that as Black people we need guns to provide for our safety? Are there threats that we face as Black people that white people do not face?
Philip Smith
I think there are some challenges obviously here in America that we’re trying to overcome. But we’re all Americans, we’re trying to have some dialogue that is honest and we have to work together so regardless of any preconceived stereotypes or initial negative things you might have about one person or another group, we have to sit down as a civil people and have a civil conversation.
What does NAAGA think of groups like the New Black Panther Party for Self-defense, the Huey P. Newton Gun Club and similar groups?
Philip Smith
I don’t know very much about those guys. I’ve seen them on the internet or the T.V but I haven’t had any real interaction with them personally or professionally so I can’t speak for them. I think what they’re trying to do is to empower African Americans to have guns. But I don’t know much about them.
What is your attitude towards the gun control project that the Democratic Party is promoting?
Philip Smith
Well, I don’t know if it’s the Democratic Party, I think there are a lot of labels going around. Democratic this or Republican this or that, I just think that there are a lot of people that have an agenda to take guns away or to limit guns not just in the African American community but the U.S at large and that needs to be really watched. I’m a gun advocate but I do believe in common sense gun laws, I think there should be background checks, I think there should be restrictions on those on the terror list, so just common sense laws. That’s my perspective. But I don’t speak for every member of our organization, I speak for my organization but everyone has a different perspective, different mindset of what they think about guns so we’re not monolithic at all. African Americans of our group are Republicans, Democrats, they are liberals, they’re gay, straight, they’re rich, they’re poor, they’re plumbers and doctors, so there are very different perspectives from very different people. And the one common goal and bond that we have is that we all believe that we should have a gun and be able to carry that gun to protect our families so we’re very pragmatic in our approach.
And would you say that with the current spate of police brutality, more Black people are acquiring guns?
Philip Smith
I think yeah, that’s definitely changing. If you look at the Pew research that was done in 2012, about 29% of African-American families thought a gun was a good thing, the remaining poll from the families’ status was negative. Fast forward to 2015 and we have about 59% of Black families now viewing a gun as a value add or a positive thing to have in the house so it’s changing very very quickly. And that is happening because the majority of people in the African-American community are realizing that having a gun is a good thing to protect your family. I think they no longer, in growing numbers, believe in the old adage of a gun is a bad thing and I’m all for that. I think we need to have guns, the boogeyman is out of the box, and those people that say you don’t need a gun, I don’t think they really speak for the majority anymore.
So African-Americans having guns means we can protect ourselves more right?
Philip Smith
Yeah, I mean, if you were at home by yourself and someone breaks into your house, it’s a good thing to have a gun. It’s just common sense. If you have a gun you can protect yourself. Now wouldn’t it be the right thing if someone broke into your house and the police could instantly, within a few seconds pop up there and protect you? But that’s not reality, that’s not the real world in which we live. There are bad people out there, but is everyone bad? No. But there’s a consistent and significant amount of people that are criminals like it is in every society and I just believe that if you have a gun to protect yourself and your family, that’s the way it should be and that’s a good thing. I don’t see the negativity that would be associated with someone having a gun in that kind of position. I might probably have a very biased view as I said before, but that’s what I believe. A gun is a good thing.
And how are you getting this message to our African-American brothers that they need to also acquire guns so they can be able to protect themselves better? What kind of promotion do you use?
Philip Smith
We use social media, word of mouth, we’ve grown tremendously. We’re in the thousands now. We started off in 2015, February 28 in honor of Black history month, to have a gun presence or a concept and we have literally exploded massively. And it’s a good thing that all is done correctly and legally, and that’s what we’re doing.
Do you look at collaborating with other gun clubs?
Philip Smith
I work with any organization that has the common belief that having a gun is part of the 2nd Amendment rights, as a natural right. I’ve got to be honest, I think it’s your natural right as a human being to be able to protect yourself and your family regardless of where you are in the world. So having said that, if you are an organization, we don’t have to agree on every political and social topic but our core beliefs could be you need a gun, we need a gun, let’s go with that particular focus. So yeah I’ll work with anyone, from small groups to large groups, Black, white, gay, straight, it doesn’t matter.
How do you get funds for the organization? Do you receive any donations or do you have permanent members who pay some dues?
Philip Smith
Yeah, that’s what we’re doing right now. The organization is free to join, you can join, in fact, today. It’s free, anyone who wants can join. And that’s a relief for a lot of people because at times people think that you’re trying to grab their money. Right now we don’t have a requirement for membership funding, if you want to join, you can join for free anywhere in the world. If you’ll like to donate something on your own, out of your own heart you can do that. The reason why we’ve done that is typically in the African American community, money is usually tight in a lot of households, not everyone, because we have a lot of people who are wealthy doctors, lawyers, but in a lot of the households every penny counts. So right now just to get our numbers up and get the word out, we have taken away any type of membership fee requirement. But that’s going to change maybe around January 2017 and it will be a minimal charge of 10 dollars a month. That will fund us at a very high level to do some other things that we can’t do right now because obviously, to run such an organization, you have to have money. That’s where we’re at now. We’ve grown really rapidly, we’re still growing every day, every day we get a lot of people joining. So I wish I didn’t have to charge membership but at some point you have to. We’re charging a dollar a month, and I think that’s pretty cheap.
How long has the association been running?
Philip Smith
We started on February 28, 2015 and I’m the president and founder, and I just simply wanted to start something that represented our community with our own flavor, our own perspective. I didn’t want to have it watered down by having to conform to make it comfortable for other communities that weren’t comfortable for us. And that’s what I think we’ve been able to accomplish. We have a slightly different view of firearms in our community based on the history of slavery and the Black Code and Jim Crow and so many things that we have gone through then and still are going through. So when a Black person talks about guns with anyone, he’s talking about what he thinks about them himself. Because we have different views and a different history and I just want to make sure that our organization presented that history in a positive light and something that we can learn and grow with. So that was the reason I started it and I’ve been able to at least have an honest and transparent organization. There’s no agenda other than the agenda that we’re talking. There’s nothing hidden, nobody’s funding us, the NRA or the Democratic party or Republican party, we’re funding ourselves, we’re moving ourselves and that’s a good thing because nobody owns us. We have our own spirit.

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