MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Nearly 5 million Americans have become new gun owners this year, which is the highest increase the country has ever witnessed.
Leading the pack is African Americans, making up the largest surge in gun sales.
“Initially I never even thought about owning a gun, but times have really changed,” said Kenneth Daniels, gun owner.
Daniels purchased his first firearm earlier this year.
“I’d rather be prepared than in a situation where I need to defend myself and can’t," he said.
Daniels said the surge of violent crime in Memphis and surrounding areas forced him to pull the trigger on the decision to arm himself and he’s not alone.
According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, 7.1 million guns were sold in the first six months of 2019,
During the same time, this year 12.1 million guns were sold with African Americans seeing the largest firearm sales increase.
A nearly 60% spike from the prior year.
“It’s our right and amendment to protect ourselves and bear arms,” said Dalisia Brye, gun owner.
Leading the charge are African American women like Brye.
Statistics show women account for the majority of gun sales among African Americans.
“I wanted to protect my child by any means because there were so many kids getting hurt in regards to gun violence,” Brye said.
Jonathon Cross, owner of Dauntless Tactical Training in Memphis said this surge is right on target.
Sparked by uncertainty from the coronavirus pandemic, protestors marching through the streets, and politics.
“Most said I never really wanted a gun," Cross said. “I’ve always been afraid of guns, never shot a gun, but I have a sense I need a gun to protect myself.”
As a result, he said business is booming.
“I think people no longer suffer from a lack of imagination about what can actually happen,” Cross said.
For black gun owners, even legally faced with using their weapon to protect themselves comes with negative stereotypes, name-calling.
“The thugs and the criminals carry handguns, and if it’s not my mama’s .38 special that she had in her purse, then we shouldn’t have it, and I think people are waking up,” Cross said.
In Lousiana, a photo circulated from a white man calling for the arrest of two armed black men legally carrying firearms.
A congressman even wrote in part on Facebook that he, “Would drop armed protestors. Eliminate the threat and they would not walk away.”
“Essentially, it’s Americans' fear of Black rage, fear, violence and also related to America’s failure to address wrongdoing of African American enslavement,” said Kristie Lipford, Rhodes College.
According to Lipford, the biases toward black gun owners are deeply rooted in American history.
“In 1870, Tennessee passed a piece of legislation that banned Saturday night specials that are very inexpensive, cheaply-made handguns and many of those handguns were being purchased by lower-income people; large majority African Americans," Lipford said.
Despite negative stereotypes and the political divide the second amendment sparks, Cross encourages more African Americans to bear arms.
“I would admonish every black person: If you personally desire to exercise the right, exercise it, and make the society respect it,” Cross said.
The country is on pace to break the 2016 gun sales record.
According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation in 2016, 15.7 million guns were sold.
We have about two months left in the year, so far 15.4 million guns have been sold.