Guns Sales Are Down Overall, But Minorities Are Taking Up Arms

Welcome to our new brothers and sisters in arms.

bullets and gun on counter in retail gun store

According to FBI statistics, gun sales have dropped significantly since the election of Donald J. Trump. This contrasts the boost in sales gun manufacturers and retailers saw when President Obama was elected. But firearms sellers say they are seeing an uptick in sales from one sector of the population since the November 2 election. Blacks, gays and transgenders are arming themselves, investing in training and joining gun clubs, citing an increase in provocation and violence since Trump’s election.

FBI background checks dropped from 3.3 million in December 2015 to 2.8 million in December 2016. In January 2017, there were 2 million background checks performed, compared with 2.5 million in January 2016. In January 2017, statistics show 2.04 million were conducted. Gun stocks have also fallen short–up to 32 percent on American Outdoor Brands (what used to Smith & Wesson). Hard to say how much of that drop is due to confusion about their name change.

Leia and Zelda, a gay married couple from Phoenix, have a 10-year-old daughter. They are openly gay and don’t hesitate to hold hands in public. “Even if we didn’t hold hands, we have a child, it’s pretty obvious we’re a family,” says Leia. They’ve both faced discrimination at work, catcalls in the street and have been cornered and called out as lesbians on multiple occasions. “It’s frightening; you don’t know if you’ll be hit, raped, anything could happen.” She says since the election, these incidents have become more frequent among her circle of friends. “My wife and I have been talking about it for a month now. It’s a big step. But we’re prepared to do the training and target practice every few weeks with our daughter. We’re going to do this the responsible way to protect our family and not put anyone else in danger.”

Daria is a US-born Iranian woman with two girls and another on the way. She lives in Phoenix’s vast East Valley. For her work a case manager, she often meets with mentally unstable clients. Once one of her co-workers was stabbed in the abdomen a few years ago. She, too, has been unsettled by recent reports of shootings of innocent US citizens, Sikhs being mistaken for Muslim terrorists, Indians for Afghani terrorists, and she’s been told to “go back to where she came from” dozens of times. “Back where I came from,” she said, leaning on the counter of her spacious kitchen. “Detroit? No thanks. I have to walk through neighborhoods at night to get to my car. I do not feel safe without protection. I am trained and I practice. When the time is right, my girls will get training, too.”

Derek owns a small business in North Phoenix. He’s a gay man in his 50s. His business is often on the news and highly regarded, so much so, that his competitors have taken to slandering him. Once they painted “Derek Is Gay and Has AIDS” on his storefront.” Since the election he’s received crank calls, surly and intimidating visitors at the store where his dogs cheerfully greet each customer. Derek works alone, six days per week so he has concerns. “Finding the time to train and practice would be difficult for me,” he said. “But I think it’s something I will do.”

Terry has been carrying concealed for eight years. He’s an African American man with degrees in aeronautical engineering and law. He currently works in Phoenix as a lawyer. Growing up in the South as Baptist, he says he saw plenty of racism. As a teen and young adult, he was routinely closely followed in stores while his white friends were not. It angered him, “But life goes on,” he said. He’s a staunch conservative who has been disappointed since Trump took office. And he’s concerned about what he sees across the country as alt-right and fledgling KKK groups have become more vocal since Trump’s election. “It’s not Trump, it’s a small segment of his supporters, but I’m not about to be a target. I’ve upped my training and so has my wife. I’m also not going to be the guy who stands there while someone else is getting beaten. It really is time to protect ourselves and show these yayhoos that, if anything, we are more American than they are. I want to make it clear, I don’t blame Trump, but some of his rhetoric has brought out the worst in a small part of America. And no American should condone that kind of violence or discrimination.”

Adelia is a transgender woman living in Central Phoenix. She’s been raped, beaten and had a series of abusive relationships. She also had an intimate relationship with drugs and alcohol, but she’s been sober for five years. She works in the healthcare system processing insurance claims. “No one ‘deserves’ to be raped and beaten, high or not, transgender or not. But I’ve noticed in the past two months an increase in men grabbing me, cornering me—and this is during the day, on my lunch break. For my sanity, I try to find a family bathroom, just to make others comfortable. I’m really not one to just make a statement to push peoples’ buttons. I don’t seek out controversy. I just want to live my trans life. Believe me, if you need help, I will be the first to buy you food or clothes. But I’m not willing to be a target. And if someone tries to beat me again, corner me or rape me, and these are all heterosexual men by the way, they will find themselves on the other end of a barrel. I’ve struggled too much in life to end up dead in an alley.”

We should welcome our new sisters and brothers into gun culture. However they got here, they want to protect themselves and their families. No one I spoke to blames President Trump specifically, but they have seen a shift in a portion of the population who used to stay in the background. This is an opportunity for learning and teaching—and for a whole new wave of Second Amendment supporters.