Target Market: Black Women With Guns

For J. Victoria Sanders, joining the ranks of women with guns means earning a concealed handgun license and coming to terms with Black feminism.


| July/August 2012



Gun-Made-Out-Of-Guns

Texas Department of Public Safety data show that the fastest-growing group of concealed handgun owners in the state has been, for at least five years, black women.

TIM WOOD / WASHWITHCARE.DEVIANTART.COM

When I was six years old, my mother and I were robbed at gunpoint by two men looking for cash. One of them placed the gun at my head until she gave them her mink coat, which looked real but wasn’t, and the bus fare she had in her pocket. The incident was the first thing that came to mind when, more than 20 years later, I started the application process for a concealed handgun license.

I started my career as a reporter in 2001 at an East Texas newspaper headquartered not far from where James Byrd Jr. was dragged to his death by white racists four years earlier. It made me fully aware of the still-present dangers of being black in America. More recently, the attack and sexual assault of reporter Lara Logan in Egypt and the abduction of journalist Dorothy Parvaz, a former colleague of mine at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, reinforced my concerns about the physical vulnerability of female reporters. No matter where we are in the world, no matter our age or race, our lives are threatened by violence.

Journalists must be proactive in the face of bleak statistics and violent events. For me, learning to handle and shoot a gun seemed the most direct way to fend off growing feelings of vulnerability. But what started out as a simple intention to earn a concealed handgun license ended up as a yearlong quest that involved a few stops at the gun range, being fingerprinted by Texas authorities, and staring for months at the incomplete application on my desk.

People presume that tall black women like me are tough and sufficiently able to protect ourselves. But I wanted an additional layer of insurance for my freedom to explore, unfettered, the realms I pursued as a journalist. As my own process unfolded, I noticed that the number of stories about women shooting for recreation or buying guns for self-defense had started to multiply. And in Texas, at least, I wasn’t alone in my quest. Texas Department of Public Safety data show that the fastest-growing group of concealed handgun owners in the state has been, for at least five years, black women.

Social Connotations of Black Women With Guns

Red’s Indoor Range gives women shooters discounts on renting guns and ammunition on Mondays, so this past summer I went with two of my homegirls to kick off the week with some practice. We were each given earplugs, which we wore beneath silencing earmuffs. I rented a .380, bought a box of ammunition, and got to it. My hands, which normally never sweat, began shvitzing as I worried about somehow managing to shoot myself; my dear friend Andy, a Texas-bred black woman and a former junior NRA member, showed me where to put them.

“Can we leave? I’m done now,” I said after about half an hour.

teebonicus
10/3/2014 4:18:31 PM

"It made me fully aware of the still-present dangers of being black in America." Victoria, darlin', you are exponentially in MORE danger from "urban black youth" than you are from white racism in America. Leave the race card out of it. You are endowed with the unalienable right to arms for self-defense no matter the ethnicity, religion or political ideology of the attacker. And that is as far as you have to go. Whining about a racist past that no longer exists is counterproductive. And THAT's the truth. "White Southern men, on the other hand, were the most likely to congratulate me on this life decision and follow up with advice on the best kind of firearm to buy." EXACTLY. So, ah, Victoria.... just WHO exactly are your real FRIENDS?


teebonicus
10/3/2014 2:39:46 PM

"It made me fully aware of the still-present dangers of being black in America." Victoria, darlin', you are exponentially in MORE danger from "urban black youth" than you are from white racism in America. Leave the race card out of it. You are endowed with the unalienable right to arms for self-defense no matter the ethnicity, religion or political ideology of the attacker. And that is as far as you have to go. Whining about a racist past that no longer exists is counterproductive. And THAT's the truth. "White Southern men, on the other hand, were the most likely to congratulate me on this life decision and follow up with advice on the best kind of firearm to buy." EXACTLY. So, ah, Victoria.... just WHO exactly are your real FRIENDS?


frank crean
7/14/2012 10:13:38 PM

Chester Carthel said it better than I could. Congratulations and welcome. In the article, you reference the negative portrayal of armed black men as the only one out there. please take the time to look at http://gunowners.org/op0438.htm which is a short article about the Deacons for Defense and Justice. There is more out there. Again, welcome.


fred norton
7/13/2012 8:23:44 PM

Congratulations on deciding to not be a prisoner in your own body. One of the reasons I think the "feminists" discourage you is that they worry about you getting to know "gun people" and finding out that we are not the hate everything bunch that they work so hard to make us out to be. If I could give you any advice it would be practice, practice, practice. If I could recommend a caliber it would be .40 S&W, ammo is widely available, from inexpensive reloaded range brass to really nasty self defense stuff. Find a woman police officer and asks what she thinks. And thanks for a great article. Oh, and EVERY gun is always loaded, treat it that way.


stewart naaden
7/13/2012 12:43:52 PM

An excellent gun article from a woman's eyes. I try to get women and kids involved in gun sports because it is fun and the future of our sport. We do Women On Target programs and field trips for kids from the local high schools. The last WOT had a bachelorette party of nine among the 39 gals. FYI: Try a Walther PK-380 for a little better quality smaller caliber. Most small guns have a larger recoil because the gun doesn't absorb it.


chester carthel
7/13/2012 12:57:20 AM

As a gun totin', white male Texan, welcome to the club. Rather than depend on others, you took matters into your own hands. Good job, good shooting and, I'll see ya at the range!


frank natoli
7/12/2012 8:39:02 PM

Victoria: you are brain ef-ing the issue. A gun in your hands has no function other than to empower you to say STOP. And if the fellow to whom you are making the point chooses to continue his assault, you then use the gun to stop the assault. That's it. Period. Finito.


jans friend
7/12/2012 7:15:53 PM

Actually the jailbird convicted felon James Byrd Jr. was dragged to death by other convicted felons. The color of their skins had nothing to do with it.