I was 35 years old when I was invited to a gun range. Every time I pulled the trigger, I found myself jumping and becoming emotional. With every shot, I felt the life of another Black man being taken. That day, I decided I didn’t want to have anything to do with guns.
When it comes to white police officers, self-defense seems to be a blank check for whatever violence they deem necessary.
Fast-forward 15 years. I’m sitting in my condo on Chicago’s South Side when the doorbell rings. It’s the pizza delivery man. I buzz him into the building. Within seconds, I hear a commotion and someone yelling, “Don’t shoot!” I quickly lock my door and look out the peephole. A thief is trying to rob the pizza delivery guy, who’s knocking at my door saying: “Please let me in! Let me in!!” I run to my office, grab a bat and let him in. The robber flees.
As I stood with the bat in hand, nervously shaking, my fear turned to anger. At that moment, I decided I would never be afraid again in my own home. I did a 180, enrolled in a firearms training class and even graduated from the FBI Citizens Academy.
I trained on 9 mms, 40 mms, 45 mms, Remington tactical pump-action shotguns, AR-15s and more. I am now a licensed concealed carry weapon owner in 38 states.
As such, I have some level of protection from robbers — but I am more exposed to other dangers. When I first got my concealed carry license in Chicago, soon after the law to do so was passed, a law enforcement officer with the Chicago Police Department told me, “If CPD sees you with a gun, they will shoot you.”
Why? I am legally carrying a gun, but that could get me shot? How is that possible?
I felt a serious double standard. It’s clear from the shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where armed white groups strolled past police officers before one member is alleged to have shot three people, that white men can walk freely with large guns and the police don’t treat them as threats.
And yet, when Kenneth Walker, a Black man licensed to carry firearms, heard intruders violently barging in and took measures to defend himself and his girlfriend, Breonna Taylor, he found himself arrested for firing at a police officer — since the intruders turned out to be cops executing a “no knock” warrant.
Walker did exactly what the Constitution and the NRA keep saying we have the right to do: He exercised his Second Amendment right to bear arms, shot at what he believed to be criminals threatening them and protected his home under Kentucky’s “stand your ground” law and “castle doctrine.”
Thankfully, Walker was eventually released, because he had proper documentation for the gun and it was reasonable for him to defend his home. In this case, the laws worked out for him.
But they worked out terribly for Taylor.
Police used Walker’s actions as an excuse to discharge their weapons 32 times, resulting in Taylor’s death. They were reportedly investigating a narcotics case against Taylor’s ex-boyfriend Jamarcus Glover. Taylor wasn’t accused of any crimes and had no criminal record, and no drugs were found anywhere on her property. Glover was already in police custody when the raid occurred.
And yet a grand jury on Wednesday declined to indict officers Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove in Taylor’s killing because it felt they were “justified” in their “self-defense” — even though the police were the ones to start the threatening encounter.
When it comes to white police officers, self-defense seems to be a blank check for whatever violence they deem necessary. Yet when a Black man tries to defend himself and his girlfriend, it’s a death warrant.
This terrible incident is a clear indicator that laws must be changed. There should be no no-knock warrants anywhere, for any reason. Body cameras must be worn in any arrest, search, investigation or home raid.
This has nothing to do with the details of concealed carry laws, nor with the implementation of “stand your ground” laws. This is about battling racism, implicit bias and dehumanization at the hands of law enforcement and a society in general that doesn’t see Black people as equal humans.
As a Black gun owner, I feel better having a gun in my home. But I understand clearly that the gun could cause me to lose my life, even if I discharge it lawfully.