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For black and Latino gun owners, being armed “level the playing field”

Watch the RCCS originals documentary “The New Pro-Gun Generation” in the video player above. It premieres on CBSN on Sunday, October 31 at 8 p.m., 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. ET.

PB Gomez is a 23-year-old law student at UC Berkeley Law School interested in urban environmental justice policies. He is also the founder of the Latino Rifle Association (LRA), a politically progressive organization for Latino gun owners with leftist values ​​who want to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

“The gun culture in the United States is largely toxic and not welcoming,” Gomez said. And he thinks gun rights are for everyone: “I don’t think self-defense, which is fundamentally about bodily autonomy, should be exclusive to politically right-wing people.”

The LRA’s website says membership is open to all racial groups as long as its mission and rules are followed. Since its formation in 2020, the LRA has attracted several hundred members across the United States

“Our biggest supporters were actually leftists, socialists, progressives. You must kind of have a distrust of authority. Police and government don’t take care of me, so I have to do things by myself. ”Gomez explained.

For black and Latino gun owners, being armed “level the playing field”
PB Gomez founded the Latino Rifle Association.

CBS News

Gomez told CBS News that on August 3, 2019 mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso prompted him to start the LRA. “[It was] just awful. A white supremacist walking into Walmart and murdering people en masse to try to create fear to drive Latinos out of the country, “he said.

The shooting was the deadliest attack on Latinos in recent U.S. history. But Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit fighting gun violence, says more guns aren’t the solution. He claims that mass shootings are largely preventable through “evidence-based political interventions” such as background check and red flag laws that allow courts to temporarily revoke an individual’s access to firearms.

Gomez considers gun regulations to have a specific impact on communities of color by increasing the potential for adverse interactions with police. “Anytime you give extra laws to enforce, extra crimes on the book, it will have the biggest impact on communities of color,” he said.

Jackie Garcia, a member of the Latino Rifle Association, decided to start carrying a gun last year.

Garcia and his wife, Talia, who is mixed race, recently moved to a more diverse suburb of Dallas to start a family, but still feel the impact of prejudice. “My wife notices the stares more than I do,” Garcia said.

It was the tension surrounding the 2020 election that prompted Garcia to train and buy a gun. “It was very nerve-racking. All this pressure that was building up made me a little nervous for sure,” Garcia said. Today, she carries a gun every time she leaves the house. “I’m a very peaceful person, but if people won’t let me go, I will stand up for myself.”

For black and Latino gun owners, being armed “level the playing field”
Jackie Garcia, a member of the Latino Rifle Association, has decided to start carrying a gun amid tensions over the 2020 election.

CBS News

Garcia and Gomez are part of a growing trend in gun ownership and gun rights activism among people of color and other under-represented communities.

“We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of groups supporting gun rights for LGBTQ people, people of color and other left-wing groups in recent years,” Professor Adam Winkler told CBS News. of Constitutional Law at UCLA. . “However, we should always put it in context. These groups are still few in number.”

The National African American Gun Association has reported an increase in membership since the 2016 election and now has 30,000 members nationwide.

A 2017 Pew Research Center survey found that 36% of whites reported personally owning a gun, compared to 24% of blacks and 15% of Hispanics. Corn the number of firearms has increased since.

In 2020, of an estimated 8.5 million first-time gun buyers, 40% were women, and purchases by black Americans were up 56% from 2019.

One of the lasting legacies of the pandemic will be more Americans with guns. “When your life is turned upside down and you feel that the things you rely on for safety no longer seem to exist, there’s more point in buying a gun,” Winkler explained.

Nick Bezzel is an Army veteran based in Austin, Texas, and founder of the Elmer Geronimo Pratt Gun Club, an organization defending the rights of black Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights. The shooting club is named after a high-ranking member of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and 1970s who spent 27 years in prison before his murder conviction was overturned. The club declined to disclose the number of its members, but said it had seen a dramatic increase in interest since 2020.

“Everyone has a right to self-preservation. I don’t care who they are,” Bezzel told CBS News. “I don’t advocate violence, but I advocate self-defense.”

In May, Bezzel and several other groups organized hundreds of black gun owners from across the country to march in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on the centennial of 1921. Tulsa Race Massacre, when a white mob destroyed the prosperous neighborhood of Greenwood, also known as Black Wall Street. Although some members of the Black Greenwood community at the time were armed, between 75 and 300 residents were brutally killed by the mob.

“We can’t talk about black self-defense without Tulsa, Oklahoma being mentioned,” Bezzel said.

For black and Latino gun owners, being armed “level the playing field”
Nick Bezzel and other activists march through Tulsa to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre in 2021.

CBS News

After the murder of George Floyd, people around the world responded by taking to the streets in protest. Bezzel argues that being armed “level the playing field.”

“‘Hands up, don’t shoot.’ What you say to the police is: “I am not armed, the people around me are not armed. You can brutalize us. “When we go out we are armed. The police say, ‘It’s not worth hiring these guys,'” he said.

Winkler noted that the Tulsa armed march was a powerful show of support for the idea that black Americans must defend themselves – “that they cannot rely on the white government to really protect them, or the police force. “.

But he fears that too many groups will take up arms and carry them openly to voice their grievances. “[It’s] probably destructive of the political debate and the kind of community we need to move forward on the major issues facing America, ”Winkler said.

The Elmer Geronimo Pratt Gun Club is involved in political issues beyond the Second Amendment and gun training. The group is working with the homeless community of Austin and is part of a national reparation campaign. But gun rights remain at the heart of its mission.

For black and Latino gun owners, being armed “level the playing field”
Nick Bezzel founded the Elmer Geronimo Pratt Gun Club in Austin, Texas.

CBS News

“If they’re killing people now and we have guns, imagine what would happen if we didn’t have them,” Bezzel said. “Our only way is to protect ourselves with guns.”

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