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gun deals Rick Ector was teaching an eight-hour concealed pistol license course in early July, and his cellphone wouldn’t stop vibrating.
Ector had just resumed teaching in-person lessons the month before. He hadn’t advertised. But people were calling to ask about enrolling in future courses, he said.
“It’s an explosion of interest from people who want to learn about guns,” said Ector, who has worked as a firearms instructor in Detroit for 13 years. “The interest in personal protection is on a level none of us (firearm instructors) has ever seen.”
Those working in the gun industry and gun owners themselves say the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic is spurring increased interest in gun ownership. Some firearm owners believe the upcoming presidential election and the need to assert gun rights contribute, too.
© Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal NRA instructor Stephen Alexander of Okemos teaches Erica Lynn of Lansing site placement and target acquisition Saturday, July 26, 2020, during a handgun training session at the Chief Okemos Sportsman’s Club in Dimondale. Alexander served nine years in the U.S. Marine Corps and is vice-president of the Malcolm Little Gun Club.
In the midst of these changes, gun owners are becoming more diverse. Nearly 15% of those who bought guns during the first six months of the year are Black, an increase of more than 50%, according to a survey from the trade organization National Shooting Sports Foundation.
© Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal Rick Ector of Detroit, organizer of the “Rally against Hate” Thursday, May 28, 2020, at the Capitol in downtown Lansing. The event was a rally against hate and crimes of violence, especially those directed at people of color,” according to the group’s event page.gun deals
The survey of the foundation’s members also found that between mid-March and May, women accounted for over 40% of their customers.
Gun sales are up around the country. Gun retailers saw a 95% increase in firearm sales and a 139% increase in ammunition sales in the first six months of this year compared with the same period in 2019, according to National Shooting Sports Foundation.
FBI background checks run on people purchasing a firearm or applying for a permit to carry a concealed gun were up 42% in March and nearly 70% in June of this year compared to the same periods in 2019.
The jumps coincide with the early days of the pandemic in Michigan and the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by a white Minneapolis police officer on Memorial Day.
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© Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal Cody Turner of DeWitt, bottom, fills out paperwork to purchase a handgun, Thursday, March 19, 2020, at H&M Discount on E. Michigan Avenue in Lansing. Turner, a restaurant worker, says he’s been laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and figures he’ll do some target shooting on his property during his time off. Dave Lentz of H&M says the store has seen an increase in gun sales recently.gun deals
Gun clubs saw increases in memberships, especially from women worried about personal protection and people of color concerned about their safety and racism, according to club leaders in Mid-Michigan.
Gun retailers surveyed say more people who have never owned a gun are buying them, said Mark Oliva, the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s director of public affairs.
“The gun ownership debate to them was theoretical,” he said. “It has now turned into an existential question: ‘Am I going to be able to provide for my own safety in a time of need?’ They’re taking responsibility for that and taking matters into their own hands. They’re literally voting with their wallets on this issue right now.” Perception vs. Reality: Who’s a gun owner?
Eric Haddad owns Range 517, a gun store and indoor range that opened in Delta Township last month. He said the customers who have visited don’t all look alike.
“What I can tell you is that it feels like everybody is buying guns right now, everybody and anybody,” Haddad said. “It’s not just one group of people.”
© Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal “I love the smell of gunpowder,” firearms enthusiast, competitive shooter, and LGBTQ ally Tracy Olsen of Lansing says as he demonstrates the c-clamp technique while shooting an AR-15 rifle, Sunday, July 26, 2020, at the Chief Okemos Sportsman’s Club in Dimondale. The technique helps control the muzzle when the rifle is fired. “I love everything about shooting,” Olsen says. “To be a safe and responsible shooter, you have to be clear-headed and focused. Handling a gun is no joke.”
Tracy Olsen, a gun owner since 2015, said the stereotypical image of gun owners — white, conservative and male — doesn’t reflect the broadening pool of gun owners in American today.
“The image that pops into people’s minds when you say gun owner is not a good image, and I consider myself someone who is trying to change that,” said Olsen, 35, a Lansing resident who is white and doesn’t identify as conservative.
He competes in shooting events, feels passionately about the Second Amendment and likes to teach other people about guns. He’s spent the last few years taking people who have never fired guns to a gun range or answering questions they have.
“Just this year I’ve heard from a dozen people asking questions and most are in the liberal Democrat camp,” Olsen said. “Sometimes that leads to them coming to the range with me and sometimes it leads to them learning more about guns.”
Years ago, when Ector first began teaching his CPL course, most of his students were white men. During his most recent CPL class in early July, most of his students were Black women, he said.
Tashmica Torok, who is Black, said she wouldn’t have considered buying or owning a gun five years ago.
“But then I also didn’t have white men showing up at the Capitol, five minutes from my house with semi-automatic weapons,” said Torok. “I just didn’t think I’d have those gunmen five minutes from my home during a season of anti-Black violence that has increased and the lack of protection that Black people experience from law enforcement. There’s like this perfect storm of violence and white supremacy that has definitely made me reconsider the purpose of having a gun in my home and whether it’s worth having one.”
About a month ago, Torok took a daylong concealed-carry permit class.
“I actually left the training feeling like I could make that choice,” she said, though her family hasn’t yet decided whether to buy a gun.
Malcolm Little Gun Club has seen an influx of women members, according to Stephen Alexander, an NRA-certified instructor and the club’s vice president. That’s part of why he held a ladies-only class on Aug. 1.
“I have a waiting list of women wanting to learn basic firearm training. It’s unprecedented,” he said. “I had a mother, daughter and grandma in one class. That’s becoming the norm.”
Over the years, gun clubs have formed to cater to women, including The Well Armed Woman chapters around the country, which have nearly 11,000 members nationwide.
Marcy Jankovich, an NRA-certified firearms instructor, co-founded the Jackson chapter in 2015 after she and others realized there were few places for women to shoot. The club now has 42 members.
The club recently surveyed its members, asking them what they wanted to learn during monthly meetings. The top request was self-defense, according to Jankovich.
“One woman said a person followed her, which made her feel frightened,” Jankovich said. “Some have cited domestic violence incidents.” Perceptions of Black gun owners
When people can’t protect themselves, that’s where Alexander comes in, he said.
The former Marine has provided personal security at equity marches in the Lansing area.
“I have my firearm on my thigh. I ride out wearing my Marine hat and a Pride shirt,” he said. “To be a true protector, you have to protect everyone.”
Organizers of a recent Black Lives Matter/LGBTQ march made sure to tell the public Alexander was there for protection, not trouble, he said.
© Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal NRA instructor Stephen Alexander, middle, teaches stance, grip, and target acquisition Saturday, July 26, 2020, to daughter Mersades Alexander, left, and Erica Lynn of Lansing, during a handgun training session at the Chief Okemos Sportsman’s Club in Dimondale. Also pictured to the rear is Michael Lynn Jr., founder of Black & Brown 2A Advocates Facebook group.
Stereotypes about Black gun owners have persisted, especially since the ’60s, according to Al Young, an African and African American studies professor at the University of Michigan.
“There is a general discomfort with armed Black people,” Young said. “I’ve had several conversations with Black police officers who say the last thing I’m going to do is pull my gun out in plain clothes.
“Without that uniform on, they become victims of being perceived as a threatening Black person with a gun,” Young added.
Earl Lewis, the founding director of the University of Michigan Center for Social Solutions, agreed Black gun owners are perceived differently.
He pointed to a case in which a Black man was perceived as threatening: Philando Castile was shot by a Minnesota police officer during a traffic stop in 2016.
“He tried to say he was licensed to carry, which made the police officer more anxious. So, he didn’t survive,” Lewis said. “There is recognition that owning a gun can invite a certain inspection, if not suspicion.”
Michael Lynn Jr., a member of the Malcolm Little Gun Club, said he won’t let anyone suppress his gun rights.
“I’ve been advocating for the Second Amendment,” Lynn said. “There is a stigma against Black and Brown people carrying weapons. I want to change the narrative.”
Years ago, Lynn took a CPL course with all white men in Charlotte, and he didn’t feel welcome, he said. He later created a Facebook group called “Black and Brown 2A Advocates.”
Lynn believes he and other armed activists helped normalize “Black and Brown people carrying guns like anybody else” when they escorted state Rep. Sarah Anthony to the Michigan State Capitol in May. Anthony felt threatened “as an African American woman” by an armed white militia that carried racist imagery and Confederate flags, she said.
“We kept hearing that if Black people had been carrying guns up there, we would have been killed,” Lynn said. “That may be true in some fashion, but it creates fear in Black people — that if we do something that is a right of ours, we’ll be killed.”
“We showed the world this is our right,” he added.
Marie Duncan, of DeWitt, bought her first gun in February after family members urged her to consider it. She finished a gun safety class in July. Today, she feels having a gun in her home for protection is “as necessary” as her refrigerator.
“I just feel like we’re in a time right now where things are so unexpected,” said Duncan, who is Black. “Unfortunately, we live in a time when racism is on a high. It’s almost something we breathe every day. We have police brutality going on and it’s almost like you can’t trust anyone anymore.”
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© Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal U.S. Concealed Carry Association Instructor Chris Periatt, left, teaches new shooter Jacques Eutsey of Lansing proper grip and stance techniques Thursday, July 30, 2020, at Range 517 in Delta Township. Periatt, a former police officer and U.S. Marine, is the store’s general manager and director of training.
The effectiveness of using a gun defensively varies across “types of victims, types of offenders and circumstances of the crime,” according to a study by The National Academies’ Institute of Medicine and National Research Council.
But the research did find “consistently lower injury rates among gun-using crime victims compared with victims who used other self-protective strategies.”
It also noted that “even when defensive use of guns is effective in averting death or injury for the gun user in cases of crime, it is still possible that keeping a gun in the home or carrying a gun in public … may have a different net effect on the rate of injury” and that more research was needed to draw definitive conclusions.
Ector said many of the people he has taught don’t believe the police will always be there to protect them from those who have nothing to lose, he said.
“Law enforcement are vulnerable to COVID-19 and might not have resources they typically have. They might not get there in time,” he said. “Some are pushing wild ideas about disbanding the police and reducing their numbers. If I’m robbed in my driveway, I don’t want a social worker to come to my house.”
The “rhetoric” coming from President Donald Trump isn’t easing fears about personal safety, according to Mujahid Abdul-Hameed, president of the Malcolm Little Gun Club, a chapter of the National African American Gun Association.
“We hear the racist talk from the president,” Abdul-Hameed, 70, said. “He is not blowing a dog whistle. He is saying it outright.”
The state of the world is why Abdul-Hameed is cautious about his own safety. Whether he is taking a trip to Walmart or elsewhere, he makes sure to bring his gun with him.
He knows elderly people get preyed upon, and he isn’t as fast as he used to be, he said. He has an artificial hip, and he had about 12 knee surgeries by the time he retired from the Lansing Fire Department.
It’s also important to Abdul-Hameed that others know how to protect themselves.
Abdul-Hameed brings people to the shooting range at the Rose Lake State Wildlife Area in Clinton County every month to learn how to shoot. The group’s target “for a lack of a better word” is Black people, but all are welcome, he said.
“We are getting more older members who are coming to learn to defend themselves,” he said. “A lot of us are getting up there, and we can’t fight like we used to.” gun deals
© Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal Former MSU swim and dive team member Allie Heneman, 22, of Perry shoots her .40 caliber Glock handgun Monday, July 17, 2020, at the gun range at the Rose Lake State Wildlife Area in Clinton County. Heneman’s mother, Joni Bernard has been teaching her daughter firearms training before the recent MSU departs for medical school in Florida. “It’s important that she knows how to shoot,” she said. “We’ve already mapped out three gun ranges near campus for her to continue practicing.” Demand for guns increase in Michigan
In June, background checks on people purchasing firearms or applying for a permit to conceal carry a pistol were up nearly 70% from June 2019, according to data released by the FBI.
But to get to the core of just how many firearms have been sold in the U.S. this year, you need to filter out background checks conducted for permits, Oliva said.gun deals
© Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal Range 517 owner Eric Haddad outside his Delta Township shop. The full-service range and firearms store sells guns, ammunition and shooting accessories. They have two indoor ranges and offer CPL classes and firearms training.
The best year on record for firearm sales in the U.S. is 2016, Oliva said. Approximately 15 million background checks were conducted for firearm sales that year, he said.
2020 will almost certainly exceed that.
“What I can tell you is that, in the first six months of this year, there have been 10.3 million background checks conducted for the sale of a firearm,” Oliva said. “So, we are well on our way to surpassing that at the current pace.”
Between March and mid-May the National Shooting Sports Foundation surveyed its members about what kinds of buyers were purchasing firearms at their businesses.
Results show 40% of customers, or approximately 2.5 million people, who bought guns during that period had never purchased a firearm before.
The foundation expects firearms sales to remain elevated through the end of the year, he said, and retailers are worried about meeting buyer demand.
After it reopened in June, customers bought out many of the handguns and hunting weapons H&M Discount Second Hand Store sells in Lansing.
“There has been a genuine increase in traffic for gun sales,” Dave Lentz, owner of the Michigan Avenue pawnshop, said. “I have been much busier in the gun department than I usually am. Anytime something happens — whether it’s 9/11 or a school or church shooting — people want to feel secure. You’ll notice an increase in traffic then too.” gun deals
Many of the customers at H&M were buying guns for the first time, including an increasing number of women, according to Lentz.
Haddad’s new approximately 21,000-square-foot facility in Delta Township, Range 517, is designed with first-time gun buyers in mind. gun deals
It opened in July and the sales floor is spacious and open, save for several counter stands placed throughout. Cabinets of firearms behind glass line the walls.
“Guns are scary to a lot of people and it’s our job to do a good job and make sure that they don’t feel like that,” he said.
© Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal The sales floor at Range 517 in Delta Township Thursday, July 30, 2020,
Range 517 has been “extremely busy,” Haddad said, though he declined to discuss sales specifics.
“People are realizing what some people have been saying for a long time,” he said. “That they’d rather have the gun and not need it than need the gun and not have it. People are going out and not just buying one gun. They’re buying two or three and they’re doing it and saying, ‘Well, I hope I never need this gun but I’m glad I have it if I need it.’” gun deals
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