The National African American Gun Association just celebrated its sixth anniversary back on February 28th, and the Second Amendment organization is growing by leaps and bounds at the moment. Founder and president Phillip A. Smith joins me on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co to talk about why he started the association and why he’s opposed to any new gun control laws that would have a chilling effect on the Second Amendment rights of the people; including African Americans.
Gun control has historically been used to prevent disfavored individuals and groups from exercising their Second Amendment rights; from the Jim Crow-era laws (some of which are still on the books) that required prospective handgun owners to get permission from local police to New York’s Sullivan Act, which was adopted to prevent immigrants from owning firearms to protect themselves in the crowded and dangerous neighborhoods where they lived.
Today, of course, gun control advocates would never openly demand laws that would have a disparate impact on African Americans who choose to exercise their right to keep and bear arms, but that doesn’t mean that the enforcement of those laws are colorblind.
“I really struggle when I hear politicians, whoever they are, put out legislation that’s really not going to address the issue,” Smith says. “I’m all for going after the bad guys; if you’re a violent criminal you need to get put away forever. I’m firmly in that camp. But at the same time, we need to take a step back and look at not the symptom, but the disease.”
Smith argues that the “disease” of violence has certain characteristics, whether it’s the south side of Chicago, south central L.A., Detroit, or any other community plagued with violent crime and gang warfare.
“Lack of skillsets in terms of getting a job; the over-felonization of young folks, who by the time they’re 22 or 23 they cannot get a job anywhere because they have two or three felonies for low-level marijuana and drug offenses,” he stresses. “They have confrontational relationships with law enforcement at best. We need to go after those social structures which are causing those folks to be in a position where they don’t have the opportunity to make money to live. And if you or I were in the same position where we could not do anything for our families, couldn’t get a job since we can’t interact with anybody or anything in a normalized social fashion, then you’re going to be forced to do things that you would not normally want to do. And that’s where we need to put our emphasis and focus, not on law-abiding gun owners.”
Focus on the criminals, argues Smith, but also on the social, economic, and political structures that foster criminality in the first place.
I happen to agree with Smith that gun control laws, in addition to infringing on the rights of citizens, are also a cop-out for politicians who want to be able to say they’re doing “something” without tackling the much more difficult root causes of violence.
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Smith, for example, is proudly touting the city’s new partnership with Everytown For Gun Safety that will allegedly try to identify bad apple gun dealers, but the mayor has been largely silent about the scandal erupting in the city over Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Design, where more than half of the student body has a GPA below 0.13. In his first comments about the abysmal failure of the high school, Scott implied that the problem was the result of underfunding for the school system, even though Baltimore Public Schools spend 25-percent above the national average on a per pupil basis.
The money is there, in other words. It’s the results that are missing, and the city is failing the kids that it’s supposed to be educating.
As you might have guessed, Smith isn’t a big fan of the new gun control laws being proposed in Congress, including the universal background check bill that could be brought to the floor of the House as early as next week.
“I’m not excited about it,” Smith tells me. “I’ll say this, just so everyone knows who’s listening to me. In our organization and myself when I represent my organization, we don’t typically comment on politicians but we will adamantly and vigorously talk about policies like we’re doing today. And I think any time you have policies that are coming down the pipeline that, to me, are just reckless and they go after the wrong group of folks time and time again – it’s like the effort is at any turn or stop to have something there that’s going to make it difficult to get a firearm. That’s just the wrong mindset.”
Smith says if you don’t like guns, that’s fine. There are tens of millions of us who do, and we have a right to own them.
“Just stop throwing out stuff that doesn’t make sense, and frankly, doesn’t do anything to change the outcome,” he argues. “Nothing is going to change until you start looking at the true symptoms, as I mentioned earlier, when it comes to violence in the country and making the country a safer place. We make this place a safer country by allowing folks who can buy guns to let them buy guns. And we make the country a safer place by going after the people who are committing crimes.”
With more than 40,000 members, the National African American Gun Association (which, by the way, is open to Second Amendment supporters of all races) is already a powerful platform for those who believe in protecting the right of the people to keep and bear arms, and it has the potential to play a major role the fight for our Second Amendment rights going forward. I hope you’ll check out the entire interview with Phillip A. Smith in the video window above, and I look forward to continuing our conversation in the near future.