‘It’s a Matter of Survival’: The Black Americans Fighting for Gun Rights
Dallas is hot right now,” self-defence activist Eric Randall tells me with a shake of his head. It’s well over 100F in the carpark outside the strip mall pizzeria where we’re talking, and the asphalt is rippling with haze. But Randall is not talking about the weather. He’s talking about his neighbourhood.
For Randall, who leads one of a small but growing number of groups organising and training for the armed self-defence of black areas, the stakes are high. Only 10 days before our sit-down, a young black man named Micah Johnson shot 14 police officers in the downtown area, killing five. The increasing friction between the black community, the police, and rightwing or white supremacist activists who’ve been drawn to Dallas in the wake of the killings has been noticeable, he says.
Randall’s group may be in a radical minority, but he is part of a much larger body of African American opinion which is pro-firearms and pro-second amendment. Not everyone in that category shares Randall’s broader political views, but many see guns as a way of being safe in a country that is dangerous for black citizens.
In Dallas, the problem is not just the heightened suspicion between the black community and the police – though Randall does emphasise that those relationships are “tense, very, very tense”. It’s also that the city suddenly has much more pull for the growing counter-movement to Black Lives Matter, which is rising. Two days before our interview, rightwing activists had convened a White Lives Matter protest downtown.