Philadelphia Gun Range Owner And Activist Say 'Black Guns Matter'
There was one shooting every six hours on average last year in Philadelphia. In the past 10 years, more than 14,500 shootings occurred, with at least 2,600 killed by guns — many of whom were black residents.
While some see the numbers as a reason to increase gun control, others see things differently.
Yuri Zalzman of North Philadelphia’s The Gun Range and Maj Toure of the activist group Black Guns Matter have come together to try to find solutions.
Both teach inner-city residents how to properly handle firearms and believe the effort to reduce the number of guns in the city would mean residents would be less safe.
Here & Now’s Robin Young visited The Gun Range and spoke with Zalzman and Toure about their efforts.
Interview Highlights: Maj Toure & Yuri Zalzman
On individuals and gun ownership
Maj Toure: “For one they should choose to exercise anything that will defend themselves. If someone has a firearm and you don’t, you lose. That’s it. No different than if someone has a knife and you don’t have the means to defend yourself, you lose.
So I think that the community that I’m from, I think that information is deliberately kept away. It’s made to seem that if you have a firearm you’re either law enforcement or you must be the bad guy. No one can deny, with the things that have happened over the last few weeks, we’re being murdered by law enforcement — and in our own community — at alarming rates.”
On police in Dallas being suspicious of black men who were carrying rifles
Toure: “That’s the police officers’ and law enforcement’s responsibility to balance that out. Because there’s one or two or a few bad apples, I wouldn’t say throw the whole bunch out. You cannot group and have a monolithic statement or blanket solution for everyone when people don’t fall in alignment with that particular… I don’t even think it’s even a level of confusion. That’s law enforcement’s responsibility to be better trained and execute their duties in a much more productive way.”
On how Dallas police had to control the situation with the shooter
Yuri Zalzman: “What we’re talking about is one additional, very unfortunate tragic event. We don’t normally have these situations I think that the discussion should not take place on the fringes, no more than it is pleasant to have a conversation with somebody whose thoughts are at the extremes one way or the other.
What Maj and I are doing here is that we’re creating synthesis that is based on the reality of what an everyday American experiences in a big city, and a big city is not a peaceful place sometimes.”
On gun violence statistics, including accidents and suicides
Toure: “How many were with knives? How many of them were by legal, trained, informed citizens? These are the questions, because those are horrible statistics, but at the same time what we try to do is inform and educate people to make better decisions. I also think that there’s no way to really quantify someone who feels more safe and is more safe in those high-crime areas.”
On Philando Castile and African-American men exercising their Second Amendment right
Toure: “Again, it’s not about arming more African-American men. It’s about informing more people. I think that that one officer handled himself improperly. Just like I don’t like getting hit with a blanket statement because I’m a young African-American male with tattoos and, you know, things like that, I’ll never make a blanket statement about law enforcement because of those officers.
But that does indicate a certain level of training, maybe psychological evaluation, in order to get the license to carry, you have to pass criminal background checks, your mental health in certain places depending on where you are. I think that every so often certain officers that have those type of things on their record should meet that same type of requirement.”
Toure on what he would say to presidential candidates and delegates
Toure: “What I can say to the American people from whatever background you are, is exercise your Second Amendment rights. Be open-minded, be objective and learn. Because a lot of people say, ‘The Republicans have backed x, y and z.’ Even that part is flawed. Dr. King was a staunch nonviolent person, but he was a Republican. I’m a Republican.”
On Donald Trump and the Republican Party
Toure: “I don’t think about Donald Trump the candidate. I don’t. I think about my community. I think about more people coming to the gun range and exercising their Second Amendment rights. I think about politics being local and spreading out to influence candidates.”
Yuri Zalzman, owner of The Gun Range in north Philadelphia.
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.