For Black Gun Owners, Is There a Difference in Carrying While Black?

This Austin-area gun-owner and gun handling instructor talks about differences in culture that he sees between black and white gun owners.

By Alain StephensJuly 8, 2016 10:47 am,

The protest in Dallas where the shooting happened was a gathering to mourn and condemn the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. Both men were killed by police this week. Both men were carrying weapons. But Blacks in the U.S. are about half as likely as whites to own a gun. That’s also true in Texas.

The shootings have sparked discussions about the risks of “carrying while black” – how it can be more dangerous for black people to carry guns than for others.

Michael Cargill, a black man who owns guns, runs Central Texas Gun Works in Austin and teaches gun ownership classes to both black and white gun-owners.

Cargill says after what happened in Dallas, civilians and law enforcement need to better understand each other.

“As a civilian, I actually teach in my classes that when you’re stopped by police, when you interact with police, there’s a certain way you should act,” he says.

Cargill says his grandmother was mugged and raped waiting for the bus coming home from studying for a belated college degree. “I wanted to make sure that every female and everyone in my family had the tools they need to protect themselves,” he says.

Proportionally, fewer black people own guns than white people do. “In the black community, guns are seen as something that are bad and are shunned,” he says. “They don’t want to learn the laws which govern guns, and also how to carry them and how to shoot them.”

As a black man, Cargill says he puts his hands on the steering wheel and informs them that he’s carrying a gun. “It’s sad to say that I have to go that extra mile to make sure that I clearly communicate to that officer what’s going on,” he says, “and then I wait and listen for him to tell me what to do.”

Philando Castile, in a video taken at the scene, seemed to be reaching for his wallet to show his identification when an officer shot him, still seat-belted in. Cargill says black men are at more risk because the statistics show they are shot more.

“Do I tell my black students anything different from my white students? Absolutely not,” he says. “Blacks are not coming to class to learn what the laws are – learn how to carry that gun and learn the different laws in the different states in which they live.”

More people are starting to learn how to use guns properly, Cargill says. He gets a lot of questions about what is legal in Texas: yes, it’s legal to carry a loaded gun in your car; no, you don’t have to register a gun in your home.

“There are a lot of different laws,” he says, “and we just need people to come to class and sit down and ask those questions.”

Post by Hannah McBride.