The National African American Gun Association (NAAGA) is considering expanding its mission into the political arena. By forming a political action committee, they could raise money to support politicians they see as sympathetic to their cause. NPR reports that the PAC’s main objectives would be to improve relations between the police and black gun owners.
According to NAAGA’s website, the organization was founded in 2015. “The goal of the National African American Gun Association is to establish a 2nd Amendment Organization that educates and trains our community on the rich legacy of gun ownership of African Americans, offering education, training, support, safety standards, and cultural inspiration.”
In the last four years, membership has shot to about 30,000 people in 75 chapters across the country. Texas, Florida, and Ohio each have six chapters. Most are gun clubs and they hold events and shoot regularly to further their mission of training responsible gun owners. While it is an African American organization, “We welcome people of all religious, political, social, and racial backgrounds,” and they include a handful of non-black members.
The organization’s long-term goal is to introduce every African American to firearms for protection, recreation, and hunting. They are a pro-2nd Amendment organization. A 2017 study by the Pew Research Center says that just 24% of African Americans report owning a gun, so NAAGA has a long way to go. That’s contrasted with 36% of whites and 15% of Hispanics.
“Black folks and guns usually get a negative stereotype reaction like: ‘What is that guy doing with a gun?’ “Philip Smith told NPR. He’s the president and founder of the group.
After the publicized police shootings of several African Americans in the last few years, NAAGA wants to help change the social situation between the police and black gun owners. “Our organization was formed to advocate self-defense with the use of firearms based on the 2nd Amendment,” the About Us page reads, “but a secondary and very important function of NAAGA is to be active on social issues. By collectively working together with a defined strategy, we can begin correcting social injustice.”
Forming a PAC and fundraising for candidates and causes could help their mission.
“Does law enforcement, or more importantly larger society, view black men with firearms in a certain way? Let’s have that discussion,” Smith Says. “That’s a hard discussion, but that’s a discussion we need, as an organization, to be involved with.”
Smith continued, “My job, and it’s a very long-term wish, is to change that socialization process where [when] people see a black guy or a black woman walking with a gun, they won’t automatically say, ‘He or she is a thug’ or ‘He or she is doing something illegal.’ “
Casandra Light, a 23-year-old female member of the group is concerned that becoming more involved politically could change the culture of the group and drive away members.
“One of the main things we’re trying to do is change the perspective of black gun ownership into a positive mindset,” she told NPR. She continued that forming a PAC could drive some members away. “I would hate to see that happen.”
“I think if the organization wants to maintain the openness that we have to everyone regardless of their race, gender, political affiliation,” Light says, “we also need to be careful about having a political stance because it’s real easy for that to get blown out of proportion.”
Michael Doyle, a white member of the Atlanta, GA chapter says it’s impossible for a group like this to stay out of politics. “The idea that an African-American gun association would be blithely silent on matters of race and gun ownership, would be absurd.”
NAAGA’s executives are discussing the details of the PAC but they’ll let the members weigh in, too, NPR reports.
Oh, and as for the group’s controversial acronym: N-A-A-G-A, Smith believes it gives the group an “edge.”
“Some people thought it was offensive. I thought, and still do think, there’s kind of an edge to it,” he said.