2 deadly shoot­ings send chill through black gun own­ers


ODENTON, Md. — Gun-rights ad­vo­cates like to say, “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.” Some black gun own­ers, though, are not so sure it’s a wise idea for them to try to be the good guy and pull out a weapon in pub­lic.

Twice in the span of 11 days last month, a black man who drew a gun in re­sponse to a crime in the U.S. was shot to death by a white po­lice of­fi­cer af­ter ap­par­ently be­ing mis­taken for the bad guy.

Some African-Amer­i­cans who are li­censed to carry weapons say cases like those make them hes­i­tant to step in to pro­tect oth­ers.

“I’m not an ad­vo­cate of open-carry if you’re black,” said the Rev. Kenn Blan­chard, a Sec­ond Amend­ment ac­tivist and host of the YouTube pro­gram “Black Man With a Gun TV.” “We still have racism . . . . We still scare peo­ple. The psy­chol­ogy of fear, it’s big­ger than the Sec­ond Amend­ment.”

The re­cent shoot­ings of Jemel Rober­son and Eman­tic Brad­ford Jr. am­pli­fied long-held fears that bad things can hap­pen when a black man is seen with a gun.

Rober­son was work­ing se­cu­rity at a Rob­bins, Ill., bar when he was killed Nov. 11 while hold­ing at gun­point a man in­volved in a shoot­ing. Wit­nesses said the of­fi­cer or­dered the 26-yearold Rober­son to drop his gun be­fore fir­ing.

But wit­nesses also re­port­edly shouted that Rober­son, who had a firearms per­mit, was a guard. And a fel­low guard said Rober­son was wear­ing a knit hat and sweat­shirt that were em­bla­zoned “Se­cu­rity.”

Brad­ford, 21, was killed Thanks­giv­ing night by an of­fi­cer re­spond­ing to a re­port of gun­fire at a shop­ping mall in Hoover, Ala. Po­lice ini­tially iden­ti­fied Brad­ford as the gun­man but later back­tracked and ar­rested an­other sus­pect.

Ben Crump, a lawyer for the dead man’s fam­ily, said wit­nesses claimed Brad­ford was try­ing to wave peo­ple away from the shoot­ing. Crump said Brad­ford was li­censed to carry a weapon but was pre­sum­ably seen as a threat be­cause he was a black man.

The two shoot­ings have brought up some of the same ques­tions about racist as­sump­tions and sub­con­scious fears that were asked af­ter the killings of Michael Brown in Fer­gu­son, Mo., and Trayvon Mar­tin in San­ford, Fla.

Trevor Noah, host of “The Daily Show,” lamented Brad­ford’s death.

“That’s what they al­ways say, right? ‘The good guy with a gun stops the crime,’ ” Noah said. “But then if the good guy with a gun turns out to be a black good guy with a gun, they don’t get any of the ben­e­fits.”

In some other cases in­volv­ing black men killed by po­lice: Phi­lando Castile was shot in a car in 2016 in Min­nesota, sec­onds af­ter in­form­ing the of­fi­cer he had a gun. The of­fi­cer was ac­quit­ted of man­slaugh­ter. And John Craw­ford III was shot in a Wal­mart in Ohio in 2014 while hold­ing a BB gun he had picked up in the sport­ing goods sec­tion. Se­cu­rity footage showed he never pointed it at any­one.

Ac­cord­ing to the ad­vo­cacy group Map­ping Po­lice Vi­o­lence, 1,147 peo­ple were killed by po­lice in 2017, 92 per­cent of them in shoot­ings. While blacks make up 13 per­cent of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion, they ac­counted for 27 per­cent of those killed by po­lice, 35 per­cent of those killed by po­lice while un­armed, and 34 per­cent of those killed while un­armed and not at­tack­ing.

An­dre Blount of Tom­ball, Texas, once pulled out his shot­gun to help a neigh­bor who was be­ing at­tacked by an armed white man. The po­lice even­tu­ally ar­rived and de­fused the sit­u­a­tion, he said.

“For me, be­ing a legally reg­is­tered owner and hav­ing a con­cealed weapon per­mit, I feel like I have to be more care­ful than the next per­son,” Blount said. “Be­cause if not, the only thing any­one sees is a black man with a gun.”

AP file photo

A scene from Jemel Rober­son's fu­neral in Chicago last month. Rober­son, who was work­ing se­cu­rity at a bar, was killed while hold­ing at gun­point a man in­volved in a shoot­ing in the tav­ern.

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