- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 21, 2015

President Obama and other black leaders called for tighter access to firearms last week in reaction to the mass shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, but not Kenn Blanchard.

A former Marine, Christian pastor and author of “Black Man with a Gun,” Mr. Blanchard wants more black people to protect themselves by embracing the Second Amendment and learning to use firearms, instead of reflexively siding with the gun control movement.

“It hit too close to home, being a former pastor of a church, knowing that you’re almost a sitting duck because you open your church up to the herding, you don’t question people, you don’t have adequate security,” said Mr. Blanchard, who hosts a podcast through his website, BlackManWithAGun.com.

“Biblically, it’s kind of out of context, too,” he said. “If you’re going to be the shepherd of a flock — the shepherd had a really big stick. And the shepherd protected the sheep from the wolf and the bear. And the sheep felt safe because the shepherd was armed.”

Somehow, he said, “we’ve gotten away from that. We make it seem as if the gun is an evil talisman when it’s not. It’s just another tool.”

Mr. Blanchard’s response to Wednesday’s massacre is a sharp contrast to those of other black leaders, starting with Mr. Obama but including Rep. Donna F. Edwards, a Maryland Democrat who urged Congress to pass gun control bills instead of only having “yet another moment of silence.”

“I don’t think it’s inappropriate for us to talk about what we need to do to get and keep guns out of the hands of people who would commit such a tragedy,” Ms. Edwards said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Evidence suggests that Mr. Blanchard’s message is gaining followers. A Pew Research Center poll released Dec. 10 found that support among blacks for the view that gun ownership increases personal safety is soaring.

“Currently, 54 percent of blacks say gun ownership does more to protect people than endanger personal safety, nearly double the percentage saying this in December 2012 (29 percent),” said the Pew analysis. “By contrast, whites’ views have shown less change: 62 percent now view guns as doing more to protect people, up from 54 percent in December.”

Mr. Blanchard, a licensed firearms instructor and former NRA lobbyist, said he sees evidence of that shift in his work as a gun rights advocate.

“In 2015, I’ve seen a growth and resurgence of firearms ownership with people of color that I haven’t seen in 25 years of being a firearms instructor, a grassroots activist and a speaker,” Mr. Blanchard said. “It’s never happened before. And folks don’t know what to do with that.”

He said the traditional aversion to firearms in the black community evolved from its unique history, from the civil rights movement’s emphasis on nonviolent protest to centuries of laws that denied blacks the right to own guns.

“It stems from our history with just guns in general. From the beginning, from the 1630s, the very first gun control law was created so that slaves and the Chinese and Native Americans couldn’t have firearms,” Mr. Blanchard said. “In the 1700s, there was a law against any person of color owning a firearm. If you have been systematically told that it’s bad to have a gun, it kind of gets into your tradition.”

During the 1960s civil rights era, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. emphasized nonviolence, “and we associate violence with guns,” Mr. Blanchard said.

Emanuel AME Church may have been targeted because of the assumption that security was lax.

Dylann Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder in the church shootings. His friend Chris Scriven, who is black, told reporters that Mr. Roof originally talked about targeting a local college.

“I don’t even think the church was his primary target, because he told us he was going for the school,” Mr. Scriven said in a televised interview. “But I don’t think he could get into the school because of the security and all that.”

In two attacks on predominantly white churches, gunmen were stopped by parishioners carrying concealed weapons: in 2007 at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, and in 2012 at the South Side Freewill Baptist Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Two years ago, Detroit Police Chief James Craig put a positive spin on gun ownership in the black community by encouraging residents to protect themselves by obtaining concealed-carry permits. He later credited the 37 percent drop in robberies to more armed citizens.

“Criminals are getting the message that good Detroiters are armed and will use that weapon,” Chief Craig, who is black, told The Detroit News in January 2014.

Mr. Obama took the opposite tack Friday, saying that if Congress had passed “common-sense gun safety reforms after Newtown we might still have some more Americans with us.”

The president was referring to the 2012 massacre at a Connecticut elementary school that left 26 dead.

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