In this country’s origin story, Black Americans were largely restricted from owning guns. Yet, in Detroit today, citizens are increasingly turning to gun ownership for a sense of protection and — sometimes — because of a constitutional right to carry.
As of July 1, Wayne County has 120,996 Concealed Pistol Licenses (CPL). That does not include the proliferation of illegal firearms or those who carry without permits. Nicole Kirkwood, a Detroit police sergeant, said the department has recovered 5,900 firearms on the streets so far in 2021 and has made more than 4,700 gun arrests this year alone.
Last year, the department partnered with the feds to address gun proliferation in the city.
Richard Faulkner, a 66-year-old Detroiter living on the city’s northwest side, said he owns a gun to protect his home and his family. He said he decided to learn more about guns after witnessing an attempted break-in at his next door neighbor’s house about five years ago.
Faulkner said he’d still own a gun even if he lived somewhere without Detroit’s crime rates.
“Now that I own a gun and I’ve done some research, I’d keep it even if I moved somewhere with no real crime because there’s just such easy access to get guns,” he said. “That doesn’t change when you move out to the country, that doesn’t change when you move to a place with less crime.”
Back in 2014, it was widely publicized that former Detroit Police Chief and current Republican gubernatorial candidate James Craig told Detroiters to arm themselves to prevent crime. He also appeared on the cover of a gun rights magazine.
Current Police Chief James White feels differently.
“I’m not trying to be political with this, but I think there’s far too many guns on the streets, and it’s too easy for folks to access these weapons,” White told BridgeDetroit.
For some Detroiters though, police alone don’t create a sense of safety. Residents have become self-reliant and are looking to arm others with gun safety lessons and information about the responsibility of ownership.
Detroiter Tanisha Moner said she carries a gun to feel safe.
At 17, Moner was kidnapped, robbed and sexually assaulted at gunpoint. Not long after, Moner was again robbed at gunpoint twice while managing a Burger King in Detroit.
After her experiences, she developed post-traumatic stress disorder and developed a severe fear of guns, so, in her mid-30s, she started taking gun safety classes.
Moner now teaches gun safety to metro Detroit women. The class started 10 years ago as a way to teach women how to defend themselves. This year, the class was taught at two gun ranges in Taylor. The annual class was started by Rick Ector, a National Rifle Association-certified gun instructor in Detroit. Ector didn’t become a gun enthusiast until adulthood after being robbed at gunpoint in his driveway in 2006.
Ector and Moner are Second Amendment advocates, but also say they carry guns primarily for safety. Ector carries a gun on his waist everywhere the law allows.
Vaudia Fleming is a 30-year-old Detroiter who lives on the city’s northwest side. Fleming first learned how to use a gun when he was in basic training for the Navy back in 2010. He bought his first handgun, a Glock 23, in 2014 after noticing a string of shootings near his neighborhood.
“Guns are an easy way to protect yourself,” said Fleming, who owns six guns, including three pistols, two shotguns and an AR-15, a military-style rifle.
AR-15s and other so-called “assault rifles” have gained national scrutiny over the past decade because they’re commonly used in mass shootings. According to a USA TODAY report, AR-15s have been used in 11 mass shootings in the U.S. since 2012.
Marcus Davis, 27, owns multiple guns, including a 9mm handgun, G-22 assault rifle and 12-gauge shotgun.
“You definitely should learn about gun laws and how to fire a gun, no matter which way you lean, pro-gun or anti-gun. Especially being Black in America, because the police might not protect you,” said Davis, who lives on the northwest side of Detroit.
Retired Detroit Police Department Lt. William Bridgewater said he doesn’t think the average citizen should own assault weapons.
“The problem is these guns are more affordable than you might think, and people can buy kits to turn these semi-automatic guns into automatic guns very easily,” Bridgewater said.
Bridgewater, 73, said he believes everyone should have the right to bear arms, but he doesn’t believe assault rifles are necessary for home or personal protection.
“I just think having a firearm that you keep in the home or you keep on your side would be enough,” he said. “You don’t need an AK-47 or an AR-15 or an Uzi.”