Philadelphia Artist and Activist Educates Communities about Firearms
Many Americans support stricter regulations with regard to gun ownership, but what if the issue is not as simple as some may think? What if guns were thought of as a tool for empowerment rather than an instrument of evil?
Gun rights are often thought of differently than other civil liberties issues, but many Americans feel that the right to bear arms granted by the Second Amendment is every bit as important as the freedoms guaranteed to Americans by the other Amendments in this important document. The fight for the right to bear arms is often thought to be the cause of backward rural conservatives. In Philadelphia and other urban centers throughout America, Maj Toure and his organization, Black Guns Matter, are challenging this stereotype while educating the black community and the populace at large about responsible gun ownership and the freedoms and responsibilities this entails.
According to Toure, instead of viewing guns as an instigator of violence, violence needs to be addressed as a societal issue with obvious causes that can be addressed, thereby eliminating violence. A firm educational background in civics and citizenship is the first step in addressing the cycle of violence and preventing it from reoccurring. Toure says that “gun violence equals regular violence,” and that the solution is a proper background in the rights and responsibilities accorded to a citizen of the United States. Education in civics and citizenship along with mediation and conflict resolution curbs violence, consequently leading to a reduction in violent crimes involving firearms.
Toure lamented that civics are not given a proper place in the curriculum in inner-city public schools: “It’s like these children are being put somewhere and not even told what the parameters are.”
He added that, “Many Americans are being made to feel separate from the American dream,” adding to the disenfranchisement and disillusion confronting many communities in the United States.
Understanding the founding documents of the United States such as the Constitution is crucial to comprehending one’s role as a citizen, and Toure believes that ignorance of the Constitution and the principles on which American democracy was founded is the largest contributor to people’s fear of guns. In Toure’s travels around the United States as a firearms educator, he has found that people are almost unanimously in support of being able to defend themselves and their loved ones, and that the only reason that people are in favor of stricter gun control legislation is because they are scared as a result of miseducation.
The Declaration of Independence was signed in order to protect the values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and Maj Toure is fighting hard so that Americans can enjoy these things to this day. Gun ownership is a means of defending one’s life liberty and happiness. Toure believes that it is “the American Way” to protect these freedoms and defend oneself. This value system is important to many people’s conception of the American identity, and as Toure says, “If you can’t protect your values, then you don’t have any.”
Toure believes that gun laws are inherently racist and that gun laws have been used to disenfranchise black citizens since the laws’ inceptions, from slave codes to the massacre at wounded knee and the passage of the Mulford act years later. The concept of gun rights is rooted in the disenfranchisement of minority groups. Gun rights and ownership empower everybody, but the black community is the group most negatively affected by tighter gun regulations and is also the group that stands to gain the most from responsible, legal gun ownership.
The concept of freedom is crucial to understanding the position of Toure and other gun rights advocates; Toure even goes so far as to say that “every decision you make should be viewed through the lens of the freedom of others.”
Toure is just as passionate about ending gun violence as he is about protecting his community, but he believes that gun control advocates are approaching the problem in the wrong way. “We have to be honest this isn’t working” he says as he points out the failure of the Clinton Crime Bills and the fact that
“What these groups are trying to do is exactly how Einstein defined insanity: doing the same thing and expecting different results. We’ve been experimenting with these new laws and theories for over 30 years and they haven’t worked. It’s time to try something that will work instead of treating these communities as a science experiment.”
Despite opposition from government officials who even went so far as to move a firearms licensing center farther away from the communities it serves after Black Guns Matter began organizing licensing drives in 2016, Toure’s organization has already made a tremendous impact in reducing crime and educating the public about firearms. Philadelphia had less violent crimes in 2016 than in any year since 1979 and that number has continued to fall.
Maj Toure plans to keep spreading his message of empowerment and responsibility in the arena of firearms throughout the United States through training courses, seminars, and community meetings and also through his work as a solutionary hip-hop artist. Toure calls his style of music “solutionary” because it proposes real solutions to the problems that urban communities in America face, and he uses his platform as an artist to further the cause of empowerment and equality.
More information and ways to support Black Guns Matter can be found at Gofundme.com/BlackGunsMatter