DENVER, Colo. — Gun sales hit record highs across the United States in the last year, with more African Americans buying guns than in years past, specifically Black women.
Some believe political unrest is driving higher sales. Others say it’s the new presidential administration threatening to tighten gun laws.
For the 1770 Armory and Gun Club that just started towards the end of 2020, it was about creating a welcoming safe space to learn.
Anubis Heru co-founded the Armory, which is settled in Denver's historic Five Points neighborhood. He realized his community had no place of their own to learn about guns.
"It's important to have someone that looks like you," said Heru. "When you're learning certain things, you just naturally feel more comfortable when you're learning from someone who understands your walk and where you're from."
And after last year, he knew it was needed.
"A lot of people don't feel safe with, you know, the current climate, with certain political groups that are in operation," explained Heru.
Now, the Black community has a space within the Armory to learn a powerful lesson.
"Your Second Amendment is something that doesn't guarantee your safety. It guarantees your ability to be able to defend yourself or fight back," said Heru.
That's why he's all about gun safety, education and practice.
All that training is easier at the Armory because the shooting range is a dry-fire shooting range, meaning there are no bullets, just laser cartridges that attach to guns. This saves people from buying expensive ammunition and helps to make a less intimidating environment for beginners.
"Whether from our Latino brethren or LGBTQ family, they all say pretty much the same thing is like, 'Hey, you know, we feel comfortable here.' So, that's one of the reasons that we're here, and for women especially," said Heru.
Heru said he was surprised how many women immediately signed up for classes and came out to the club’s live fire range nights. He’s glad women are seeing this gun club isn’t a boy's club.
"I just actually fell in love with it," said Jeanine Haliburton, who just joined the club.
She’s not alone. Women made 40% of gun purchases in 2020, and gun sales to Black Americans were up by 60%.
Almost half of the record-breaking 20 million guns sold last year were to first-time buyers, like Sonya Edwards.
"I finally said, 'let's do it,' because I think this is something that needed to be done in my heart," said Edwards. "We just need to be protected because any and everything is happening right now."
Both these women joined the club to find safety in a time of uncertainty.
"I think that's a fear for, you know, anybody of color," said Haliburton of worrying about safety.
That's why this club gives them comfort.
"We're not that soft target anymore," said Edwards. "You know, we're gaining knowledge, and we're starting to become a hard target."
Every night at the range is helping do that by breaking down barriers and building community.
"I like the armory because while they are Black-owned, they're not Black exclusive," said Edwards.
The group is helping to make gun ownership more accessible while giving these women a space in a male-dominated world.
"We’re like sisters. We can learn together. We can build together. We can cry together. We can laugh together. Just come on down," said Edwards.
Heru agrees this club was built for everyone, and he hopes it only grows for years to come.
"We're here for the community. We were created for the community, and the community is of all walks of life, colors, creeds, sexual orientations," said Heru "We're really honored and privileged to be here in this neighborhood."