Marchelle Tigner is on a mission to train ONE million Black women how to handle and shoot a gun in her lifetime. As a firearms instructor in Lawrenceville, Ga., Marchelle says it’s important for women to know how to use a gun for self-protection. She said her class isn’t about killing someone, but is instead about eliminating a threat.
During one of her classes, a student told Marchelle she wasn’t sure if she could ever shoot, much less kill someone. And couldn’t she just aim for their leg and try to maim them? To this, Marchelle told the student, “I promise you they’re not going to be having any sympathy or going through the thought process you are.”
Marchelle is part of a new wave of Black women guns owners who are picking up firearms for self-protection. Another such woman is 50-year-old Jonava Johnson. She said she was afraid of guns because when she was 17, an ex-boyfriend from high school threatened her, and shot and killed her new boyfriend in front of her.
Following the sexual assault of her daughter in their home, Johnson has had a change of heart about guns and decided to enroll in Marchelle’s class. Johnson said, “I think that’s the way it’s always been in the black community: It was never OK for us to own a gun. But now? I hope I never have to kill anybody, but if it comes down to me or my children, they’re out.”
The firearms training center is located in Lawrenceville, Georgia above the Bull’s Eye Indoor Gun Range. After going over basic safety lessons and instructions, the students are given orange plastic replica guns, and then Marchelle demonstrates proper stance and grip. The students are taught not to put a finger on the trigger until it’s time to shoot and to keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Marchelle reminds her students to know what is beyond their target, so they don’t accidentally shoot a young child or another innocent bystander.
According to research by the Pew Research Center, just 16 percent of “non-white women” identified themselves as gun owners, while 25 percent of white women said they were gun owners. The research also showed that prior to 2012, only about 33 percent of Black people viewed gun ownership as positive. But fast forward three years, and that number jumped to 59 percent of Black families seeing guns as a necessity.
The founder of the National African American Gun Association, Philip Smith, said his group has grown to 20,000 members in 30 chapters across the country, since being formed in 2012. He said, “I thought it would be the brothers joining,” but was pleasantly surprised at the number of Black women that joined the association.
Marchelle Tigner undertook her mission to teach Black women about gun ownership after being the victim of domestic violence and sexual assault. She said, “It’s important, especially for Black women, to learn how to shoot. We need to learn how to defend ourselves.”