CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - African-Americans are the fastest growing group of gun owners in the state of North Carolina.
A 2017 Crime Prevention Research Center report states that from 2012 to 2016 black gun ownership grew 30 percent faster than whites in North Carolina.
The latest Pew Research study shows 24 percent of African-Americans in this country have guns in their homes.
Several local gun owners said the numbers are in line with their belief in the second amendment. "It is important that we actually arm ourselves," gun owner Carolyn Cuthbertson said.
Cuthbertson said when her husband died two years ago, she took the gun he gave her and learned how to shoot. But it took a while to come around to the idea.
"I would go to the gun ranges….the noise would scare me so bad but I told myself you've got to get passed this - your protector is gone, you're a protector now," said Cuthbertson.
She said she got used to the noise and now shoots regularly. Although sometimes, as a black gun owner, she says her right to bear arms is often treated like a privilege.
"As African-Americans if we have conceal carry, you're treated differently, you are handled differently," she said.
When Cuthbertson went through conceal carry classes, she said her training didn't address that issue. That's when she started looking for a group of gun owners who could relate to that specific challenge.
She then found Black Diamond Firearms and Training.
"Folks that have been teaching up until this point do not take into consideration very often a lot of the challenges we face as gun owners...as black gun owners," said Justin Lewter, who is the financial officer at Black Diamond Firearms and Training.
Lewter, Roman Townsend and Dreak Byrd started Black Diamond Firearms and Training for gun owners like Cuthbertson to learn, do business and fellowship with other black gun owners.
Lewter said they're motto is "survive the encounter." "De-escalation is key," he said. He said their present day motto, is rooted in the past.
"People are not aware of is how important black gun ownership was in the civil rights movement," Lewter said. "Dr. King use and many of the civil rights activists use of non-violence but it was a tactic and a strategy people weren't aware that Dr. King actually applied for a conceal carry license in Alabama in the 1950s after his house was firebombed."
"I think its' getting back to people taking their own safety into their own hands," said Townsend. Lewter and Townsend are members of the NRA but do not participate in the politics of the organization.
"To be certified to teach these classes, conceal carry classes you have to be registered certified pistol instructors with the NRA," Lewter said.
"They are a very powerful lobby and they have their role to play but here in Charlotte, in North Carolina, Black Diamond, we have our role to play," said Towsend.
Townsend says that role is to educate the local black community and help gun owners like Cuthbertson enjoy their constitutional right.