A black guy goes to an NRA convention in the Age of Trump. Here’s what happened.

Jason Johnson, The Root | 5/4/2017, 8:59 a.m.
A black guy goes to an NRA convention in the Age of Trump. Here’s what happened.
Jason Johnson wasn’t the only African American at the convention. Here he’s joined by Colion Noir, a spokesmodel for NRA’s “CarryGuard,” which provides legal support in case NRA members find themselves charged for killing in self-defense.

“We’re talking about an issue that has been engrossed in politics. I’m not naive enough to think they (guns, politics, race) don’t crisscross, but I try to separate them. I have to,” Noir said.

He talked about how welcome he was at the convention and how many times, “both sides” refuse to talk to each other about issues relating to guns, race or shootings.

“I get pulled over all the time because I can’t stop speeding,” he joked. One time, Noir was driving with 10 guns in his car and got pulled over by a “redneck cop,” and they ended up having a great 20-minute conversation about gun culture.

“My experience isn’t everybody’s,” he acknowledged. Which is true – just ask John Crawford, Tamir Rice and Philando Castille, all of them black people shot and killed by police while having real or toy guns, despite being in open-carry states. But according to Noir, these shootings aren’t about institutional racism; they’re about ignorance, gun culture and a few bad cops.

I, along with a 30-something black man listening to our conversation, wasn’t trying to hear Noir’s “Gotta hear both sides” rhetoric, so I pushed back.

“The consequences for white ignorance aren’t the same as for black ignorance,” I said. “We have a legal system that has repeatedly said white fear, either out of ignorance of racism, is enough justification to employ lethal force, whether you’re a private citizen or a cop. It’s not the same for us.”

Noir, ever the lawyer, agreed that bad cops should be punished, but he quickly went back to arguing that we have to look at every shooting on a case-by-case basis rather than see an overarching problem. Which would work fine, if the entire convention weren’t selling the exact-opposite message.

Everywhere you go in the convention, you’re being told that the world is a dangerous place and you have to be ready. Even at the convention itself. I started up a conversation with a 50-something suburban-looking white guy named “Chris.” It was his fourth NRA convention, and we were talking about seeing Donald Trump Jr. walk through the building with not nearly as much security as you’d expect for the son of the 45th president.

“The Secret Service must be going nuts, right? With all these guns in here?” he said.

“I’m pretty sure Donald Trump Jr. is safe,” I responded. “Nobody here wants to take a shot at him. These are all responsible hunters, right?”

“Oh, I love the NRA, but I couldn’t bring myself to hunt,” Chris said. “My wife and I have three rescue dogs, and I just couldn’t bring myself to take … to take an animal’s life, you know? But I’m OK if other people want to hunt.”

Wait, what?

Despite Chris’ concerns, the NRA seems much more interested in the dangers posed by ISIS terrorists, illegal Mexican immigrants and “urban thugs” than a room full of non-background-checked men with enough weapons to save Morpheus and John Wick in one afternoon. As much as I could find use for a metallic pen that doubles as a glass breaker or a pair of hearing aids so strong I could hear a deer piss on cotton, none of these toys makes me any safer.