The Way of the Gun—Self Defense, Intimidation and Collateral

The Way of the Gun—Self Defense, Intimidation and Collateral

Story tools

A A AResize


Editor’s Note: The massacre in Tucson, Arizona has sparked a national debate on gun control. But for some young African-American men from the crime-ridden streets of Oakland, Calif., guns are woven into the fabric of their lives. Sean Shavers, Thomas Taper and Bobby Jackson are content producers at YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia.

A Gun is an Asset in the Hood

The gun violence that happened in Arizona, it’s pretty much impossible to stop because guns are everywhere. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve been involved in weapon sales.

I remember when I was 17 and just got out of Camp Sweeney (Juvenile Hall), my older cousin sold me a .357 revolver. The gun was old, but still shot pretty good. I also bought extra bullets. He sold it to me for $300. I thought it was a good investment. When you don’t have money, you can use a gun as collateral. So I knew it would come in handy, one way or another.

Long story short, my mom was cleaning my room one day, and found the pistol in the closet. She was furious, not only about the gun, but also because I was still on probation. So she threatened to call the police and kicked me out. I took the gun, and went to my Grandma's house.

My Grandma knew I had the gun, but also knew the circumstances I was in. I was young, black and a prime target for gun violence. Honestly, I don’t know who I would’ve shot, but I don’t regret the decision buying the gun -- sometimes people try you, and you have to defend yourself.

My only form of protection now is to avoid trouble. If I’m not involved in anything, have a problem with anyone, or affiliated with anybody, I’m less likely to be a target. Usually when you mind your business, people tend to leave you alone. So I defend myself, by staying in the house.

--Sean Shavers, 18

Trying to Buy a Gun Can Get You Robbed

Since forever and a day, guns have been the primary weapon for violence in my neighborhood. Murder, robbery and intimidation is a gun’s m.o. They work too. If you see somebody coming down the street with a gun in their hand, what would you do? Walk on the opposite side, right? I would.

I know where to go to get a gun but the thing about that is, with all the violence and killings, nobody is selling guns they’re keeping them for themselves.

It’s so bad right now when you go to buy a gun, they’ll try to rob you as you try to make the transaction.
I can name a few reasons why I used to need a gun and a few reasons why I would need one now. When I was in the streets, I needed a gun for protection. I robbed a few people in my lifetime and I also used the gun to intimidate. Nobody really wants to mess with you if they know you always have a gun on you. Today, I don’t have a gun but if I did decide to get one it would only be to protect my family.

The world we live in is very unpredictable, you don’t know who’s who and what’s what. A person you’ve known your whole life could just lose his mind and try to kill you. I feel the world is that messed up. You never know what the next person is thinking.

Guns are not the thing you should be worried about. You should be worried about the person holding the gun. I’m scared of the killers, the person that has been dreaming of his first kill or that person who’s been killing for a long time. And you’ll never know who that person is until you take that last breath.

-- Thomas Taper, 25

If Granny Packs a Gun, Anyone Can

When I got my first gun, I bought it from my cousin’s friend. I spent $450 dollars on a Glock 40. I got my gun for protection from the streets. People get robbed where I come from every day, you can’t predict when it’s going to happen. That’s why people carry guns – it’s better to be caught with one than without. I bought my gun, because I knew there were things I’d done in the past to people and they might come back looking for revenge.

Also when I didn’t have money, I could rob someone to get some fast money. When you really have your back to the wall and a gun in your hand, you’ll do desperate things to get what they want. I believe most people have a gun in their home to protect themselves. I know if my granny keeps one in her car -- and she is 67 years old -- then there ain’t no telling who has one these days.

When people buy guns, they think it gives them more power and that’s true. But if two people have guns, it doesn’t matter. What matters is who pulls the trigger first.

-- Bobby Jackson, 18