During the pandemic, gun and ammunition sales spiked dramatically in the United States — particularly among Black women, who have become the fastest growing group of gun owners in the country.
“In 2021, we were just coming outta COVID and violence was at an all-time high, riots were at an all-time high and human trafficking is at an all-time high,” licensed gun instructor Robin Evans tells Yahoo Life as a way to explain the rise. “So at that moment, I feel like there was a huge shift in Black people, in general, just wanting to learn how to defend themselves.”
After noticing the increasing reports of violence against women in 2021, Evans founded Chicks with Triggers, a business dedicated to teaching women, and specifically Black women, how to safely use firearms.
“When I got into this, there was no one who looked like me, and so I decided to create that lane for people to come and know that they have a safe space," says Evans. “When I first started, I didn't even know women would come. I thought maybe a woman here and there, but man, they came through the gates running. I just hit another milestone of 2,000 people that I have trained since I started in 2021."
As the daughter of a former New York Police Department officer, Evans grew up around firearms, and remembers being 17 when her father took her to a shooting range. It was the first time she held a gun. “He’s the one who actually showed me how to use it … taught me everything about guns,” says Evans.
As an adult, Evans got her instruction certification from the National Rifle Association (NRA), and also through the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. At Chicks with Triggers, new clients must be referred by someone else and always undergo a screening process.
Creating a safe space is a priority for Evans, who also aims to address the discomfort that many newcomers feel around guns. Many of her first-time clients, she shares, feel intimidated or fearful when they walk in to the shooting range. And to ease the tension, she tries to create a fun environment by playing music from Beyonce and Cardi B, and encouraging clients to use Tiffany-blue guns and hot pink AR-15’s. Still, while the classes are designed to make clients feel more relaxed, Evan ensures that real lessons are being taught.
“They all left knowing how to properly use a gun, load a gun, unload a gun, how to handle a gun, your finger should never be on the trigger. I teach them all of those things. I just do it in a different way," says Evans.
According to statistics, between Jan. 2019 and April 2021, of the 48% of women gun owners, 21% were Black women. Increased crime and violence are thought to be the biggest motivators for ownership, with Black women more likely to be killed with a firearm by an intimate partner. Evans says threats of violence are typically what lead women to seek her instruction.
“Domestic violence, a lot of domestic violence,” says Evans “They've been raped. They've been locked in cellars. They have been kidnapped and thrown out into the middle of the street in the middle of nowhere. It's not like people just come to me and say, 'OK, I wanna learn how to use it.' It's because of something, somebody scared them. With gun ownership in general, people who are against it, they just don't understand it. They just haven't been in that situation to where they need it. Everyone hates guns until they need one.”
In the state of South Carolina, gun permit owners must be 21 years of age and have no convictions of domestic violence, no felonies, no crimes against children and no drug charges within the past year. If they do have a drug charge, applicants must wait one full year after the conviction to get a permit.
Politically, gun ownership in the United States has been seen as a Republican or conservative priority. And while Evans stays out of political debates and chooses not to reveal how she votes, she does tout herself as a supporter of gun rights. She prefers to keep her focus on instruction and reminding women of their right to boldly exercise the Second Amendment.
“No one is coming to save you," she warns. "No one is coming to save your children. No one is coming to save your parents."
And meanwhile, Evans adds, “The criminals will always have guns. That just does not seem fair to me, that the criminals get to keep the guns and law abiding citizens, they don't get to have guns.”
—Video produced by Stacy Jackman