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President of a National African American Gun Association chapter shoots from the hip

The Washington Post logoThe Washington Post 8/26/2017 Rachel Manteuffel
Stephen Yorkman, president of the Prince George’s County chapter of the National African American Gun Association. © André Chung/For The Washington Post Stephen Yorkman, president of the Prince George’s County chapter of the National African American Gun Association.

Stephen Yorkman, 48, is president and founder of the Prince George’s County chapter of the National African American Gun Association. He lives in Bowie, Md.

Were you always advocacy-minded?

Growing up, the narrative, especially in the black community, was that guns are a bad thing. I wasn’t allowed to have toy guns. What made me want to do something at a social level was the killing of Tamir Rice. Within two seconds his life was just snuffed out. It’s the narrative of blacks with firearms. That’s when I started researching. What can I do about this connotation? What you see sometimes, the rap artists with the firearms, okay, but come look at us: other blacks who are doing safety education. We’re not gangster. We’re just like any Second Amendment enthusiasts.

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Do you remember your first experience with guns?

When I was a kid, in D.C. Northeast. I was playing; I saw this gentleman take a brick out of the brick wall and put something in a paper bag, and he put the paper bag back in the hole and put the brick back. I waited till he left. I was curious to see what it was. I took the brick out, took the bag out and there was a revolver in there.

How old were you?

Second or third grade. I held it, I looked at it and I said, “This is a real gun.” I put it back, but the whole entire day that was on my mind. I went back to see, but it was gone. The movies we saw with blacks and firearms, it was always the pimp or the mugger. Movies where the bad black guy had the gun and the good black guy would fight him with his hands.

Have you had any scary gun situations yourself?

I was held up at gunpoint last summer. I’m a retail store manager. That was the scariest situation that I had with a firearm.

Were you armed?

No. The store does not allow firearms.

Do you wish they did?

Yes and no. Nothing happened, other than some cash got stolen. I don’t ever want to be in a situation where I’m in fear someone’s going to take my life or I might take their life with a firearm. I’m glad I wasn’t armed. Who knows? If I took that person’s life, how would I live with that the rest of my life? Even though it’s self-defense.

Is there something you’d like people to know?

We’re not a militia. If you want to talk about the history of African Americans and guns, we can. Some of the younger African American girls, they don’t see a lot of themselves in the gun industry. I start talking about Harriet Tubman. Did you know Harriet Tubman carried a firearm? But my favorite is Stagecoach Mary. She was the baddest black woman with a firearm. Stuff like that I like to share with people about the history of African Americans and guns. We have nothing to be ashamed about.

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