Bankole: Women flip the script on guns

Bankole Thompson
The Detroit News

Contrary to a recent report that gun purchases are increasing in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, for southeast Michigan that is not the case with some women, a majority of them from Detroit, who are taking firearm classes these days.

April Hayes, center, of Farmington gets ready to practice at the Action Impact Firearms & Training Center in Eastpointe.

And their embrace of guns is not for hunting either.

Instead the need for self-defense is the main driver behind the women who have been showing up at the Southfield and Eastpoint locations of Action Impact Firearms and Training Center, a leading gun dealership in the region.

“Our gun classes are like therapy session for these women. Some of them come in crying because they have been attacked before, raped or robbed,” said Nneka Lawrence, one of the instructors at Action Impact. “Others want to simply protect themselves. The two things that come up in our classes is home invasion or being carjacked.”

Lawrence  has been a certified gun instructor for 10 years and is one of the few African-American women instructors in the country. She says  women — between 40 and 50 of them — mostly from Detroit who have been taking her eight-hour class are there to learn how to shoot a gun. And the age range in her class is  diverse; she once had an 84-year-old as a student.

“A lot of time when some of these women are attacked they think it’s a random act. I tell them if you go to the Meijer store for no reason, just to be there, maybe you could have avoided an incident where you got attacked. So you have to be conscious of your surrounding,” Lawrence said. “I hear a lot of stories from the women in my class. But I feed off their stories and it is like I’m talking to my little sister. I think my aura in class allows them to be open up with me to share what has happened to them.”

Most of the women who were willing to be interviewed for this column have a common reason for showing up at Action Impact’s two stores for classes — both Southfield and East Point locations — and it has nothing to do with politics.

They are all looking for protection and  to feel  more safe when they are headed  to work or are at home with their families. Some have seen their loved ones threatened with a gun, which changed their perception of safety. Because of that they don’t want to be a statistic in another gun violence incident.

For example, Nita Brown is 63 years old. She lives alone on the northwest side of Detroit at a time when seniors have repeatedly been victims of  break-ins, sometimes leading to fatalities when police don’t arrive on time.

“I lost my husband last year after we were married for 36 years. Because I’m home now by myself and we see a lot of seniors who are being targeted in home invasions, I do want to take it upon myself to learn how to use a gun,” Brown said.

Felicia Gentry, 25, lives on the city’s east side and works at a General Motors plant. She says the condition of her neighborhood is her reason for taking the gun class.

“I live in a bad area near East Warren. It’s usually dark out when I go to work in the morning and when you call the cops they don’t come right away,” Gentry said. “Because my boyfriend works a midnight shift, we talked about me taking gun classes to protect myself when I leave at 6 a.m. to go work.”

Novi resident Briquell Welch, 28, who works as a print designer, said it was the fear of guns that led her to the shooting range.

“I have the ultimate fear of guns dating back to 1995 when my uncle was killed in Southfield. Now I need to protect myself and I don’t want to fear anymore,” Welch said.

April Hayes, 34, a mother of two young children from Farmington, said safety is a priority for her.

“I want to be licensed and ready for our safety. I don’t really go out but my mom was robbed at gunpoint when I was a little girl. I’m very excited about taking this class,” Hayes said.

Alanna Tremble, 26, a technical analyst for a utility company who lives in Midtown, said she also is taking the class as a safety precaution.

“With the job I have, I travel a lot on the road. My older sister was robbed a few years ago. I think it is better to be educated about this,” Tremble said.

Breasia Smith recalled how her grandmother was almost robbed. The 21-year-old said she was taking the class because “you just have to protect yourself all the time.”

Bill Kucyk,  store owner, longtime gun dealer and instructor, said the all-female class is unique and vital.

“Women are really good at intuition. We are here to keep people alive because a gun should be the last option,” Kucyk said. “This is almost a homicide prevention course.”


Bankole Thompson is the host of “Redline with Bankole Thompson” on Super Station 910AM weekdays at noon. His column appears Mondays and Thursdays