WASHINGTON - In the face of recent deadly gun violence, Washington and many states have been debating how much more gun control is needed. But some people are saying what's needed is maybe less gun control.
African Americans are victims of gun violence more than any other group in America. But at the National Press Club in Washington Friday, a number of black community leaders and pastors said more gun control could actually be a bigger threat to the black community than guns.
They say what's needed are more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens.
One of the speakers was Niger Innis, with the Congress of Racial Equality. Two of his brothers were shot to death.
"They were murdered by criminals who didn't pay attention to gun laws," Innis said. "And they were murdered in communities, the south Bronx and Harlem, that had the strictest gun control laws."
Innis said probably the only thing that could have saved his brothers would have been good citizens with guns.
"Cops can't be everywhere at all times," Innis explained. "And the first line of defense often in these circumstances, particularly in these communities, are good people with guns, good people who can defend their communities and their family."
Star Parker, with the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, pointed out 41 percent of whites say they have guns, but only 16 percent of blacks.
"Blacks are the least-armed, least-protected and defended, and the most-assaulted citizens in our country," she said.
For these leaders, the big issue isn't gun control but protecting citizens' constitutional rights, like the Second Amendment right to bear arms, and the Constitution itself.
"Light gives us ways that we can step correctly," said Rev. Ken Hutcherson, with the Antioch Bible Church in Washington state. "The Constitution of the United States is the light that allows us to walk consistently and constantly."
Hutcherson told the press he has suffered from bone cancer for the last four-and-a-half years.
"And the pain is often times unbearable," he said. "But I came from Seattle to be here because this issue is a lot more important than my health."
African-Americans remember a long history of whites controlling them with gun control and Jim Crow laws, those laws of the past that helped maintain segregationist ways.
"Black history is rife with government demands to strip away our constitutional rights," Parker said.
"Black Americans have historically been denied these rights and a lot of these so-called gun control laws were nothing more than people control laws," Innis echoed.
Parker referred to one frequently touted type of gun control: universal background checks.
"The call for universal background checks as qualifiers for constitutional rights invokes painful memories of Jim Crow laws and black codes," Parker stated.
Parker pointed out in many black communities, "It's not only are the criminals in power, but we've had a history where the law can't be trusted."
"When you look at the polling data for blacks, they do not believe they get justice on a local level," she said.
Rev. Kenn Blanchard was at one time a firearms instructor for the Central Intelligence Agency. He said blacks must not leave themselves and their families in danger by disarming and trusting government figures to protect them.
"When a politician steps forward and says 'I can save your children,'" Blanchard said he replies, "You cannot save my child."
Hutcherson pointed out illogical trends put lives in danger, like declaring places such as schools "gun-free zones." He said that's like inviting deranged gunmen to come in and kill the students.
"How many of you would put in front of your house a sign that says gun-free zone?" he asked.
These leaders say what's needed is good citizens who are better-armed, and less of an assault on the Second Amendment.