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Opinion: This election has me wondering: Should I buy a gun to protect myself?

Far-right radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones rallies a crowd of Trump supporters in Phoenix.
Far-right radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones rallies a crowd of Trump supporters outside the Maricopa County elections office in Phoenix.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

One week ahead of the presidential election, my 28-year-old sister asked if I had a gun permit.

Her question did not catch me off guard. I grew up in Georgia, where gun ownership is common. My sister and my father, who is a retired police officer, have encouraged me since college to obtain a permit so I can carry a handgun. But the urgency behind her words did surprise me.

So I asked her why.

“Because the process to get one may be harder when all hell breaks loose after the election,” she replied.

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I had considered the aftermath of this election and assumed it would bring fierce protests no matter which candidate won. But at the same time, it was hard for me to imagine protests and riots more dramatic than the Black Lives Matters demonstrations that occurred this summer. Yes, those were intense. And at least 19 people, tragically, died. But it didn’t feel like it would turn into a “World War Z” situation. And while they were going on, I did not feel an urgency to buy a gun.

But after Thursday night, I reconsidered.

In Phoenix, the notorious conspiracy theorist Alex Jones appeared in a bulletproof vest in a sea of white people wearing red hats and waving American flags, demanding election workers cease ballot counting.

“They will be destroyed because America is rising,” Jones said during a rage-filled antisemitic speech that prompted the crowd to chant “1776,” the inception of the American Revolution.

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In Atlanta, Democratic State Rep. Vernon Jones, a Black Trump supporter, stood in front of a sea of white faces and said he was a Southerner who believed in fighting.

“This fight is just getting started,” Jones said. “We are starting now to see the white of their eyes and getting ready to start shooting.”

And on Twitter, President Trump’s son Donald Jr. called for “total war” the night it was clear his father would not reach 270 electoral votes.

Police preparing for a charged election day already face record early voter turnout, allegations of vote fraud and suppression.

In isolation, the sentiments expressed are concerning. But in the short time in which they occurred, they evoked in my mind a horrific scene I thought I’d never see in this country.

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If I take my dog, Kacey, to a park in a majority-Republican area, will I be attacked? Would they assume I voted for Biden because I’m a Black woman? How can I protect myself?

It’s a scenario I had never imagined. But I also never thought I’d see the president’s spawn call for “total war.” And, it’s 2020, the year where everything unimaginable and terrible — like allegedly plotting to kidnap a sitting governor — seems to happen. So I’m not taking this lightly.

Though mass-scale political violence is not something modern America is accustomed to, experts ahead of the election said warning signs — racial polarity and extremist groups threatening use of force — suggest violent unrest is on the horizon.

It’s not like America is immune to political violence. The nation was founded on genocide and slavery. Southern states formed the Confederacy because they refused to accept the results of the 1860 election. During the Jim Crow era, white supremacists for decades used state-sponsored terror and violence to scare Black people (like me) away from the ballot box and into submission. This history combined with the onslaught of angry white faces I see on the Twittersphere evokes in my mind a palpable fear that Black America may once again endure the brunt of white violence.

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Not only Black Americans feel this fear. A Jewish colleague and my Asian American editor this week told me Trump’s authoritarianism and his crude appeals to his loyal base sent chills down their spines.

People should be prepared for whatever comes next.

Firearm sales, overall, spiked this year. One survey found that Black women and men accounted for the highest increase in gun purchases of any group — a 58.2% increase in purchases during the first half of this year, in comparison with the same period last year.

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Since the gun-buying surge, our president, for whom more than 69 million Americans voted for, has thrown lie after lie into the ether in the hope the election goes his way. Despite the near-certainty that Trump will lose this election, both he and his band of loyal followers refuse to accept their defeat.

I am not a 2nd Amendment activist by any stretch of the imagination. And this country desperately needs to beef up its gun regulation laws. Far too many have died from senseless violence.

But the founding fathers did give Americans the right to bear arms. And the powder keg of warning signs of civil unrest — economic anxiety, racial tension and violent extremists — is edging far too close to the match I fear is the fallout of this election.

So, will I buy a gun? Perhaps. I can just borrow one of my sister’s guns since the cute, compact pink ones are out of my price range.

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But I do plan to obtain a permit. I know I can afford the $73.25 cost.


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