NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA– “The shooting industry is a predominantly white male industry. To have somebody that looks like you and represents you, it really means a lot,” says Isiah Stewart, the owner and shooting instructor at Angel Arms NOLA firearm training company.
Stewart is a member of the largest racial minority gun organization in the country, the National African American Gun Association, a group that came to be in 2015.
Isiah created Angel Arms NOLA after a suggestion from a local shooting range instructor and proceeded to get the NRA training required. However, he noticed a deficiency in melanin-rich gun owners and says, “there is a stigma in the African American community about guns and also a stigma about African Americans and guns. Many of us were deterred to own one after the shooting of Philando Castile. When you turn the news on, sadly it’s gun violence. You don’t really hear positive things about guns. We break up a lot of that in the class.”
Retailers across the country have seen a sharp rise in firearm ownership since 2015. Some of the research points, to a racially divided climate, tense with frequent national occurrences. More people of color want to feel protected by taking up arms and they are doing so legally.
In 2017, the Pew Research Center conducted a study that found about a quarter of blacks are gun owners; compared to 36 percent of whites. As the Coronavirus pandemic descended in 2020, gun ownership grew even more.
“Across the nation gun sales went up by approximately two million new gun owners. In my class, in March, I had over 80 people to sign up and train. Normally I get 20 people a month.” Additionally an emerging demographic in Isiah’s classes are black women. He says there are now more women in his class than men.
Regardless of color, or ideology, Angel Arms NOLA offers one day courses with a certificate and an application for the state of Louisiana. It also offers diversity at a time when we need it the most.
“A lot of people say that guns kill. Mine does not. Mine won’t. Many times I am met with a little apprehension from people because I am a black gun owner and a black training instructor. As it stands, I have over 300 people that are armed citizens, under my number in New Orleans.”
Additionally, Isiah is a pastor at the New Orleans Church , House of Healing Ministries on Conti Street in New Orleans. At the church is also his office for Angel Arms NOLA.