Matthieu Chapman

A Negro Speaks of Firearms


I love guns.

When I was five, my brother and I pined for a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas. It was 1989. We had been asking for one for months. Still, with our one-income household in poverty-stricken West Virginia and a Black father whose wages were suppressed by systemic racism, we never thought our family would have $179 in disposable income to secure a toy. But still, we asked relentlessly, bordering on begging.

“Please,” my brother would start…

“Please,” I would chime in as his four-years-younger echo…

“This will be birthday and Christmas,” he continued…

“For both of us!” I exclaimed, transitioning from echo to hype man.

But my father would only respond with a “we’ll see” that dripped with the hope of pleasing his children and the fear of falling short.

When Christmas morning came, my brother and I rushed down the hallway to our parents’ bedroom. We slowly crept in, not to alarm my father. He was a good dad, but our home had been victim to a few racist incidents in my short lifetime–like when a neighbor unleashed a .45 round from next door through our window just for fun–and we didn’t want to burst in and make him think we were some white-cowled intruders. So we stayed at my mom’s bedside, using her as a shield in the event of the worst-case scenario.

“Mom,” my brother said, giving her a gentle nudge. “Mom…”

“What…” the word stumbled sleepily from her lips.

“Can we open our presents?” he asked.

“Go back to bed,” she groaned, rolling over.

We looked at her bedside clock and realized it was not yet 5:00 a.m.. So we crept out the way we had come and retraced our steps, passing our bedroom and heading to the bounty that rested under the tree in the living room. The yellowish glow of the string lights reflected in the windows, mimicking the starry night in the glass and accentuating the eumelanin in my brother’s skin, giving him a bronze aura.

We gently began looking through the presents, carefully shaking each one, hoping to find the size, shape, and weight of the object of our desires.

“This one is too light,” my brother said. “Probably clothes.”

“And this one is heavy,” I said. “But too small. Probably books.”

We shifted and sorted through the snowmen and Santas that assembled on the boxes to no avail. None of these could be what we coveted. Before we finished our scavenger hunt, we heard our parents’ footsteps coming down the hall.

“Couldn’t wait, could you?” said my dad. “Well, go ahead. Open ’em up.”

My brother and I tore through the packages like a tornado through the holler. We left a trail of carnage in our wake–boxes, wrapping paper, socks, and candy flew through the air. Each opened package brought us closer to our dreams, or so we thought. But no sooner had we begun than the presents were spent–probably a dozen or so small gifts for each of us, but no grand prize.

We did our best to hide our disappointment. We didn’t want our parents to feel bad because they couldn’t afford what we wanted. My brother, who was nine, put on a fake smile and said thank you. But I was only five and not yet fully indoctrinated into the more intricate customs that govern polite society. So I did the only thing I knew how to do when disappointed.

I cried.

“Why are you crying?” my dad asked. “Didn’t you get enough presents?”

“Yes,” I said. A “thank you” slipped out between the tears.

“You’re welcome,” he said. “Now take your presents to your room and come eat breakfast.”

I gathered the underwear, books, and action figures into one of the boxes and headed to my room with my brother. We unloaded our disappointment along with our gifts and turned back toward the living room.

“It’s alright,” his words cut through the pallor of dissatisfaction. “We got a lot of good stuff.”

“Yeah,” I relented. “I guess.”

My brother sighed, and he turned away from our room, and I followed, trying to put on a contented disposition. As soon as we turned the corner in the hallway toward the living room, the real thing would obliterate my false contentment. In the middle of the floor was a large box wrapped in shiny red paper with gold ribbon tied in a multi-looped bow. I inhaled so sharply that the air lifted me to where the precious chest lay.

“Santa was late with this one,” my dad said. “Made it all the way back to the North Pole and found it in his sleigh.”

We knew what was inside. It had to be. My brother and I rendered the pristine red paper into ribbons and the ribbon into threads ripping through the thin bulwark keeping us from our dreams. And sure enough, beyond the wrapping was not only the NES but the bundle that included an extra controller and two games: Super Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt.

I loved Duck Hunt. I held the orange and gray plastic firearm at arm’s length, one eye closed to eliminate the double vision and allow a truer look down the sight. Inhaling calm and exhaling death as my index finger moved in time with the breath. A bang. A flash. A duck falls from the sky. Two birds. Two bangs. Two flashes. One falls—the other flies. I would fire endlessly at the dog, who would laugh at you when you missed them all. Not in anger but more befuddled by its defiance. “I hold this power, and you mock me?” Something about that power–the ability to end life with a single finger–was intoxicating.

Imagine us, two Black boys in the heart of what would become Trump country, being given a toy with guns for Christmas. We were only another time, another place away from being a headline.

But I loved that game. And I loved that gun.

* * *

My country loves guns.

In 2018, gun stores and gun and ammo manufacturers had a combined $28 billion in revenue. Approximately $86 for each person in the country is spent on firearms and paraphernalia annually. That’s more than Americans spend on books ($25.71 billion). That’s more than everyone on Earth spends on concerts ($25.1 billion) or digital music ($20.5 billion).

America loves guns so much that the framers of the Constitution made the right to bear arms the second most important amendment after freedom of speech, press, assembly, petition, and religion. While the Constitution crafted the government, the amendments tell us what that new country stands for.

Only God comes before guns in this country.

* * *

My country doesn’t love my love of guns.

On July 6, 2016, Philando Castile, his partner Diamond Reynolds, and their four-year-old daughter were driving home from the grocery store when their senses were invaded by the aggressive blue and red lights and piercing bwoop of a police cruiser. I have had this same experience multiple times in my life. The first came when I was 15 and jaywalked in downtown San Diego. Again when I was 20 and had just purchased my first car. Two years later, at 22, when turning left over a double yellow line into my driveway. Before a whole year had elapsed, I accidentally made an illegal U-turn on unfamiliar Los Angeles streets. In each of these incidents, my senses were assaulted into disorientation that bordered on synesthesia—I could feel the blue and red flash on my skin and see the sharp wail of the sirens’ call. I can’t say for sure what Castile felt at that moment, but every time those lights and that sound have assaulted me, my blood runs cold as I try to remember if I told those I love that I love them, just in case I never see them again.

On this July evening, I imagine Philando Castile felt something similar. The deference he offered to the officer at his window was identical to my experience. This was a routine traffic stop, something Castile had experienced multiple times and had been trained by his parents or by those experiences to navigate. When the officer approached Castile’s window and asked for his license and registration, Castile calmly informed the officer that he had a legally licensed and registered handgun with him. The officer told him not to reach for it. Castile responded that he was not and was going for his license and regis…








Seven shots. Five hit Castile. Wanton disregard for the lives of the woman and child in the vehicle.

While Reynolds and their daughter remained physically unharmed, Castile would die that night. Twenty minutes after the shots.

The officer, Jeronimo Yanez, claimed that Castile and Reynolds “fit the description” of a couple of robbery suspects. “Fit the description.” A phrase that made every Black person reading this either wince in familiar pain or smirk and roll their eyes at the ridiculousness of the excuse. This phrase has vast echoes throughout Black America. At one point or another, each and every one of us has ‘fit the description,’ thankfully, most of us did not encounter an officer when we did. Yanez claimed he had reason to believe his life was in danger. Yanez was charged with second-degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm.

Yanez was acquitted of all charges on June 16, 2017.

Tale as old as time.

I don’t know if Philando Castile loved guns. I know that he owned a gun. I know something was lost in translation between the Black flesh that owned that gun and his Black flesh’s second amendment right to bear it. And whatever that cultural excess was between his right and his wrong got him murdered.

* * *

I love guns.

I first held a gun when I was ten years old. No, this isn’t some white fantasia of Black thuggery where a wayward youth finds belonging in the same mean streets that seek to eat him alive.

This was quite the opposite. I was with my father, visiting a friend we called Uncle Clarence on one of our many return trips to West Virginia. My family packed up and moved north to Pennsylvania barely a year before. We hoped to get a fresh start–away from some of the more illicit influences in my parents’ lives, both the familial and substance kinds.

But not everything we left behind was bad.

So once or twice a year, various segments of my family–always my dad, sometimes me and/or my brother, never my mom–would pack up and make the three-hour drive from Uniontown, Pennsylvania, to Charleston, West Virginia, to visit my dad’s family. Some of this family was my father’s blood, while others were forged in the blood of fistfights and other teenage misadventures. Uncle Clarence was the latter type. He was a tall, thin Black man who, despite his receding hairline, kept his ‘do in a tight ‘fro. I don’t think I ever once saw the man wear sleeves.

“Hey, Butchy,” Clarence said, changing the subject from sports, family drama, or whatever topic filled the previous hour or so of the visit. “You gotta check this out.”

He stood from the couch and bounded from the living room. He returned moments later carrying a long, thin plastic case far too narrow for a guitar. He laid it on the coffee table, popped the latches, and threw open the lid.

“Whatchu think?” he asked, glowing.

Inside the case rested the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. It was about three-and-a-half feet long, with a long, slender spear of brushed nickel gently enrobed at places with pearlescent, marbled black and white. He gently lifted the custom Remington 7600 pump action rifle from the case and shouldered it as though ready to take down the biggest of game.

I never knew my dad to be much into guns. I had never heard him mention owning or even wanting one. He didn’t hunt. He had small kids at home. What would he want with a gun?

But either he did a marvelous job hiding his passion for guns from me, or he made an Oscar-worthy performance pretending to care for Clarence.

“Wooo,” he slowly exhaled, shaking his head in disbelief. “Let me see that.”

Clarence passed the gun to my father, and it immediately became a part of him. He raised the rifle to his shoulder like a marksman whose weapon was their livelihood and bedfellow. I watched as he breathed in, finger on the trigger, and slowly exhaled.


“Damn,” he said. “What’s the pull weight? Three pounds?”

“Two,” gleamed Clarence.

I had no idea what they were talking about, but I knew I wanted to hold that gun.

“Can I try?” my words slipped under their conversation at barely a whisper.

I saw my father’s eyes narrow, sizing up his ten-year-old, who was attempting to act like a man. I met his gaze and didn’t back down. I didn’t speak again. Didn’t beg. Didn’t plead. I just looked into the eyes of this man I had known my whole life yet felt like I was meeting for the first time, and my eyes spoke for me–“I’m ready.”

My father looked at Uncle Clarence. Clarence looked back and gave a nearly imperceptible nod.

“Alright,” my father said. “But before I hand it to you, know this–”

My heart threatened to burst through my chest in excitement.

“First,” he said. “Do not, under any circumstances, point it at anything you don’t intend to kill. That’s a person, an animal, or even a piece of furniture. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” I proclaimed resolutely.

“Second,” he continued. “This isn’t like your video games. It will be heavy, so make sure you don’t drop it.”

“Okay,” I replied.

“Third,” he continued. “Holding a gun is a privilege, a responsibility. You only ever fire a gun to feed your family or protect their lives. Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir.” I had never called my father sir before, but the moniker felt appropriate given the weight of the moment.

“Alright,” he said.

He handed me the rifle. It was much heavier than the twelve pounds of steel alloy and carbon fiber. In my hands, I now carried the weight of responsibility. The weight of history. Of revolutions and civil wars. Of good triumphing over evil in the Second World War and of evil triumphing over slaves in the antebellum South. I could smell the dirt and blood of the battlefield wafting out of the rifled barrel and hear the camaraderie of the hunt and screams of revolutionaries coming from the chamber.

I pulled the rifle to my shoulder like I had seen in the movies, making sure to turn away from my father and Uncle Clarence before I did to stay in line with rule one. I closed one eye and looked down the barrel. The whole world blurred beyond the three metal pins that lined up my target.

“Can I pull the trigger?” I asked.

The punctuation ended not only my sentence but the progress of time. The blurred periphery of my world froze in a sheet of crystalline glaze. My back was turned to my father, but I could feel his cold stare bristle the peach fuzz hairs on the back of my neck. I couldn’t hear his breath, but I could feel the frigid air from his most recent exhale turn the microscopic beads of sweat forming on my back to frost. Only the blood rushing through my ears defied the stillness of the eternal second between my question mark and my father’s response.

Had I gone too far?

“Careful.” The word came as a fireball, exploding the hoarfrost and shaking me back to the present. “The trigger is going to click before you feel it.”

I steeled my spine. Took a deep inhale. Like I had so many times before with the 8-bit mallards arising from the cattails. In the catch between inhale and exhale, I readied my hand to squeeze.




* * *

My country loves guns.

In 2021, the United States Federal Government spent $6.82 trillion dollars. Of that, $754.8 billion (11%) went to bombing Black and Brown folks all over the world the Department of Defense. Despite being in the midst of a global pandemic that left millions dead, millions more grieving the loss of loved ones, and tens of millions unemployed or underemployed, President Biden requested this figure increase to $773 billion in 2022.

The request for an increase is not a surprise. The U.S. spends more money on its military than any other country. Although the U.S. has approximately five-percent of the world’s population, our nation is responsible for over 35% of global military spending. In fact, the U.S. spent more on national defense ($754 billion) than the next six highest spending countries: China ($293 billion), India ($76.6 billion), the UK ($68.4 billion), Russia ($65.9 billion), France ($56.6 billion), Germany ($56 billion)], and all of the continent of Africa combined ($39.7 billion).

So, it’s no surprise that President Biden would request an increase in the budget to buy what America loves so dearly. What is surprising is that in a Congress where the two sides can’t even agree on if accused sexual predators should sit on the Supreme Court, if women should have agency over their bodies, or if our money is better spent on safety nets for the working class or tax breaks for billionaires, the two sides agreed that we should spend three-quarters of a trillion dollars on bombing Black and Brown folks all over the world “supporting our troops.”

The 2022 budget passed the Senate with a supermajority of 68-31 and the House with a vote of 260-171-1.

The only time it seems our country can reach across the aisle is to shake hands over death.

* * *

My country doesn’t love my love of guns.

In 1966, a group of young college students in Berkeley, California, had had enough. Their neighborhoods in Oakland were being overrun by violent gangs who terrorized the citizens for no discernible reason. Led by two charismatic undergrads from the University of California at Berkeley–one of the top public colleges in the country–students formed an organization to discuss how to defend their neighborhoods from the violent gangs that were taking over and to rebuild a community built on social equality and helping one another.

The violent gang was the Oakland Police Department.

The students were Bobby Seale and Huey Newton.

The group was the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. For some reason, the “Self-Defense” part of the name is usually left out of modern discussions of the group.

While the South was embroiled in the Civil Rights Movement and the battle for equality against Jim Crow, another movement for Black liberation took place in the American West. While California has a long-earned reputation as a bastion of liberal ideals and hippie freedom, the narratives of progress hit multiple speedbumps when incorporating the specifics of black circumstances into the discussion. The first initiative of the newly formed Black Panther Party was to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms and openly carry guns in organized patrols to protect black citizens from police brutality.

The NRA caught wind of these Second Amendment efforts and immediately offered their support to Seale and Newton.

Kidding. For the first time in the NRA’s ninety-six-year history, they lobbied against the Second Amendment and for gun control. But it wasn’t only the NRA. The Mulford Act, introduced by Republican assemblyman John Mulford, specifically targeted the Black Panther’s neighborhood watch program by banning the open carry of firearms in California.

The liberal Democrats caught wind of these Second Amendment restrictions and immediately offered their support to Seale and Newton.

Kidding. The Mulford Act became a bi-partisan bill co-sponsored by John T. Knox (D) from Richmond, Walter J. Karabian (D) from Monterey Park, Frank Murphy Jr. (R) from Santa Cruz, Alan Sieroty (D) from Los Angeles, and William M. Ketchum (R) from Bakersfield. The Black Panthers marched on the statehouse, again exercising their Second Amendment right to bear arms, and now their First Amendment right to assemble. Their presence was met not with steadfast patience like the invaders of the Michigan state house in 2020, but with a panic that elevated the Mulford Act to the status of “urgency statute,” meaning that it would take effect the moment the politicians signed it into law. The bill received a two-thirds majority in both the Democrat-controlled state house and the Democrat-controlled state senate. Governor Ronald Reagan signed it on July 28, 1967.

All this for asserting Black power.

It turns out both Blue and Red are anti-Black.

From the inception of the Black Panther Party in October 1966 to the passing of the Mulford Act in July 1967 was only nine months. It turns out that all it takes to implement gun control legislation is a need to control Black people’s right to guns.

Maybe liberals who want gun reform should buy every Black person in America an assault rifle.

* * *

I love guns.

My friend Jose and I were walking downtown in America’s Finest City, San Diego, California, when I spotted the most beautiful 9mm Glock handgun. This small, black angle of gunmetal and synthetic polyurethane is the king of handguns. As a fifteen-year-old Black kid, the Glock was an object of cultural desire, as the weapon was ubiquitous in rap lyrics of the time. Everyone from Ras Kass to Cypress Hill to Mobb Deep put the gun in songs, making it one of the few things East Coast and West Coast rappers could agree on. Hip-hop visionaries such as Wu-Tang Clan, Bone Thugs and Harmony, and the Terror Squad even went as far as to name songs after this mass-produced yet one-of-a-kind weapon.

And why wouldn’t they? You can get one for under $500. They contain few extraneous parts for easy cleaning, operation, and repair. You can hide one in a pocket, a waistband, or even a boot in a pinch. They rarely jam, and they are easy to unjam when they do. And the Austrian design ensures European reliability. In short, Glocks are cheap, compact, simple, and reliable–everything a handgun should be.

So even though I had never held a Glock–and as an honor student on the football team who stayed as far away from gangs as possible–I had no use for one; the slender curve of steel had manifested into a form of cultural Stockholm Syndrome. I wanted one, not because I truly desired it, but because society had made me feel like I needed one to confirm their distorted vision of my Blackness.

* * *

My country loves guns.

America is one of the few nations on Earth where every police officer receives a firearm as part of their standard-issued equipment. With over 600,000 local and county police officers in the country, 600,000 service weapons compose a large slice of the $123 billion dollar annual pie police forces nationwide consume.

According to Glock, the Austrian company annually provides duty firearms to over 65% of local, state, and federal law enforcement officers. Law enforcement prefers the Glock partly because, as Steve Minguez, a retired NYPD firearms instructor, states, “From a mechanical standpoint… the Glock has a shorter trigger, a shorter reset, less recoil and hence faster follow up [shots]” than the competition.

In other words, the Glock kills more efficiently.

And the police in America do kill. A lot. Police officers across the United States have killed at least 1,000 people each of the past nine years–which is every year on record at Despite making up only 13% of America’s population, 27% of these murders are of Black citizens, making Black citizens almost three times as likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts.

My country doesn’t love my love of guns.

I was staring down one end of the Glock 9mm. A police officer was on the other.

America’s Finest City for whom?

“Put your hands on the fucking car! NOW!”

His voice was impending death. The blue and red lights oscillating behind the black hole of destruction filled my sight. I stood utterly motionless aside from a drop of sweat that rolled down my back, across my beltline, and tickled the top of my ass crack. I was too scared to brush it aside. My hands, possessing more conscious thought than my brain, leaped away from the car in fear and sought sanctuary in the sky.


The officer had maneuvered behind my back, maintaining arm and gun’s length the entire time. A swift shove to the small of my back collapsed me forward onto the hood of the car. I heard Jose’s hands hit the hood next to mine. I could not see my assailant, but I could feel one hand working its way through my flesh: my armpits, my chest, my waist, my crotch–searching for nothing but a reason–a reason to use what must have still been in his other hand.

I prayed silently to ancestors, begging one of them to touch the heart of a passerby, to roil up some compassion or curiosity that would get someone to stop and form a crowd. To stop the officer. But this was before everyone had a camera in their pockets. Before everyone could provide video evidence of these abusive encounters. Back when folks still went about their business before they became police business. So my silent pleas went unheeded.

It went on forever. I wanted to gag, to choke, as his hands violated every crease and crevice. But the bile stayed itself in my stomach, my throat clamping down to save the rest of my body from further violence. I can’t imagine the officer’s response if I had puked all over the hood of his cruiser. Surely he would have claimed I tried to use a biological weapon on him.

After less than a minute which felt like more than a lifetime, the officer hoisted me by my collar and ripped my shoulder around so I was facing him. For the first time, I saw his face. Although his eyes remained concealed by obsidian shades, I could tell he was a young man, no doubt still in his twenties. And although I could not peer into the windows of his soul, the curl of his upper lip and flaring of his nostrils revealed a rage bordering on disgust.

“You think you can disrespect me like that and get away with it?” he growled.


Jose and I did our best to look at one another without turning our heads. I had no idea what we had done to disrespect him. I retraced our steps from the time we left campus. We walked down Park Boulevard, past the McDonald’s, turned right on B. Street, and went down the slope past the Del Taco before making a left on A and heading towards Horton Plaza. We were making our way back towards campus from football practice, past the pawn brokers and taco shops, and had just turned left back onto Park. We stepped off the curb to cross Market, and the green walking man turned to a red hand. We picked up our pace and jogged the rest of the way across the street. Was that it? Was it our pseudo-jaywalk that so enraged and disrespected this officer?

“I’m sorry,” I responded, having no idea what I had done but doing all I could to ensure he didn’t do anything more.

My apology didn’t soothe the savage beast but turned its ire toward Jose.

“Oh, so you think you hard or something?” the officer said, stepping inches away from Jose’s face like R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket. “Your friend here is apologizing. You think you too bad to apologize?”

I turned just in time to see the brown in Jose’s face drain to a pale gray. The terror elevated to a level I had never experienced. I did everything my father taught me–I recognized the officer’s authority. I was respectful. I was compliant–even submissive.

And my submission may have gotten my friend killed.

“You got something to say?” the officer demanded.

I watched Jose’s stone lips begin to part.

“Please,” I thought. “Please, Jose, don’t give him what he wants. Don’t give him a reason.”

“He was doing such a good job apologizing I didn’t want to interrupt,” he said.

The officer exhaled gruffly through his nose. He holstered his weapon and stomped back toward the driver’s seat of his car.

“Get out of here,” he growled as he flung himself into the driver’s seat. He turned off his lights and pulled away from the curb. The incident was over as quickly as it had begun.

As soon as the officer was out of sight, I began to shake. After a moment where neither of us knew what to say, our autonomous nervous systems began to propel us back toward the school.

To this day, I still have no idea what we did to disrespect him. Maybe it was not being in class when he thought we should be. Perhaps it was continuing to progress across the street at the red light instead of stepping back onto the curb.

Or maybe it was the fact that his search came up empty.

Was he so sure that a Black teen wandering downtown during sixth period was some truant thug that my lack of prosecutable paraphernalia somehow constituted disrespect? Was I to be this young buck’s first collar? Perhaps he had dreams of finding drugs on me and getting me to turn on some unknown kingpin and making his career? Did I–in some way–disrespect him by not fulfilling his anti-Black fantasies?

Or what if he found a weapon? Had he found a gun on me, would I be here today? Carrying a weapon being a capital crime for Black men has been a part of American ideology for 147 years longer than America has been a country. While our current Supreme Court recently declared essentially any attempts at gun control unconstitutional, gun control was, in fact, among the earliest laws passed by colonizers in what is now the United States. In 1640, the Virginia colony passed a law “Prohibiting Negroes, slave and free, from carrying weapons including clubs,” declaring that ” All such free Mulattos, Negroes, and Indians … shall appear without arms.”

This anti-Black arms ban was then altered in 1680 to read:

……………….An act for preventing Negroes Insurrections.
…………………..WHEREAS the frequent meeting of considerable numbers of negroe slaves under pretence of feasts and burialls is judged of …………dangerous consequence; for prevention whereof for the future, Bee it enacted by the kings most excellent majestie by and with the …………consent of the generall assembly…it shall not be lawfull for any negroe or other slave to carry or arme himselfe with ……….any club, staffe, gunn, sword or any other weapon of defence or offence, …And it is hereby further enacted by the …………authority aforesaid that if any negroe or other slave shall absent himself from his masters service…and shall resist any person ……….or persons that shalby any lawfull authority be imployed to apprehend and take the said negroe, that then in ……….case of such resistance, it shalbe lawfull for such person or persons to kill the said negroe or slave soe lying out ……….and resisting…

These earlier gun laws in the American colonies reveal a largely undiscussed consideration the Founding Fathers had in crafting the Second Amendment. When they signed the right to bear arms into law in 1787, Blacks had already been banned from gun ownership in parts of America for 147 years. And this Virginia statute was not some archaic law that white Americans forgot in legislative and social history; it was instead a law that they addressed multiple times in the intervening years through revisions and expansions to account for the changing conditions of Blacks.

So maybe the officer wanted to find something. Perhaps he had had a bad morning and wanted someone to take it out on. Maybe he got drunk at the bar last night, and some woman to whom he thought he was entitled exercised her agency and turned him down. Maybe he took this rejection as an affront to his masculinity. Maybe killing a Negro was his way of proving himself a true blue American man. And maybe me being just a kid and not the thug he had been trained all Black kids are was disrespectful to him.

I’ll never know exactly how close I was to dying that day. I was close enough to recognize that the gun was a Glock. I was close enough to read the “9mm” stamp on the barrel.

Yet, I still love guns.

And my country still loves guns.

But my country will never love my love of guns.




Matthieu Chapman is a professor, author, director, dramaturg, husband, and father. He is the author of Shattered: Fragments of a Black Life (West Virginia UP 2023). His work has appeared previously in Beyond Words, Prose Online, Pithead Chapel, and the Huffington Post.