COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — An African-American gun club in Columbus teaches students safety first, and how to defend themselves and their families with deadly force if necessary.
Onyx Gun Club in Olde Town East is run by Thomas Cunningham, who leads the Ohio Chapter of the National African American Gun Association. After theory instruction in a classroom on Bryden Road, and a test for the Conceal Carry Weapons license, students drive out to a range either in Zanesville or London to get practical experience shooting a firearm.
“People know that summer equals some other different things in life,” said Cunningham. “So they want to be able to go places, feel safe, and be able to protect themselves and their families.”
The majority of the people who come through Onyx classes are women. Trenca Rudder began at the gun club two years ago, and now comfortably conceal-carries a weapon.
“My two daughters graduated from college, and I wanted them to be able to feel comfortable being able to handle a gun just in case,” Rudder explained as to why she joined the club. “They don’t carry all the time, but I wanted them to be able to be familiar with it.”
NBC4 asked Rudder: Have you been focusing on gun safety with your daughters — and any children you might have in your family?
“Definitely,” Rudder said. “We try — so that it won’t be as scary, as guns as being a scary thing. We’re making them feel more comfortable, seeing it, handling it — to help out that way.”
The gun laws in Ohio are changing. But that doesn’t get rid of the need for classes explained Onyx Instructor Cameron Cofield. “That’s one of the biggest changes — that you’re no longer required to have a license.
“However, you’re still recommended to have it because without the CCW class — are you aware of the laws that you are going to be subject to? Are you aware of how to carry your firearm with or without your permit? Do you know the proper procedures on what to say to the officer when you get pulled over? This class really touches on that, and that’s why it’s needed,” Cofield said.
Once out at the range, students get practical experience shooting a live weapon under supervision. Classes can be small — on Sunday, the day I visited, there were nine students.
The day before, there had been two fatal shootings in two Columbus parks. Cunningham commented about the shootings: “We know that that’s not the people who are responsible gun owners. We know that those are people that are not interested in following the law and being responsible gun owners.
“We focus on the responsible adult, who wants to be a responsible gun owner and protect themselves and their families,” he said.
The National African American Gun Association has about 45,000 members, Cunningham estimates, and he sees potential for growth in the Ohio chapter.
“That’s our goal is to get more responsible, legal, African-American gun owners. Anyone can join our gun club, any nationality or age,” he said — and then added with a smile — “as long as they’re a Raiders fan you’re fine.”