A former Marine and police officer is teaching Black St. Louisans responsible gun ownership
In 2020, Chris Randall found himself fielding questions about a topic that causes many debates — guns.
Randall is known as the “gun guy” among his friends and family. Having been a Marine and a police officer in St. Louis County, he’s familiar with firearms and responsible gun ownership.
His service in the military and in law enforcement now motivate his desire to serve his community. So when friends and neighbors shared worries about their own safety and interest in buying a gun, Randall came up with a solution: Raider Defense Group.
“All of the events of 2020 … with the craziness of the politics and the pandemic, and the ongoing violence against unarmed Black men and Black families, it caused this rush of all these people, a lot of my friends and family were starting to go out and buy firearms,” Randall said on Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air. “I was like, ‘OK, how can I make this make sense to where it’s not fiscally hurting my pockets, but I can also help those around me?”
Raider Defense Group was Randall’s way to formally train people within his social groups. The organization has trained more than 75 people how to safely handle and own firearms.
To Randall, responsible gun ownership is more than a one-time class to obtain a concealed carry weapons license.
“Being a responsible gun owner means maintaining your weapon. That means going through additional training. That means going to the range often,” he said.
The majority of Raider Defense Group’s trainees are Black. That’s intentional.
Randall said there are specifically negative connotations around Black people owning guns. Randall wants to challenge those stigmas directly.
“It’s taught culturally, within Black families and the Black community, that guns are bad. ‘Stay away from guns.’ It’s pressed from outside cultures and communities, from the law enforcement community …but also internally that message is reinforced,” Randall said.
One of Randall’s clients is Erica Alexander. The St. Louis resident started Raider Defense Group’s firearm training in 2020. On the talk show, Alexander said she had to rationalize to her friends the decision to own a firearm.
“A lot of my friends are not pro-gun in the home. And more importantly not to carry on their person. They were like, ‘Why are you doing this? You’re going to make yourself a target.’”
Prior to training with Randall, Alexander had never held a gun before, and there were no guns in her home when she was a child. Yet, she was still compelled to find a way to feel safer and to protect her family. Alexander’s family, including her teenage daughter, received Raider Defense Group’s training.
“[My daughter] is afraid of guns. But since they are in the home, [her training] is something that was important to us. So that if she ever were to need to protect herself in that manner, she has the training to do so and feel comfortable,” she said.
The debate over gun ownership isn’t lost on Randall. He’s an advocate for responsible gun ownership, and he doesn’t believe everyone should own a gun.
“I think you earn the right to gun ownership. As Americans we all have the right. I think that’s the difference,” he said. “Once you gain a level of education, a level of experience, I think that’s the most important thing in being a firearm owner.”
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.