The Chicago Reader –
The first lesson Gerald Vernon shared with his conceal-and-carry class is, to him, the most fundamental: “The only thing that stops bad people with guns is good people with guns.”
His ten students—eight men and two women, all African-Americans—were listening intently. They had gathered in a meeting room at a south-side social service center to learn about gun ownership and self-defense from Vernon, a veteran firearms instructor who was seated at the front of the room next to a table set with an array of revolvers and semiautomatic handguns from his collection.
The students didn’t appear to need any convincing. “I’m interested in protection,” explained Thomas Brandon, 57, when it was his turn to introduce himself. The others said they were there for the same reason.
Vernon, 57, has a full, round face that’s often locked in a look of earnest contemplation, even when he switches to a goofy, higher-pitched voice to make a humorous point. His movements are quick and strong from decades of martial arts, though he jokes about his ample midsection, and he’s walked with a limp and the assistance of a cane since a near-fatal car accident 15 years ago. He is polite and patient but will say exactly what he thinks.
“Over the last 20 years, I’ve been places I don’t think a lot of other black people have been,” he told the class. “I’ve spent a lot of time and a lot of money traveling the country and getting this training so I could bring it back to the community.”
He added: “Most of what Americans know about guns they learned from TV and the movies, and 99 percent of it is wrong.”