Books

Let It Bang

In this book, RJ Young offers an exploration into race, guns and self-protection in America through a foray into the world of gun ownership.

RJ Young



The most RJ Young knew about guns was that they could get him killed. Until, recently married to a white woman and in desperate need of a way to relate to his gun-loving father-in-law, Young does the unimaginable: he accepts Charles's gift of a Glock.

Despite, or because of, the racial rage and fear he experiences among white gun owners ("Ain't you supposed to be shooting a basketball?"), Young determines to get good, really good, with a gun. Let It Bang is the compelling story of the author's unexpected obsession — he eventually becomes an NRA-certified pistol instructor — and of his deep dive into the heart of America's gun culture: what he sees as the domino effect of white fear, white violence, black fear, rinse, repeat. Young's original reporting on shadow industries like US Law Shield, which insures and defends people who report having shot someone in self-defense, and on the newly formed National African American Gun Association, gives powerful insight into the dynamic. Through indelible profiles, Young brings us up to the current rocketing rise in gun ownership among black Americans, most notably women.

Let It Bang is an utterly original look at American gun culture from the inside, and from the other side — and, most movingly, the story of a young black man's hard-won nonviolent path to self-protection. (From Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

From the book

When I first met Charles Stafford, it was simply in passing. I was at his house on a hill, one he could afford to have fenced, because my boss at the time, Mary had invited me there to her son's high school graduation party. Mary's son had been a lifelong friend to Charles's son. The two were graduating together and throwing a party to celebrate in a place called Coweta.

Coweta is a town in Wagoner County, Oklahoma. It's the kind of place where the owner of a used-car lot thought he'd show his wit and charm by calling his business Shade Tree Cars and Trucks. It's the kind of town where a Shade Tree mechanic will pull over to find out why your car is broken down, fix the problem, and send you on your way, asking nothing more in return than a well-placed handshake. In Coweta, the word s--t has four syllables, and you can still get popped in the mouth for saying it. It's also the kind of town where it's perfectly normal not to invite a single black person to a party.


From Let It Bang by RJ Young ©2018. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Interviews

RJ Young learned to shoot to better understand his future in-law's feelings about guns 26:41

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