I first laid eyes on Maj Toure at the Libertarian National Convention in New Orleans last summer. It was hard not to notice him, a black man wearing a backwards baseball cap and a “Black Guns Matter” shirt, amid a sea of white Libertarians. Later, I learned that Black Guns Matter is a grassroots organization that “educates people in urban communities on their Second Amendment rights and responsibilities through firearms training and education.” Toure started the group in 2015, after seeing too many people he knew going to jail for gun possession charges. “Not because they robbed somebody or killed somebody or even attempted to,” the Philly native says. “Just because they had the gun. That’s stupid. If I have a butter knife on me, I don’t go to jail. If I stab somebody, I go to jail.”
I recently caught up with Toure on the phone. We discussed the NRA, Donald Trump, and Toure’s own political aspirations.
The first time I became aware of you was I was at the Libertarian National Convention last year.
New Orleans. They tried to rob me in New Orleans.
Who tried to rob you?
Some people at some clubs in the French Quarter. I got out of there. I skated on. They was real sloppy. But yeah, I had a good time.
Are you an official party member?
Yeah, I’m a member of the Libertarian Party.
I was there reporting on Libertarians and how they’re embracing cryptocurrency. Do you own any crypto?
I own bitcoin. Some people donate it to us. So it’s not actually mine, it’s our organization’s. I think it’s smart to try different things out. I want my community to be a part of every digital advancement, even though it might turn into VHS, who knows?
Have you gotten a lot of donations in crypto?
A decent amount, but not a lot. I think that even libertarians still are tethered to fiat currency, and I get it.
"[The Libertarians] understand private property. They understand personal protection. They understand freedom. But the Libertarian Party is trash with outreach in urban America."
When you go to something like the Libertarian conference, do you feel like you’re at home?
That’s part of the reason why I switched to the Libertarian Party. Because I’m like, “Okay, these guys get it. They understand private property. They understand personal protection. They understand freedom.” But the Libertarian Party is trash with outreach in urban America.
Most people at that convention were white. I guess that’s the way it goes with these things, huh?
But it shouldn’t be the way that it goes. They need to get somebody like myself on board that can help change that. Because all of urban America will be down with it. But most people from my hood don’t even know what libertarian is, and that’s a problem.
How many members does Black Guns Matter actually have?
I have no idea. I’m not a fan of lists, and the people that’s with us is with us. If they not, they not. I don’t need to say, “Look, I have this many people on our email list.” I don’t want to know that. I respect people’s privacy.
The name Black Guns Matter is provocative. Do you get a lot of pushback on the name alone?
No. Because people understand it. If you are a firearms enthusiast, you go, “Yeah, most of my guns are black, semiautomatic polymer firearms. That does matter, because that’s how I protect my family.” If you happen to be a person that understands the original point of Black Lives Matter, you go, “Yeah, this is a way to defend black people.”
What was your response when you heard about the mosque shootings in New Zealand?
First, I wanted to give a shouts to the brother that stopped him, Abdul Aziz. He was very brave. My first response was, “How can we get to these people and send them love and energy and support for this traumatic thing that they’ve experienced?” That’s always the first thing that most gun owners think about in a scenario where life has been taken. Later on, we start thinking, “Damn, man, if I was there, and if I was armed, I could’ve helped in a different way.”
As you know, people were celebrating how quickly New Zealand banned those weapons.
Right after that, the police in New Zealand started going door-to-door taking people’s guns, their personal property. What if it was cigarettes? “Now we’ve got proof that this many people die from cigarettes every year from emphysema, lung cancer, throat cancer, whatever. We are banning cigarettes, and we are going door-to-door to take your cigarettes if you don’t destroy them.” People would be up in arms, because you can’t take somebody’s personal property. As long as they don’t kill somebody with cigarettes, they have the right to have cigarettes.
So what happened here is the same thing—we’re championing a government coming in and taking somebody’s personal property. It’s not okay. But I don’t live in New Zealand. If you talk about the people in America who are championing that, these are the same people who have armed security.
Are you talking about politicians?
Politicians or celebrities—all of those people that are like, “Yeah, New Zealand got it right.”
What about everyday people who don’t have armed guards who are cheering the decision?
They don’t understand personal property. Nor do they understand what freedom is. I have a right to have a thing or do a thing as long as it’s not violating your personal property or your physical well-being. Those everyday Americans are welcome to say that, they’re welcome to feel that way. And I honor their ability to express themselves—that’s what the First Amendment is about. Where they lose me is when they say, “See, they did it. So now we have to do it.”
How many guns do you personally own?
I don’t know. A decent amount of them.
Do you own anything like an AR-15?
I do. I have my own signature line of AR-15, it’s called the Solutionary Rifle. It’s a partnership with Head Down Firearms.
The argument is that we don’t need something like an AR-15, because that’s basically a weapon to destroy people.
One, that’s false. It’s not what ARs are for. So if you classify ARs that way, how is that any different from a .22 handgun? Doesn’t that do the same thing? Yes, it does.
Yes, it does. Then you could get into whether you want to ban all guns.
You see, that’s the thing. That’s where somebody’s trying to go. They just don’t have the heart to say, “We don’t want Americans to have guns.” Saying “semiautomatics” means you’re talking about handguns, rifles, and shotguns. A lot of people that make these arguments don’t even know what semiautomatic means. It means one time you squeeze the trigger, one round comes out. That’s most guns. When someone says, “Oh, you shouldn’t have an AR, because it could kill somebody.” So are we taking steak knives out of restaurants?
Well, one of them can kill many, many people in a minute, as opposed to a steak knife.
That’s not true. That’s not true. Are you a shooter?
I am not a shooter.
With a semiautomatic, it’s one round, one squeeze. With a knife, every time I move a hand, I stab someone. I think some people get mistaken with full automatic, which means you hold the trigger down and all the bullets keep spraying out. Those would be the ones that people would say would kill a bunch of people in a shorter period of time. But you know, those aren’t the ones that are used in these mass shootings. Even mass shootings are less than one percent of shootings in America. Sixty percent of deaths in relation to guns are suicide. Sixty percent.
Which is another argument for taking them out of people’s hands.
No. How about we address the mental health issue? How about we start getting those people and figuring those people out first, before we get them to a firearm. And even those people that are killing themselves are not doing it with ARs. So why do we keep talking about ARs?
"I am no longer an NRA member. I don’t fuck with the NRA. They’re not doing what they say they’re going to do. I don’t see them doing the work in urban America like we are."
So you’re an NRA member, do you—
No, I am not. I am no longer an NRA member. I don’t fuck with the NRA. They’re not doing what they say they’re going to do. I don’t see them doing the work in urban America like we are. They say they want to. I just see them taking cool pictures. When I see some genuine changes in that direction, not just hiring a person that happens to be black, then I’ll switch again.
A lot of people have accused the NRA of being racist. Do you think they are?
I can pull from both sides. I can show where they’ve helped melanated beings in America. And I can show where some of their policies were racist, period. Like the Mulford Act. The leadership of that organization at that time conspired with Ronald Reagan to be very anti-pro-gun, when the Black Panthers were exercising their Second Amendment rights to defend themselves. Open carry at the time was a lawful thing, and the NRA assisted in making that legislation be the opposite.
At the same time, I see how they supported Otis McDonald in Chicago. When those governmental agencies were trying to ban Saturday night specials—inexpensive firearms that the general public could afford to defend themselves in rough neighborhoods—the NRA stood behind Otis McDonald, an African-American elder.
So I see both sides. But presently, what are they doing for urban America, where they’re needed the most? Nothing. Other than hiring people and trying to steal swag and act like they doing it. They’re not putting no resources up.
While you were in the NRA, I read that you met with Donald Trump Jr.
Donald Trump Jr. follows me on the ‘gram. We chop it up every so often. I don’t really get a chance to sit down and chop it up with him the way that I would like, to be impactful.
So you’re casual acquaintances.
Yeah, that’s dope though. I’m casual acquaintances with people at that level of power. That’s awesome. I ain’t trippin’ off that, and he hasn’t done anything that I will call him out for being a jerk, so I ain’t really buggin’.
Are you are you a supporter of Donald Trump Sr.?
I’m a supporter of him and his financial policies. Am I in support of his position on the Second Amendment? No, I’m not. He has been not the most pro-gun president. He has added more restrictions—the bump stock ban and all that other stuff. It’s not okay.
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Isn’t the bump stock ban just a drop in the ocean?
The problem with that drop-in-the-ocean theory is that all of the drops in the ocean make up the ocean. So we just go, “Oh, it’s only once.” They want to try to win by attrition. “Oh, it’s only this, it’s only that.” That’s how we got to the space so far away from the Constitution. You do not get freedom by giving up freedoms.
Is there a presidential candidate you like for 2020?
No. I want Rep. Thomas Massie [Republican from Kentucky] to run. He’s just a freedom dude. He follows me on Twitter and Instagram, too. Good dude. I’m running for city council in Philly.
Yeah. On the Libertarian ticket.
Did you declare yet?
No, I just started working on it. But I filled out the paperwork.
What are you going to campaign on?
We’ve talked about it. But until it’s a fully formed answer, I’ll wait to say.
Will guns be an important part of your campaign message?
But you’re known as the Black Guns Matter guy.
That’s cool. Donald Trump was known for selling real estate. He didn’t campaign on real estate.
So do you think you’re going to win?
No, not at all. [Laughs.]
If you don’t think you’re going to win, what’s the point?
No, I do think I am going to win. That was just me being sarcastic. I have a very strong chance of winning, by just telling the truth. I mean, if Trump won, cool, let’s see what I do.
So is your strategy just to be yourself?
Yep. It’s worked for [Black Guns Matter’s] work. The fact that I got into the White House a bunch of times, and had to decline some invitations to the White House, is because the whole time I was being me.
Who did you meet at the White House?
Oh, just a bunch of people that are above my pay grade.
But not the president?
Yes. Donald Trump. The president.
You’ve got to tell me about meeting the president.
It was cool. What was it like? I’ll tell you another time, when I’m not running for office.
"[Donald Trump] said stuff that I agree with. I thought he was cool. For that short, bite-size interaction."
You’re teasing me. You have to tell me at least one detail.
He said stuff that I agree with. I thought he was cool. For that short, bite-size interaction.
Obviously, you know Trump’s reputation—a good deal of the country considers him to be racist. Do you to consider him to be racist?
I need somebody to tell me what he has said or done that’s racist. And then I’ll go, “Yeah, that dude’s racist.” When I ask people that, they go, ”Well, it’s just his rhetoric.” Okay. What did he say? I think he’s a 70-year-old, grumpy billionaire that is used to people annoying him. But I actually want people to tell me two things. Did he say, “Fuck those niggers, fuck those spics”? What did he say?
Does he have to use a racial epithet to be racist?
Okay, so even if it’s not, then what was it [that he said]?
I’m just using an example from today: He tweeted about Puerto Rico as if it weren’t part of our our country.
How do he say that? So what is racist about that? Racism is if he said, “Puerto Ricans are the worst people ever.” Then I would go, “Damn, that’s fucked up toward Puerto Ricans.” What did he say?
Does racism have to be somebody using the n-word?
Racism has a very clear definition. Somebody being an asshole or a pompous billionaire, we’re calling that racist. I say racism is the belief that one group or race or ethnicity is superior or inferior to another. For me to call someone that I have to see evidence of them doing those things, espousing those beliefs, and when I ask people to show me that they go, “Well, you know.” “I don’t know. Tell me.” I’ve met and hung out with racist white dudes, and black dudes that are like, “Yeah, I fucking hate crackers. I fucking hate ‘em.” That guy’s racist.
What about his handling of Charlottesville then?
It was dumb. He said, “Oh, I’m pretty sure it was good people on both sides.” CNN goes, “Oh, he’s saying that the racists were great people.” This is not what he said, though. Let me tell you the beauty of me being in the White House for the Young Black Leadership Summit. I saw what he said. I was there. Then I saw how it was spun on the media. I’m like, “That’s not even what he was talking about.” I saw them make the edits in the clips. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen how the sausage is made. The media has done it to me.
Going back to your political run. What made you decide to do it?
I just want to be more involved. I want to practice what I’m preaching. Let’s see how this goes. I can make an impact. And they can’t ignore me in that way. You know, I can speak for people.
Do you have a campaign slogan yet?
Nah… [Joking] “Make the Hood Great Again.”
This interview has been edited and condensed. Main photo courtesy of Maj Toure.