One Boston army veteran is teaching minorities about gun use and safety in an effort to diminish the negative stigma surrounding gun owners of color.
Pierre Salomon became fascinated with firearms during his service in the U.S. Army.
"I did active duty when I was deployed to Afghanistan," Salomon said. "That's kind of how I fell into, you know guns. I love the culture."
He runs his own company called Salomon Firearms Training, where he teaches people how to use guns safely.
Salomon’s family is originally from Haiti, but he has lived in Boston since he was a young child. While Salomon was growing up in the Roslindale neighborhood of Boston, he didn’t see many gun owners who looked like him. Most people associated minorities who owned guns with crime.
"You'll hear terms like 'black on black crime,'" he said. "Gang violence. You know if you’re a black guy with a gun you have to be in a gang."
He blames the stigma on years of discrimination during and after slavery when blacks were either limited in or prohibited from owning guns. That explains why he wears a T-shirt that reads, "BLACK GUNS MATTER."
"So for me, 'black guns matter' is the equivalent of black gun owners matter," he said.
It is also part of the reason he teaches free firearms classes to African Americans and other minorities in his spare time.
"It's not really common to get a free class like this, especially for the African American community," said Sayquan Arthur Vance, who is also in the army.
Vance is the only man in a Saturday class in Dedham that Salomon taught when NBC10 Boston interviewed him.
"I do have a son so I would love to be able to protect myself and my family," said Gabrielle Bouquet, one of Salomon's students.
Once a student, Tayla Gamache now helps Salomon teach his class.
"The first class I took I instantly fell in love with Pierre’s teaching," she said.
While some believe Salomon is doing justice to firearm owners who have been stigmatized, others have criticized his work.
One Facebook user called his class "racist" in a post about them. Another suggested said it encourages segregation.
Salomon said he has received many similar messages. However, he insists his classes are meant to unite, not divide. Salomon said he is a proud member of the National Rifle Association, though he hopes his classes bring more diversity to the organization.
"Often times, you don’t see many people of color in there or there’s maybe one individual through all the classes," he said.