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Trump's Victory Has Fearful Minorities Buying Up Guns

After Donald Trump's win, Yolanda Scott is upgrading the crowbar she keeps in her purse to a small-caliber pistol.

Scott, an African-American, is one of many minorities who have been flocking to gun stores to protect themselves, afraid Trump's victory will incite more hate crimes.

Minorities "feel that racists now feel like they can attack... just because the president is doing it," Earl Curtis, the African-American owner of Blue Ridge Arsenal in Chantilly, Virginia, told NBC News.

Gun store owners told NBC News that since November 8 they're seeing up to four times as many black and minority customers — and black gun groups are reporting double the normal number of attendees at their meetings since the election.

Black gun owners concerned over police shootings 5:22

While more gun owners are non-Hispanic whites than blacks, 41 percent versus 19 percent in a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, blacks views on gun ownership have shifted in the past few years.

In 2014, 54 percent of blacks surveyed by Pew said gun ownership does more to protect people from crime than put people's safety at risk, versus 29 percent who said that in 2012, almost double. White attitudes also shifted more positively towards gun ownership during that time but not by as much, up 62 percent from 54 percent.

Racial tension was already at a high during the election, with a spate of videoed shootings and deaths of black men by police officers, followed by ardent protests and the fatal targeting of white police officers.

In one high-profile incident, the live-streamed aftermath of the shooting of Philando Castile at a traffic stop at the hands of police in Minnesota sparked country-wide outrage and was ruled manslaughter. That and another death in Louisiana sparked a protest in Dallas, which a sniper took advantage of to kill five police officers.

From Ferguson to Chicago to Baltimore, African-Americans felt targeted and angry, sending marchers into the streets and communities on edge.

And Donald J. Trump's surprise victory in November has done nothing to abate the racial violence — it even seems to have encouraged more open displays of hatred. More than 700 instances have already been reported to the Southern Poverty Law Center just since November 8, and LGBT hotlines are seeing an "all-time peak" in calls from people reporting harassment.

Swastikas have been found spray-painted on churches, playgrounds, and college walls. White Texas high school students chanted "Build that wall" during a volleyball game with a predominantly Hispanic rival school.

The post-election gathering in Washington, D.C., of the National Policy Institute, an "alt-right" white supremacist organization ended darkly. Attendees gave the Nazi salute as the final speaker called out "Hail Trump!" and "Hail Victory!" It was an English translation of the Nazi "Sieg Heil!" cry.

"It's best that I be proactive," said Scott, a fiery 49-year-old financial analyst. "I know where I live."

She's from Alpharetta, Georgia, an affluent and diverse northern suburb of Atlanta. It borders Forsyth County, which in 1912 systematically drove out nearly all its black residents for the next quarter century. After two alleged attacks on white women, a black suspect was lynched and two more were hanged after a short trial. Armed bands of whites began terrorizing blacks, torching homes and churches in night raids, firing through the door, telling them it was time to "get" [out of America] and then seized their homes and land. As recently as 1987 the county saw the marching of 5,000 white supremacists.

Scott still sees racist bumper stickers and large Confederate flags flying from the backs of pickup trucks when she ventures across the county line there to go outlet mall shopping. And she pauses to wonder what motivates her white neighbor to tuck a handgun in his pants before driving to the grocery store.

Gun Run

October saw 2.3 million FBI background checks for gun sales, an all-time record; and the 18th month in a row to set a new high. November could be on pace to break that.

But while gun company stocks and firearm sales saw a run-up before the election — based on fears a Hillary Clinton victory would result in increased gun-control measures — shares in gun companies fell as much as 20 percent after Trump's win.

So, while store owners say that traffic is up overall, the new rush of minority customers arming themselves is something of an unexpected glimmer for the industry.

"They thought Trump won't win," said the 53-year-old Curtis, who has noticed an "uptick" in the number of black and minority customers.

Already fearful after the summer's social unrest and "race riots," some feel "shell-shocked" by the election result and anxious after the racist incidents that followed, said Curtis. The first-time shooters usually gravitate towards handguns for personal protection.

Trump already had a checkered past with the black community. Though he once donated office space to Jesse Jackson's civil rights group and hosted a NAACP party, he was also sued by the Justice Department in 1975 for refusing to rent to black people. Trump countersued for defamation, demanding $100 million, and the case was settled without admission of guilt.

In 1978, he was sued again by the Justice Department for denying rentals to black people and steering them into mixed race housing. The case was closed in 1982.

Seven years later, he took out full-page ads to suggest the death penalty for black suspects in a rape trial who years later were released after the introduction of new DNA evidence.

His position doesn't seem to have softened since then.

On the campaign trail this year, Trump hired Steve Bannon, the executive editor of Breitbart, an alt-right news website the Southern Poverty Law Center called a "white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill." Bannon has since been named chief strategist and Senior Counselor for the Trump administration.

Trump faces controversy over Chief Strategist appointment 6:17

Related: Trump's Pick of Steve Bannon as Chief Strategist Sparks Backlash

In a February TV interview, Trump blamed his failure to condemn the Ku Klux Klan's support on a "bad earpiece."

After he suggested African-American protesters should be "roughed up," attacks on minority protesters at his rallies followed.

Even Trump's Twitter slam last weekend on the Broadway musical Hamilton is ringing alarm bells for minorities. After Vice-President-elect Mike Pence's attendance was met with boos and cheers in the audience, a cast member read a short speech to Pence at the curtain call. Trump blasted the show in several tweets and demanded an apology. Trump supporters lobbed their own negative tweets and sent two different "boycott Hamilton" hashtags trending.

Trump: 'Hamilton' cast 'very rude' 5:09

For anxious minorities, it's yet another foreboding sign of how Trump can whip up his fans to magnify and echo messages of intolerance. And when they compare his full-throated denunciation of a piece of musical theater to his garbled, terse, and delayed disavowals of the support by white supremacists, they see a wink and a nod, and fear it's a nudge.

Newly Targeted

Michael Cargill, the owner of Central Texas Gun Works in Austin, told NBC News he had given up on advertising to African-Americans — but now he's seeing as many as 20 a month, and they're filling up his training classes; along with Muslim, Hispanic, and LGBT patrons with heightened worries about being targeted.

Black gun owner groups are seeing an uptick too, led by African-American women. They report receiving an increased number of emails from across the country from concerned minorities looking to learn more about gun safety, training, and firearm access.

Cargill
Texas gun store owner Michael Cargill fires a handgun at a shooting range. Courtesy of Michael Cargill

Philip Smith, founder of the 14,000-member National African American Gun Association said his members are buying up every kind of gun, from Glock handguns to AR-15 rifles to AK-47 semi-automatic weapons — though most first-time buyers gravitate toward a nine-millimeter pistol or .38 revolver. He said that twice the usual attendees have RSVP'd for the next meeting of the Georgia chapter, which he heads.

"Most folks are pretty nervous about what kind of America we're going to see over the next 5-10 years," he said. That includes members apprehensive about protests against Trump becoming unruly, as well as an "apocalyptic end result where there's anarchy, jobs are gone, the economy is tipped in the wrong direction and everyone has to fend for themselves." They don't know who might be busting down their door at 2 a.m.

He hopes people are just overreacting.

"I tell everyone don't panic, use your head. If you see something not normal, get out. You're probably right. And if you're not able to get out, you're prepared to do what you need to do," said Smith.

Being Prepared

Since the election, Scott and her family and friends have tried not to venture outside except to go to work and come back home. When she had to get gas for her car, she made sure she stopped at a station where other people were around.

Scott fears a scenario where she's approached with a gun just because she's black. She hopes a "few choice words that I learned from my grandfather" would be enough to scare anyone off, but she's prepared if the situation escalates.

"I'm not the type of person who is afraid of my own shadow. I'm going to protect myself, whatever that means," Scott told NBC News by phone on her way to the police station to apply for a firearms license.