Tarris Batiste was searching for purpose in his life after graduating college.
Batiste is from Cartersville, Georgia, a former college football player and alumni of Georgia State University. Batiste grew up in a military household and lived the student-athlete life. He traveled with the team extensively, participated in two-a-days, early workouts and team meals. The 26-year-old was a standout safety in 2015, and dreamed of playing in the NFL.
When that didn’t pan out, Batiste looked within himself and created BrassDroppers, a clothing line that promotes firearm education and provides community outreach via public seminars. He recently moved to Seattle and has already begun talking to the city council about bringing firearms education to public schools and youth organizations.
Batiste’s view on firearms is formed by a series of unfortunate experiences. But instead of calling for gun control, Batiste seeks proper firearm education for all citizens.
At just 6 years old, Batiste had his first encounter with guns while attending a family reunion in Louisiana.
“A guy came by and just shot up the place. I was too young at the time so I had no idea what was happening. But that was my intro to firearms. That was the first time I understood how guns worked,” Tarris said.
Adults were outside cooking and socializing, and the kids were on the side of the house playing when shots rang out. As they heard the initial shot, everyone was falling over each other trying to get in the house.
Batiste remembers as everyone got back inside, all the adults were giving their perspective on guns. He feels that that’s what led him to his own point of view.
Law enforcement was not called that day, and much of that stems from the rightful distrust the black community has with law enforcement.
Tarris also mentioned that his family in Louisiana had a not-so-friendly history with the police.
“Coming from a black family, yeah we pay taxes to call the cops… I get that. But we’d rather handle shit ourselves and get a gun ourselves than wait on the cops to respond. I probably get this from my family, but I’d rather handle it and protect the household ourselves,” Batiste said.
When Batiste was a sophomore at Cass High School in Cartersville, his first cousin was killed at a party by his best friend at the time.
Batiste explains that from middle school, he had been hanging with different cliques outside of sports to find himself. Tarris became best friends with a teen that happened to be in a gang, which rivaled that of his first cousin.
“At a party–I wasn’t there–they were both there, and they didn’t like each other. I don’t know the whole story… but I do know my best friend and his affiliation killed my first cousin. That kind of put a weird spin on me and my relationship with everyone and firearms,” Batiste said.
Trust issues after such an incident are only natural–having someone you trust be involved or associated with the death of a family member is unimaginable.
More recently, Batiste endured another tragedy: the death of his 10-year-old cousin.
“Truthfully man, I was a sports guy so I had nothing to do with firearms. My cousin who was 10 years old accidentally shot himself,” Batiste said.
The child looked up to Batiste on and off the field, and wore his jersey for every home game.
“He and his friends were playing Russian roulette with a firearm at 10. That’s bold. That’s unheard of,” Batiste said.
In a situation like this, there are so many questions that need answering: Where did they get it? How did they hide it from adults? How did they get access to it?
Batiste said, “That’s the thing, nobody knows, and that’s the question mark. How did they get that? Which household did it come from, did they find it off the street? I don’t know.”
This incident is what eventually inspired Batiste to create BrassDroppers.
Accessibility is something that does not necessarily have a correct answer. Even under strict supervision, there is always the possibility that a firearm makes it into the wrong hands.
With that said, for Batiste, a feasible option for now is educating kids on what to do in these situations. Along with his experiences, he has seen numerous tragedies involving firearms over the last few years.
But it’s led Tarris to where he is today. He feels as though it is his calling to address these issues and educate the public.
“I really want to tap into that as a young black man and say, ‘you should do it like this,’” Batiste said.
His uncanny optimism is further memorialized when he remarks on Georgia House Bill 280, the campus carry legislation that unnerved, if not infuriated many because it allowed college students to carry on campus.
After football and graduation, the gut-wrenching death of his 10-year-old cousin led Tarris to research statistics about accidental gunshot wounds, which led him down a rabbit hole of gun violence.
Batiste decided enough was enough, and that someone needed to step in and start making an impact.
BrassDroppers was founded on July 15, 2018, in Atlanta.
In Batiste’s words, “BrassDroppers was born to educate and impact the community in hopes of helping put firearms in a more positive light.”
BrassDroppers partnered with Glock for their first seminar. Glock’s U.S. distribution and manufacturing center is located in Smyrna. Glock brought in fake guns for one-on-one demonstrations and handling practice for participants. They also brought in unloaded, real firearms to present the functionality and handling on the real thing. Participants were not allowed to hold these firearms, however.
Batiste recognizes the difficult situation within the U.S. that is gun violence.
Batiste said, “Opinions right now are either gun control with zero firearms, or they’re for the Second Amendment community. So we decided to step in and create a little niche to bring education to the point of firearms. Our brand is all about educating the youth, and educating the community on firearm safety.”
The ability to own a firearm is viewed by some citizens to be quintessentially American.
Such a heated debate has taken years, and will possibly take decades to play out. Having an opinion one way or the other will not change what can be done in the meantime to educate and inform people about firearms.
“I think it’s best—instead of having an opinion, let’s just educate people on firearm safety,” said Batiste.