Through February, we are highlighting community leaders working to make a difference. It's a part of our "Connecticut in Color" Series.
Firearm safety and education are two top goals for Elbert Gray and he wants to ensure the public understands both the responsibilities and ramifications of gun ownership.
Gray is the owner of E.L.G. Firearms Service and Instruction and is one of the few Black gun shop owners in the state.
"We don't push firearms but we kind of give that boutique feel to firearm selection," said Gray.
The gun shop owner has been an instructor for 9 years. He's also been working at a private range for the past 5 years and has managed the range for the past 2 years.
"A lot of times, we have people who come in and they don't know how to properly hold a gun," said Gray. "We take the time to show you and talk to you about your grip, we show you how to take your firearms apart put them back together and properly clean and maintain them."
Gray's inspiration to teach others comes from a time in his life when his application to get a firearm was denied three times.
"To be denied that many times was so frustrating," said Gray. "It pushed me to say you know what not only am I'm going to get my pistol permit but I'm going to teach others how to navigate the process."
Eventually, Gray received his gun license and certification to become an instructor. Gray along with Douglas Mills, an Air Force veteran and fellow gun teacher, is focused on shooting down fears and informing the community.
"It's all about knowing how the firearms work and what makes it go off," said Mills. "It's important to remember that it's the individual and not the firearm itself."
The pair also teach parents and teenagers about gun safety and the importance of properly storing guns in a safe location inside your home.
"One of the reasons why I want to educate the public is because you sometimes can not go a day without seeing or hearing a young person getting killed from a firearm," said Gray. "It's disheartening because gun owners have to be responsible and especially parents to ensure that our firearms are secure and locked up so unauthorized persons don't have access to them."
Class participants say having a safe place like E.L.G. Firearms is beneficial to communities of color.
"We want to learn from somebody that looks like us that's going to make sure that we do it the right way," said Tyron Harris, a former gun class participant. "We don't want to take shortcuts when it comes to being a responsible gun owner."
Gray and Mills say they're working to educate the next generation and say there is an appetite for gun ownership and a thirst for firearm knowledge among people of color.
"Black and brown and people have stepped up and are becoming more and more engaged," said Gray. "They're talking to their friends and they're just sending more and more people to us to learn how to do this the right way."
E.L.G conducts the basics of pistols safety course weekly and two times a month on the weekends. Every Monday night, E.L.G. hosts their initial course for people to come to after work and educate the community about state gun laws.
If you would like to sign up for a course, click here.