When black and brown people talk about open carry and the 2nd Amendment, they do so knowing that for that right they are not afforded the same privilege when found with a gun legal or otherwise. Philando Castile comes to mind, a young black man legally carrying a gun, murdered by a Minnesota, police officer. As what is more the norm, the justice system acquitted the officer. There are two distinct reactions to people carrying guns from both cops and citizens.
There’s an irrational fear of armed people of color even as most of the encounters with armed killers that murder random people are not people of color. Kali Holloway wrote an article at Alternate with a provocative title, “Want to See Gun Control Enacted? Support a Movement to Arm Black Folks en Masse,” that should give everyone pause. The article is much more in-depth than the title suggests. So you should read it in its entirety.
Halloway first details the long-lasting issues that were selectively framed by race to get a change that otherwise would not have happened.
Ending mass shootings might seem like a hopeless cause in light of all this, but that kind of thinking ignores the historic infallibility of racism to move American political mountains. The shift in the public face of poverty from white to black helped take us from the New Deal to the destruction of the welfare state; conversely, as drug addiction has gone from being an “inner city” (read: black) to a “suburban” (read: white) problem, the state has transformed from carceral to compassionate. A movement—both visible and vocal—to arm black Americans en masse would fire up GOP political will toward gun control, and probably at speeds currently unimaginable. Second Amendment hardliners often engage in bad-faith references to America’s racist gun control history at convenient moments, namely when trying convince wary black folks, who statistically are overwhelmingly pro-gun control, to join the chorus calling for unfettered gun access. There are too many reasons to question their sudden commitment to anti-racism in those moments. That said, there is historic precedence for the mere idea of black gun possession leading directly to white American efforts at gun control.
Halloway then points out the many time government installed different levels of gun control when “the others” were arming themselves.
These policies even predate this country’s official nationhood. The Splinter’s Daniel Rivero points to the “first gun control law,” passed in Virginia in 1640, which “explicitly banned black people from owning guns, even if they were not slaves.” The 1857 Dred Scott decision prohibited blacks from becoming American citizens, in part because citizenship would confer the right “to keep and carry arms…inevitably producing discontent and insubordination…and endangering the peace and safety of the State.” Post-Civil War “Black Codes” were adopted throughout much the South, making gun ownership by freed blacks illegal. The Atlantic notes that to “enforce the gun ban, white men riding in posses began terrorizing black communities….The most infamous of these disarmament posses, of course, was the Ku Klux Klan.”
Martin Luther King, who received endless death threats and was the target of a house bombing in 1956, applied for an open carry permit, but was denied by Montgomery, Alabama’s racist police force. When the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, in accordance with California law, began openly carrying weapons to patrol Oakland’s neighborhoods, the state legislature quickly crafted, and Gov. Ronald Reagan quickly signed, the 1967 Mulford Act ending public carry. On the heels of race riots, Congress Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, followed by the Gun Control Act of 1968, which Georgetown historian Adam Winkler notes included a provision to restrict “‘Saturday Night Specials’—the cheap, easily available guns often used by [black] youth.” The legislation was the first federal gun law in nearly three decades, and proved lawmakers would rather institute widespread gun control measures than potentially have a widely armed black populace.
Russia exploited America’s long-lived racism. They likely put the worst president America has ever had by using that weakness against us. In a somewhat conniving manner just maybe black and brown people at large can save the country from the carnage by arming themselves in a very public way and start asserting their 2nd Amendment rights as vociferous as those Right Wingers who think the privilege is only theirs if not in law, in practice.
Also published on Medium.