FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Gun Rights: From the Black Panthers to the NRA

Just as misplaced debates about civilian gun control were emerging in the wake of the massacre in Aurora, a billboard was raised in Idaho by a libertarian organization placing the face of the Aurora shooting suspect beside that of President Obama. The text surrounding James Holmes’s reads: “KILLS 12 IN A MOVIE THEATER WITH AN ASSAULT RIFLE. EVERYONE FREAKS OUT.” The text surrounding Obama’s reads: “KILLS THOUSANDS WITH HIS FOREIGN POLICY. WINS NOBEL PEACE PRIZE.”

The reaction of the Village Voice—“extremely offensive,” one headline states—to the billboard is exemplary of the chronic softness of liberalism on issues of war. In the media overall, this softness has led to the current emphasis on civilian gun control, which is an emphasis that is now actively removing the spotlight from the violence of the state while increasing fear of the general public. Surely the Village Voice that hosted the late, great Alexander Cockburn would never have so unforgivably favored etiquette over truth.

Roger Ebert’s New York Times op-ed piece promoting civilian gun control pulls the same trick, expressing nothing short of absolute horror at the idea of firearms “in public hands.” A few lines down from there, Ebert strikes an especially gross note by telling a gun owner it would be better for him to move than to own a gun—as if the transition to safer neighborhoods were an option to which everybody has easy access.

The comparison to Obama is important to make. If Americans want to ask about violence in their society every time a shooting like the one in Aurora occurs, they must be prepared to take a principled stand regarding violence. And that means actual violence, not violence as it is staged in films. It is useful to consider individual violence in relation to state violence (whether perpetrated by drones in Pakistan or police officers in Anaheim). That is, if one overlooks, or is indifferent towards, or drafts apologia for the latter—the worse offender by leagues and leaps—one might not be in the best position to lament or even meaningfully analyze the latter.

It is clear that Americans are anti-war. It is not at this stage clear that that stance has anything to do with the violence war wreaks upon foreign civilian populations. Nor is it clear that Americans are at this stage prepared to form a mass movement against war. Billboards such as the one in Idaho certainly make for a start in the kind of awareness-spreading necessary for a mass movement.

Admittedly, the discussion of civilian gun control is difficult to have, because prominent articles like Ebert’s don’t mention specifics. All we get are loose clichés about how our gun laws are insane. But it’s still safe to say that focusing on this issue misses the point. Mother Jones magazine is now predictably obsessing over civilian gun laws, but it did publish a good article in the aftermath of the weak sentencing of Oscar Grant’s policeman killer, titled “Mehserle’s Sentence in Perspective.” The article specifically posited the harshness of civilian gun control laws as absurd in contrast to the sentence that was handed to Johannes Mehserle, the man in blue who put a bullet in a handcuffed man’s back.

It is true that the argument made by the NRA about guns being a safeguard against tyranny is mostly rhetorical—but that’s only because that U.S. government has so many weapons, and has expressed such a profound willingness to employ them, that the general public would never fare anything close to favorably in a showdown. Somehow, this reality fails to make me feel more comfortable about the idea of civilian gun control.

I’ve met many liberals who like to parade their virtue by spending countless minutes condemning (in the same fashion that Hillary Clinton, professional condemner of Syria and Iran, condemns), say, the Ron Paul Newsletters from the 1990’s. Then they will, at a later date, advocate something like gun control, never worrying that the entity to be tasked with the controlling–with kicking off a “War on Guns,” so to speak–is essentially the very entity tasked with the War on Drugs and the War on Terror.

Of course, these kinds of wars tend to go over better for some groups than others. The gun control movement in North America preceded the founding of the United States; its express purpose was to keep guns out of the hands of blacks potentially interested in using firearms to defend themselves. When the movement did develop in the U.S., it followed in exactly that tradition, especially when slaves like Nat Turner decided that slavery just wasn’t going to do anymore and proceeded to lay bloody waste to slave masters. [I]

The modern day gun rights movement was not pioneered by the NRA—although I admit it wouldn’t matter to me if it had been—but by the Black Panthers, whose co-founder, Huey Newton, found genuine protective value in the Second Amendment at a street-level moment when some cops would likely not have otherwise hesitated to beat him to death. [II]

The formula for gun control seems pretty obvious to me. Less guns for the people who are most likely to need them, more guns for cops and soldiers and those sympathetic to them. This doesn’t help.

Notes.

[I] Clayton E. Cramer. “The Racist Roots of Gun Control.” (1995)

[II] Adam Winkler. “The Secret History of Guns.”  (2011)

Patrick Higgins is a writer and activist. His e-mail is higginspat@hotmail.com.

More articles by:

February 19, 2019
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Troublesome Possibilities: The Left and Tulsi Gabbard
Patrick Cockburn
She Didn’t Start the Fire: Why Attack the ISIS Bride?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Literature and Theater During War: Why Euripides Still Matters
Maximilian Werner
The Night of Terror: Wyoming Game and Fish’s Latest Attempt to Close the Book on the Mark Uptain Tragedy
Conn Hallinan
Erdogan is Destined for Another Rebuke in Turkey
Nyla Ali Khan
Politics of Jammu and Kashmir: The Only Viable Way is Forward
Mark Ashwill
On the Outside Looking In: an American in Vietnam
Joyce Nelson
Sir Richard Branson’s Venezuelan-Border PR Stunt
Ron Jacobs
Day of Remembrance and the Music of Anthony Brown        
Cesar Chelala
Women’s Critical Role in Saving the Environment
February 18, 2019
Paul Street
31 Actual National Emergencies
Robert Fisk
What Happened to the Remains of Khashoggi’s Predecessor?
David Mattson
When Grizzly Bears Go Bad: Constructions of Victimhood and Blame
Julian Vigo
USMCA’s Outsourcing of Free Speech to Big Tech
George Wuerthner
How the BLM Serves the West’s Welfare Ranchers
Christopher Fons
The Crimes of Elliot Abrams
Thomas Knapp
The First Rule of AIPAC Is: You Do Not Talk about AIPAC
Mitchel Cohen
A Tale of Two Citations: Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and Michael Harrington’s “The Other America”
Jake Johnston
Haiti and the Collapse of a Political and Economic System
Dave Lindorff
It’s Not Just Trump and the Republicans
Laura Flanders
An End to Amazon’s Two-Bit Romance. No Low-Rent Rendezvous.
Patrick Walker
Venezuelan Coup Democrats Vomit on Green New Deal
Natalie Dowzicky
The Millennial Generation Will Tear Down Trump’s Wall
Nick Licata
Of Stress and Inequality
Joseph G. Ramsey
Waking Up on President’s Day During the Reign of Donald Trump
Elliot Sperber
Greater Than Food
Weekend Edition
February 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies
Chris Floyd
Pence and the Benjamins: An Eternity of Anti-Semitism
Rob Urie
The Green New Deal, Capitalism and the State
Jim Kavanagh
The Siege of Venezuela and the Travails of Empire
Paul Street
Someone Needs to Teach These As$#oles a Lesson
Andrew Levine
World Historical Donald: Unwitting and Unwilling Author of The Green New Deal
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Third Rail-Roaded
Eric Draitser
Impacts of Exploding US Oil Production on Climate and Foreign Policy
Ron Jacobs
Maduro, Guaidó and American Exceptionalism
John Laforge
Nuclear Power Can’t Survive, Much Less Slow Climate Disruption
Joyce Nelson
Venezuela & The Mighty Wurlitzer
Jonathan Cook
In Hebron, Israel Removes the Last Restraint on Its Settlers’ Reign of Terror
Ramzy Baroud
Enough Western Meddling and Interventions: Let the Venezuelan People Decide
Robert Fantina
Congress, Israel and the Politics of “Righteous Indignation”
Dave Lindorff
Using Students, Teachers, Journalists and other Professionals as Spies Puts Everyone in Jeopardy
Kathy Kelly
What it Really Takes to Secure Peace in Afghanistan
Brian Cloughley
In Libya, “We Came, We Saw, He Died.” Now, Maduro?
Nicky Reid
The Councils Before Maduro!
Gary Leupp
“It’s All About the Benjamins, Baby”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail