• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

SPRING FUNDRAISER

Is it time for our Spring fundraiser already? If you enjoy what we offer, and have the means, please consider donating. The sooner we reach our modest goal, the faster we can get back to business as (un)usual. Please, stay safe and we’ll see you down the road.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

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:
June 01, 2020
Joshua Frank
It’s a Class War Now Too
Richard D. Wolff
Why the Neoliberal Agenda is a Failure at Fighting Coronavirus
Henry Giroux
Racial Domestic Terrorism and the Legacy of State Violence
Ron Jacobs
The Second Longest War in the United States
Kanishka Chowdhury
The Return of the “Outside Agitator”
Lee Hall
“You Loot; We Shoot”
Dave Lindorff
Eruptions of Rage
Jake Johnston
An Impending Crisis: COVID-19 in Haiti, Ongoing Instability, and the Dangers of Continued U.S. Deportations
Nick Pemberton
What is Capitalism?
Linda G. Ford
“Do Not Resuscitate”: My Experience with Hospice, Inc.
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Who Are the Secret Puppet-Masters Behind Trump’s War on Iran?
Manuel García, Jr.
A Simple Model for Global Warming
Howard Lisnoff
Is the Pandemic Creating a Resurgence of Unionism? 
Frances Madeson
Federal Prisons Should Not be Death Chambers
Hayley Brown – Dean Baker
The Impact of Upward Redistribution on Social Security Solvency
Raúl Carrillo
We Need a Public Option for Banking
Kathy Kelly
Our Disaster: Why the United States Bears Responsibility for Yemen’s Humanitarian Crisis
Sonali Kolhatkar
An Open Letter to Joe Biden on Race
Scott Owen
On Sheep, Shepherds, Wolves and Other Political Creatures
John Kendall Hawkins
All Night Jazz All The Time
Weekend Edition
May 29, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Tim Wise
Protest, Uprisings, and Race War
Nick Pemberton
White Supremacy is the Virus; Police are the Vector
T.J. Coles
What’s NATO Up to These Days? Provoking Russia, Draining Healthcare Budgets and Protecting Its Own from COVID
Benjamin Dangl
Bibles at the Barricades: How the Right Seized Power in Bolivia
Kevin Alexander Gray - Jeffrey St. Clair - JoAnn Wypijewski
There is No Peace: an Incitement to Justice
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Few Good Sadists
Jeff Mackler
The Plague of Racist Cop Murders: Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and the COVID-19 Pandemic
Joshua Frank
In Search of a Lost Socialism
Charles Pierson
Who are the “Wrong Hands” in Yemen?
David Schultz
Trump isn’t the Pope and This Ain’t the Middle Ages
Andrew Levine
Trump Is Unbeatable in the Race to the Bottom and So Is the GOP
Ramzy Baroud
Political Ambiguity or a Doomsday Weapon: Why Abbas Abandoned Oslo
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
A Growing Wave of Bankruptcies Threatens U.S. Recovery
Joseph Natoli
Conditions Close at Hand
N.D. Jayaprakash
No Lessons Learned From Bhopal: the Toxic Chemical Leak at LG Polymers India 
Ron Jacobs
The Odyssey of Elias Demetracopoulos
J.P. Linstroth
Arundhati Roy on Indian Migrant-Worker Oppression and India’s Fateful COVID Crisis
Melvin Goodman
Goodness Gracious, David Ignatius!!
Roger Harris
Blaming the COVID-19 Pandemic on Too Many Humans:  a Critique of Overpopulation Ideology
Sonali Kolhatkar
For America’s Wealthiest, the Pandemic is a Time to Profit
Prabir Purkayastha
U.S. Declares a Vaccine War on the World
David Rosen
Coronavirus and the Telecom Crisis
Paul Buhle
Why Does W.E.B. Du Bois Matter Today?
Mike Bader
The Only Way to Save Grizzlies: Connect Their Habitats
Dave Lindorff
Pandemic Crisis and Recession Can Spark a Fight for Real Change in the US
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail