OPINION — Disarmament: The Racist, Classist Reality of Gun Control

by Villainus (formally bypolar)

Gun control is a popular subject in Seattle. A lot of privileged folks here pride themselves on having the “right” stance on gun control. They don’t realize that stance targets poor Black people in an attempt to boost this industrialized slave system known as the prison industrial complex with more human capital for consumption. Do you think gun control is really a left-wing position?

The answer is hell no. The first forms of gun control formed in the 1600s was to ban us “niggers” from possessing guns. That is the real purpose for gun control. Even as we pass the civil war and emancipation, we see white racism start its journey to ensure that Black self-defense and of course retribution (born from white guilt) would not be possible to form.

Swiftly the south started passing what was known as Black codes in 1865 and 1866. Alongside vagrancy laws, exorbitant taxation, denial of Blacks voting and restricting ownership of property, lawmakers also banned free Black folk from owning guns. One of the forces formed to disarm Black folks and enforce Black codes and their primitive gun legislation was the Klu Klux Klan — yeah you read it right, the Klan.

As time passed and the civil rights movement was put forward and being pushed through the country’s consciousness, civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. were applying for firearms permits, which the system banned them from having. There was a concerted effort to disarm Black self-defense groups such as the Black Panthers and the Deacons of Defense, who ran off the Klan and the racist Klan-infused police with their firearms, in many cases saving Black lives.

The answer from right-wing politicians, namely Presidents Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, was to add stricter gun laws that were aimed at disarming poor Black folks, especially the Panthers. Due to the adversarial role that law enforcement and the kkkourts play against our people, it left many of the Panthers burdened and labeled as felons.

Reminds us a little of the present, doesn’t it? Except the difference is left-wing centrists have taken up these racist stances, using botched statistics to justify this marginalization of people, who have the greatest need to own firearms for their own protection.

These botched statistics make an assumption of having an unbiased government that isn’t introducing illegal guns and drugs to the Black community. They don’t take into consideration the culture that breeds that violence, a culture of slavery, genocide and lynchings. They don’t ask why these things are happening, but instead dwell on the how.

If you choose to see gun control within a vacuum, you can fall into dangerous conclusions with classist and racist implications. People often use mass shootings as an example, but when we look at those honestly most of gun laws would have no impact on them. Most of the mass shooters would qualify for guns under even the strictest laws outside of outright prohibition. Which I’m sure some folks feel is the right way, but there are several more points folks are overlooking.

First is what I call the Pandora Paradigm. It is the concept that some things just can’t be undone. Once they were let out of the box, there was no way to put them back short of mass extinction. Two examples of this are nuclear fissions and firearms. The knowledge being out there is enough for the average joe to figure out how to reproduce guns on their own. Any enforcement of such restriction would only empower a monopoly on the weapons of violence. Giving that power to people (governments) who have a long history of genocide, conquest, subjugation, and experimentation of and on the people.

Another point overlooked is who has benefited the most from gun control legislation. Some of its original supporters of course: the NRA and gun manufacturers. Yes it is true, whenever new gun legislation comes out the NRA makes a false uproar designed to scare their constituency into stockpiling weapons — who I would speculate are a lot of incels, but who’s really worried about the group most likely to commit a mass shooting stockpiling guns? I’d venture to say that they are getting exactly what they desire from gun restriction: disarmed Black, brown, native and poor folks, and a very armed, very nationalist, angry white male constituency who harbor deep rooted hate for queers, women, people of color, and especially poor Black male assigned folks. Even more so when we have a record.

There are a lot of victims of this but I’m just going to focus on us for a second, the niggas (urban poor Black folks). I say niggas to differentiate between Blacks of privilege and those who don’t carry that same privilege. We are one of the groups most likely to need to utilize firearms for protection, yet we are the most banned from having one. As a felon with a past, and an activist with a present, it is one of the most terrifying experiences in the world to be damned to choose between ensuring one’s safety and spending years behind bars. Walking outside is a daily risk I face unarmed, also not allowed to legally have a bulletproof vest (mind you I work security at Seattle’s biggest club too) because of the same gun laws.

I have legitimate reasons to worry about past enemies, white nationalists, and people on drunken rages, yet the law requires me to be a target, with this lifelong ban held against me for choices I made as a child and young adult. All of which were nonviolent and a more than a decade old. I could say so much more, but I’ll leave you with this. You have a choice: privileged fears or respecting the self-determination and desire of safety of the oppressed. It’s your choice you will have to make.

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Featured Image: “No guns” by Timothy Krause is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0



One thought on “OPINION — Disarmament: The Racist, Classist Reality of Gun Control”

  1. There is ample historical evidence of gun regulation in the Colonies designed to keep guns out of the hands of slaves, such as the Georgia Militia Act of 1755. But the first gun control law in the United States is the 2nd amendment to the US Constitution, written in 1791, when this nation was just figuring out what it wanted democracy to look like. It wasn’t perfect then and it’s no more perfect now.

    I’ve no doubt that during the course of this nation’s nearly 250 years that government agencies and courts at every level have re-interpreted gun laws and twisted legal precedent to keep firearms out of the hands of non-white people.

    Still, I don’t see how anything in Villanus’ argument for better access to guns is an improvement on what we already have. The thesis here seems to suggest that more guns somehow grants more equality, more safety. I’m sorry, but I fail to see how suggesting one more gun in the world is going to make any of us safer.

    According to Pew Research estimates in 2013, the number of privately owned guns in the US is anywhere from 270 million to 310 million guns.* As of 2017, the total US population was 325 million people.

    Some research and media report that the all five branches of the US military and law enforcement only possess 4 million guns. Even if that self-reported number is accurate it’s still no indication that somehow the second amendment is keeping civilians safe by arming them.

    Why do I say that? Because when civilians with guns face off against police or federal law enforcement, let alone any part of the US military, those agencies don’t respond in kind. They respond tenfold. The MOVE activists in Philly learned that in 1985 when an armed standoff with police ended in an entire city block bombed into dust—civilians and all.**

    I can’t debate Villanus’ claim that he’s facing a daily fear for his safety. I don’t know what his life is like, or what he’s doing in his activist work that may put him at risk. He asserts that “[urban, poor Black folks] are one of the groups most likely to need to utilize firearms for protection.”

    My reaction to that is: From whom? A non-white person with a gun versus law enforcement doesn’t end well. That’s another massive issue entirely, so I’ll stay within the boundaries the writer has established.

    Villanus admits he has served time and is free now, engaging in activism. I applaud that. I think our country needs more people—especially non-white citizens—who’ve been incarcerated, to talk about the school-to-prison pipeline and how it’s crushing generation after generation of historically oppressed populations.

    Since the writer has a felony record, I find it interesting that the right to bear arms seems more important to him than the right to vote. Perhaps Villanus is equally passionate about restoring voting rights to ex-convicts*** but I’d never know it from reading this op-ed.

    I’d argue that restoring voting rights to former felons scares the old white guy contingent in the U.S. more than restoring gun rights. Your vote is a more effective weapon of change than any clumsy gun. The gun is designed to do one thing, and according to most decent research, it delivers on that promise. A vote can literally change millions of lives. Which of these is the more effective weapon?

    “Do you think gun control is really a left-wing position? The answer is hell no.”

    Well sir, that’s one part of this op-ed we can agree on. Gun control isn’t a left-wing position. It’s a human position. It’s a caring position. It is a move away from violence. More guns will never equal more peace, more safety. You’re advocating for a literal arms race, a pale echo of the saber rattling that nations have been repeating for centuries. And where has that lead us?

    Honestly, I’m disappointed that the South Seattle Emerald agreed to publish this. In a community where gun violence is often the only narrative local media bothers to discuss, we have a writer for this wonderful, hyper-local publication telling his audience that a gun will solve his problems.

    * https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/06/04/a-minority-of-americans-own-guns-but-just-how-many-is-unclear/
    ** https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOVE#1985_bombing
    *** http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/felon-voting-rights.aspx

    More quality research about gun use in the United States