America isn’t the only country with a racist past. We are however the only (first world) country to have both a racist past and a deep, abiding love for guns and gun culture. America didn’t have to succumb to racism at its birth; that was a choice we made – an economic choice. But for slavery – and the free (because stolen) labor it provided to the cotton, tobacco and sugar cane businesses among others – the South would never have risen to begin with. Or, if they had, it would have been because they’d figured out a way to both make a profit and pay for the labor needed to bring their products to market. Instead, everyone involved succumbed to greed and their worst instincts. Our founders wrote down “All men are created equal” but they meant something else entirely: only white, Christian, land-owning men are equal. Everyone else is there for the white, Christian, land-owning men to exploit.
Slaves and slavery were so essential to the Southern economy that the slavers organized patrols to hunt down and capture escaped slaves. Policing in America originated with these “slave patrols” and that “people as property” mentality remains deeply embedded in how America thinks about (and hires) cops. Do we need any more evidence that America’s police departments are over-stocked with racists who see their job more as zoo keeping than protecting and serving? Our founders had the gall to think of slaves (all Black people, really) as “three-fifths of a man” (and that for political reasons!) When a white cop pulls out their weapon and aims it at an unarmed Black person, to them, that Black person is less of a person than they are and that’s why shooting and killing them is so easy.
But then, guns make killing easy because that’s what they’re designed to do: kill. Every gun is engineered from the ground up to send a piece of hot metal flying through the air – at speed – toward a live target, the goal being to kill it. You can’t send a piece of hot metal flying at someone without thinking it could kill them; death is baked into it. To think otherwise is a lie. While people who aspire to responsibly own a death machine might valiantly try to “be responsible”, the fact is, accidents happen. Unintended consequences happen. Children get ahold of their parents’ unsecured weapons all the time here in America. Don’t believe me? Google it, why don’tcha. Then prepare to spend some time reading.
Nancy Lanza was an avid gun owner and – if you’d have asked her – a responsible gun owner, too. That is, she was a responsible gun owner until the morning of December 14, 2012 when her son Adam murdered her with one of her own legally purchased firearms then headed to Sandy Hook Elementary School. The thing is, guns aren’t designed to sit in gun lockers. It’s like how cars aren’t designed to be driven by drunk people. But, when guns get out of their lockers – or drunk people drive – that’s when the tires hit the road – and the drunk driver kills someone. How responsible is a gun owner when their death machine is in their hands – or the hands of others? In America, 329 people are injured by firearms every single day. In 2019, according to UC Davis Health, 39,707 people died because their life intersected with a gun. That’s a hell of a lot of irresponsible gun ownership, no?
The “responsible gun owner” argument is that THEY aren’t like that. THEY are different, ya see. They’re “responsible”. Until they aren’t. Until something unexpected happens as it did yesterday when 15 year old Ethan Crumbley took the semi-automatic 9 mm Sig Sauer handgun his dad had purchased a few days before to school – where Ethan was already in trouble for “concerning classroom behavior”. We don’t know if Ethan’s parents were ever “responsible gun owners”, but they definitely failed that test in the end.
Ya see, that’s the problem for all of us out here who DON’T own death machines. We have to rely on the competence, good intentions and genuine “responsible-ness” of everyone who owns a gun. Gun non-owners won’t know ahead of time which gun owners are failing to be responsible. We never got a head’s up that James Holmes was going to the movies on July 20, 2012 at the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Was James ever a responsible gun owner? Don’t know. But, if he ever was, he wasn’t that night when he killed twelve people. 70 others were injured, 58 from gunfire. Same token, we don’t know if Omar Mateen was ever a “responsible gun owner” before he killed 49 people and injured 53 more at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL which he shot up on June 12, 2016.
While racism itself isn’t behind most of our mass shootings – male dysfunction is – the easy availability of death machines across America makes it easy for every male with personality flaws and anger issues to use a gun as part of their “therapy”. The NRA seems to approve of its members using the second amendment to resolve all disputes. As Kyle Rittenhouse proved, you can even cry “self defense!” when shooting unarmed people because you feel “threatened” by them.
Want to know just how racist America is? Imagine, if you will, what would have happened to AR-15-toting Kyle Rittenhouse if he had been Black instead of privileged white. Think the cops there that night in Kenosha would have waved at Kyle and waved him through? Think all the armed racists there to threaten the Black Lives Matter protestors would have seen Black Kyle as one of their own? Puh-leeze! If Kyle Rittenhouse was black, they would have had to clean up what was left of him with a hose.
America’s gun lovers insist they need guns to protect them from an overzealous government. To call that horse shit is a kindness it doesn’t deserve. It’s right wing bullshit kabuki. It’s a lie. Right wing gun lovers do not fear the government; they just want it out of their way. Right wing gun lovers – almost entirely white – see themselves as surrounded. A diversifying America terrifies them because they refuse to share power. And the people they refuse to share power with is everyone not them – not white. And, to make their point of just how determined they are? They “open carry” their intentions.
No one at a supermarket is going to attack them. No one ever was going to. They gun owner knows that. The point of the exercise isn’t self-defense, it’s intimidation. It’s white people trying to impress everyone else that they – a gun owner – can hurt them bigger and better than the person without the gun can hurt the gun owner. No part of that thinking is even remotely “responsible”. But it is deeply racist.
Not every gun owner is a racist, but – count on it – every racist needs a gun to feel complete. They need a gun to do what they personally can’t – force people they don’t like to do what they want (including die).
A guns is to a racist what a good argument is to anyone else. The gun IS the racist’s argument.