If every citizen of this country has the right to bear arms, it shouldn’t apply differently to Black people.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own.
A recent Los Angeles Times headline asked if California was “ready for more Black people to legally carry guns in public.” The article was written in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that essentially said the right to own firearms and the decision to carry a firearm in public should be up to the individual gun owner and not “local officials, county sheriffs or others who fear that too many guns on the streets are a threat to public safety.” Hurray for the Supreme Court, right?
Except as we all know, people’s attitudes about who should and shouldn’t be able to bear arms and carry them in public tend to shift greatly when it comes to Black people owning guns. And we all know this is due to the implicit bias buried deep in this country’s DNA that causes white people to view Black people as some sort of ongoing threat.
It is an unfortunate byproduct of white supremacy. At the time these rights were embedded in the Constitution, the white men who wrote it had no idea there would come a day when they wouldn’t be the alleged “owners” of Black people, and they never could have imagined that at some point Black people would be guaranteed the same rights as them.
The thing is, we do have those rights as Black people, and we do not deserve to be the subjects of suspicion just because we choose to exercise said rights. As the LA Times article highlights, Black people are already gun owners. We go to the gun range. We are responsible. We pass background checks and we register our firearms.
Are there Black people who carry illegal firearms? Absolutely, just as there are people of other races who do the same. We are definitely not the biggest threat; we are simply the scapegoats of white people’s fear that the centuries of violence they have exacted on others could potentially come back to haunt them.
After all, when you look at the gun laws in California specifically, they came about because of the fact Black people were arming themselves in order to protect their neighborhoods from police.
From the Times:
It was in 1967 that members of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense staged a protest at the state Capitol. Armed with the handguns and shotguns they normally used to protect Black neighborhoods in Oakland by “policing the police,” they announced that the time had come for “Black people to arm themselves against this terror before it is too late.” And then they went inside.
“We have a constitutional right to bear arms,” they shouted as they wandered the halls of the Capitol. Lawmakers were so freaked out that they quickly passed the very bill the Black Panthers had been protesting — the Mulford Act, which banned the open carry of loaded weapons without a permit. Gov. Ronald Reagan signed it posthaste.
Hey, America, your hypocrisy is showing.
The truth is this country will not legislate guns to keep everyone safer. The only time politicians would act on something like that is if Black people took up arms and openly started being aggressive with them.
If Black people were to go around committing the types of mass shootings we see happening with young white men on a nearly daily basis, guns would be legislated so quickly, fist fights would become the popular way of resolving all sorts of conflict.
If you ask me, white people need to make themselves comfortable with the idea that they aren’t the only ones who own and know how to use firearms. This shouldn’t be alarming. It’s the way things are in the society we live in.
There is no reason to view Black people with suspicion simply because they are exercising the same rights you do. If they are not posing an immediate threat to you, it should be live and let live.
Because, again, it’s not Black people shooting up grocery stores and elementary schools and churches. It’s young, indoctrinated white men.
Put your fear where it belongs, and leave the rest of us alone.