Do Black people have full Second Amendment rights?
That’s the question historian Carol Anderson set out to answer after Minnesota police killed Philando Castile, a Black man with a license to carry a gun, during a 2016 traffic stop.
“Here was a Black man who was pulled over by the police, and the police officer asked to see his identification. Philando Castile, using the NRA guidelines, alerts to the officer that he has a licensed weapon with him,” she says. “[And] the police officer began shooting.”
In the 1990s, after the assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, the National Rifle Association condemned federal authorities as “jackbooted government thugs.” But Anderson says the organization “went virtually silent” when it came to Castile’s case, issuing a tepid statement that did not mention Castile by name.
In her new book, The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America, Anderson traces racial distinctions in Americans’ treatment of gun ownership back to the founding of the country and the Second Amendment, which states:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
The language of the amendment, Anderson says, was crafted to ensure that slave owners could quickly crush any rebellion or resistance from those whom they’d enslaved. And she says the right to bear arms, presumably guaranteed to all citizens, has been repeatedly denied to Black people.
“One of the things that I argue throughout this book is that it is just being Black that is the threat. And so when you mix that being Black as the threat with bearing arms, it’s an exponential fear,” she says. “This isn’t an anti-gun or a pro-gun book. This is a book about African Americans’ rights.”
On the crafting of the Second Amendment at the Constitutional Convention
It was in response to the concerns coming out of the Virginia ratification convention for the Constitution, led by Patrick Henry and George Mason, that a militia that was controlled solely by the federal government would not be there to protect the slave owners from an enslaved uprising. And … James Madison crafted that language in order to mollify the concerns coming out of Virginia and the anti-Federalists, that they would still have full control over their state militias — and those militias were used in order to quell slave revolts. … The Second Amendment really provided the cover, the assurances that Patrick Henry and George Mason needed, that the militias would not be controlled by the federal government, but that they would be controlled by the states and at the beck and call of the states to be able to put down these uprisings.
On Black people’s access to arms after the American Revolution
You saw incredible restrictions being put in place about limiting access to arms. And this is across the board for free Blacks and, particularly, for the enslaved. And with each uprising, the laws became even more strict, even more definitive, about who could and who could not bear arms. And so free Blacks were particularly proscribed. And so we see this, for instance, in Georgia, where Georgia had a law that restricted the carrying of guns.
On the Founding Fathers’ fear of a slave revolt, which was stoked by the Haitian Revolution
When Haiti began to overthrow the French colonial masters and were seizing that country for themselves, when Blacks were seizing that country for themselves, the violence of the Haitian Revolution, the existence of the Haitian Revolution, just sent basically an earthquake of fear throughout the United States. You had George Washington lamenting the violence. You had Thomas Jefferson talking about [how] he was fearful that those ideas over there, if they get here, it’s going to be fire. You had James Madison worried. …
Whites … were fleeing Haiti and were bringing their enslaved populations with them, their enslaved people with them. … [There was a fear that] the ideas that these Black Haitians would have, that somehow those ideas of revolution, those ideas of racial justice, those ideas of freedom and democracy would just metastasize throughout Virginia’s Black enslaved population and cause a revolt. You had that same fear coming out of Baltimore that then began to open up the public armory to whites, saying, “You are justified in being armed because they’re bringing too many of these Black Haitians, these enslaved Haitians, up here who have these ideas that Black people can be free.”
On how the Black Panthers responded to restrictions on Black people’s ability to bear arms in the 1960s
What the Black Panthers were dealing with was massive police brutality. Just beating on Black people, killing Black people at will with impunity. And the Panthers decided that they would police the police. Huey P. Newton, who was the co-founder of the Black Panthers along with Bobby Seale, … knew the law, and he knew what the law said about being able to open-carry weapons and the types of weapons you were able to openly carry and how far you had to stand away from the police arresting somebody or interrogating somebody. … And the police did not like having these aggressive Black men and women doing that work of policing the police. And the response was a thing called the Mulford Act, and the Mulford Act set out to ban open carrying of weapons. And it was drafted by a conservative assemblyman in California with the support and help of an NRA representative and eagerly signed by Gov. Ronald Reagan as a way to make illegal what the Panthers were legally doing.
Sam Briger and Kayla Lattimore produced and edited the audio of this interview. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper and Meghan Sullivan adapted it for the web.
Jewish Women asks what gun to buy to deal with political violence.
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Well, i just binge watched your 3 parts regarding gun control .. a few points from my European Nordic perspective.
Contrary to what many people may think .. here in Iceland we have quite a huge number of guns per capita .. i think its like every 3rd person has a gun (statistically). But we have an average of 0.3 gun related murders per year, zero mass shootings and the police only had to kill one person in our entire countries history.
So – although i hate to say it .. because it does not align with my view on guns and gun control .. you might have a point with the gun not being the problem … strictly speaking.
But yes, there is a cultural problem. Here .. the law forbids you to use a gun for self defense. No matter what .. you are NOT, never ever – allowed to use a gun to defend yourself (applies to human assaults, not wild animals attacking you of course). Also, and that is the countries history … we have learned and it has become culture .. we MUST work out conflicts and make compromise, because if conflict escalates and people get killed or harmed, it endangers the entire society. ( for that one must go back in Iceland history .. when it was settlers vs. nature .. with nature usually winning the fight unless settlers worked together .. and EVERY person was needed, no matter if male, female – no matter what colour the skin or the language.. everyone had to work together)
There is a natural .. lets call it “respect for life” .. every life. And i am sure .. on a cognitive basis .. most gun owners will of course subscribe to respecting life (actually, i suspect many gun owners consider themselves “pro-life” which is another sad topic for America) .. but it means that you NEVER EVER take another persons life (life that is outside the womb). If someone attacks you .. you will calm him down, if someone has harmed another person, you will try to defuse the situation. If someone has murdered a person .. you do not go ahead and sentence him to death, but you try to make him part of society again, because killing a murderer means you might be one person short next winter.
I miss this respect for life in the USA (mind – from reports, videos and media, i have not really met Americans .. ) There is death sentence, there is stand your ground, there is war. There is a culture that dictates that power equals “who wields the bigger stick”. Here it is .. power equals who can better work together. (considering we have no military .. we cannot go for the bigger stick of course)
But there is more – culturally
I forgot who it was .. a YouTube creator who compared the USA to Europe .. on a very specific subject … fear
Americans seem afraid – much more than the average European. That stars in everyday life. Children going to school by themselves in Europe, sometimes across the entire city (basic school children mind .. that is 6-9 years old) – taking public transportation or riding. Here in Iceland mothers tend to just leave the baby carriage (including baby) outside when they go shopping or for a coffee (that is .. leaving the baby unattended in the freezing temperature outside .. for half an hour or longer)
In America .. there seems to be a fear of so much. The USA has a HUGE military and security institutions .. yet .. off of all the western nations .. it seems the most afraid.
There has been an increasing habit of brandishing weapons near polling places and stage legislatures.
We are facing a challenge of violence and people trying to intimidate. It would be a helpful argument to isolate these people at a state level.
Not a home invasion, but KKK members chased my wife and kid home, were met with this AR and chose not to get shot. It was the right tool, no regrets.
After closing and before moving my family into this house two guys tried to force the door thinking the little old lady I bought the house from was going to be easy pickings. She didn’t live here anymore but my Alaskan does. They also chose not to be shot. It was the right tool for the job.
Ideally, in any conflict with criminals you can convey to them in no uncertain terms that their survival depends on withdraw or surrender. Having to actually shoot them is a worst case scenario, presenting the option and having it heeded is the best case scenario. So far bringing the right gun at the right time seems to be keeping me in the best case scenario.