Guns, if you don’t have a healthy fear of them you probably don’t know much about them. From victims of gun violence to conscientious gun owners, hundreds of millions of Americans are well acquainted with their destructive power and the need for safety in managing their use. However, the fear left unchecked by other external considerations in the realm of history, politics, and sociology turns this fear into a paranoia, and it is time that those on the Left in this country dispel this paranoia, because it is blinding them to issues they ought to care about, especially given our present historical predicament.
First, let’s pin down some conceptual and contextual facts about guns. Guns are not mere property, objects we possess despite the dangers they present. In the hands of the common people guns have been a means of protecting oneself from threats in their communities. A skeptical reader may reply that they are only in favor of controlling access to weapons that serve no apparent purpose in self defense. My brief reply is this: A world that does contain a significant amount of these rifles that strike one as overkill will continue to do so, and to propose a restriction in access to them while the black market and law enforcement still possess stockpiles is impeding self defense all the same. You might never have invented an AR-15 to defend your home, but someone did invent it, and obtaining them even illegally is no hassle.
Self defense is a powerful tool, and that’s why the wealthy, socially privileged in this country have so often sought to prevent the powerless from realizing the full potential of autonomous self defense. Throughout the Antebellum South laws were put in place preventing both slaves and free black people from possessing guns. In fact this went beyond guns, with New Orleans outlawing slaves learning fencing and Maryland restricting freemen from even owning dogs of their own, lest they be used to attack the white population. So many of these laws were passed, and the intention was clear: Prevent self defense.
Fast forward over 100 years to 1960s California where the rising threat of black militancy spurned the Governor of California Ronald Wilson Reagan to put in place new, supposedly neutral gun control. This is not simply a 19th century outdated concern. Gun control laws combined with stop-and-frisk policing policies have landed evermore people of color into our prison system, where they are thus rendered truly defenseless to their white superiors once more.
Now, in 21st century America, we are less than 6 months out from America electing what many on the left and center in this country aptly deem a fascistic administration hellbent on ripping 11 million undocumented immigrants from their homes and dedicated to the cause of national security at all costs. Following this logic, Trump has made it clear he supports the ban on gun purchases for those on the federal government’s terrorist and no-fly lists. This is a document beyond due process, transparency, accuracy, and decency to anything resembling a liberal civil rights policy. It makes all too much sense that Trump supports it, and is all too tragic that those once bold civil libertarians on the Democratic party’s left and elsewhere have as well.
Consider also a decision made by a federal appeals court that determined undocumented workers do have a right to own weapons within our borders. I imagine you can guess how a Trump administration would try to deal with that: as he proposes to deal with anything, with unilateral executive tyranny. If Trump gets his way with his unhinged deportation agenda, when the politicians and human rights groups have failed to stop him, the last line of defense for undocumented immigrants against the compliant federal agents will be their weapons. Do you want to be the voice that disarmed them?
The reactionary violence of Trump’s campaign is of course not merely theoretical. There have been multiple attacks on protestors at Trump rallies, and there will no doubt be more. This is the culture we are living in, a culture that is not going away. Even if Trump loses these wannabe brown shirts will still be out there, resentful as ever. Thankfully there has been no gun violence connected yet, and it’s true that gun violence isn’t always prevented by the presence of other guns. However, allow me to remind you of the pessimism this election and its disturbing antics has welled up in you. Those on the side of gun control enjoy mocking the apocalyptic justifications that gun rights advocates so enjoy jumping to, but is there not truth to their predictions of tyranny embedded within the prospect of a Trump presidency, of a growing nativist reactionary movement? I do not wish to play on your paranoia, but your prudence. One does not wish for nor even expect that the world will turn to shit, but with so many signs of it would it not be irresponsible to yield your constitutional right, your human right to self defense over to a federal government that may soon be under the rule of a madman?
I wish to mention Orlando here briefly. Omar Mateen’s possessed weapons not merely as a would-be gunman, but as a security guard. Omar Mateen protected government buildings with his weapons. His desire to one day be a police officer is well documented, as is the abusive personal behavior patterns of many police officers who, like Omar, beat their spouses and harbor resentment to much of the populace. I put it to you now, are you willing to cede your power of self defense to the police departments of this country? If you are, you may just be more of a Trump supporter than you thought.
The right to guns is not a right for those who wish to inflict violence. It is a right granted to prevent it, when possible. Centralizing the possession of weapons with the state doesn’t ensure the safety of those at Pulse or those of people living in violent inner cities. It only ensures that one organization will have legal power to possess the means of that violence. In the age of police militarization, of growing reactionary clamor in America and beyond, in the age of a Trump administration, is gifting our right to protecting ourselves over to the polity’s enforcers anything less than suicidal and an escalation of oppression that has been taking place for hundreds of years? For the sake of our lives do not clamor for another jot of gun control law on the books, not while the laws are enforced by those who have the greatest capacity to victimize the disempowered.