Mass Incarceration and the War on Guns

A hot topic among the left right now is the issue of gun control. While  radical leftists have traditionally been in favor of gun rights, some have begun to justify gun control measures in the hope that it might de-fang white supremacist movements and end gun violence against marginalized communities.

Many groups, including Dream Defenders and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, have made alliances with the March for Our Lives movement in the name of intersectionality. Of course, expecting a white supremacist state to fight against white supremacy is a pipe dream at best and gun control actually mainly serves to disarm marginalized communities. The more realistic way to tackle hate crimes and violence is through community defense — including gun rights.

Oddly enough, many of these more radical leftist groups that have allied themselves with March for Our Lives have also allied themselves with various strains of the prison abolition and reform movements. Aside from calls to disarm state agents such as the police, these movements have contradictory goals. If we disarm the police, who will enforce gun control measures enacted against average citizens? Given this contradiction, much of the politics surrounding gun control in this segment of the left is muddled and conflicting, with many of the measures they call for only serving to expand the police state and increase incarceration.

Despite all of this confusion, there are several forms of gun control the left is almost uniformly opposed to, and loudly so. The issue is that they usually fail to mention guns at all when discussing these policies. When it comes to practices like Stop-and-Frisk, Zero Tolerance policies, and mandatory minimum sentencing requirements, they want to talk about how these policies impact marginalized communities, but conveniently forget that these are all forms of gun control.

Stop-and Frisk has received the scorn of leftists for years. Many see the policy as inherently racist and a violation of the fourth amendment. Most of the time, when the issue is discussed, it is usually talked about in terms of the War on Drugs. And while Stop-and-Frisk policies were definitely meant as a way to randomly search for drugs, they were also after another major big ticket item: illegal firearms. Of course these efforts have been found to be wildly ineffective and have mostly been repealed and left to rot in the past.

Similarly, the school-to-prison pipeline has been rightly condemned by leftists for its role in mass incarceration. School Zero Tolerance policies are a big part of the problem. These policies insist that schools resort to suspension, expulsion, and/or legal action against students for violent or potentially violent actions, including bringing weapons or drugs to school. Zero Tolerance policies were in fact implemented in the 90’s in response to growing concerns over school shootings and were meant to target gun violence in schools. Instead, they have led to many kids being expelled over petty fights and other normal youth aggression as well as for things like habitual disruption, disrespect, and playing with fake or imaginary weaponry.

Finally, mandatory minimum sentences have long been fought against by those concerned about prisoner rights. Mandatory minimums increase the rates of mass incarceration, resulting in longer sentences for certain types of crimes, including those involving firearms. In most states, there are mandatory minimums for any crimes involving firearms, no matter how petty the crime or how the firearm was used (or not used). There are even mandatory minimum sentences for those caught possessing firearms illegally even if you did not commit a crime with said firearm.

This means that even carrying a firearm on your person can potentially lead to a longer prison sentence if you are caught doing anything else illegal, do not have proper licensing, or have priors.

In spite of the fact that some leftists seem just fine with gun control measures in theory, when certain gun control measure are enacted they can’t help but stand against them in practice — as long as you don’t mention guns during the conversation. You can talk about all the other harms these policies bring but there is always silence when their role as forms of gun control are mentioned. It’s time to break that silence. It’s time to reclaim our rights and affirm that we cannot fight against mass incarceration without fighting for gun rights!

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