As leading figures in the Democratic Party have become more overt about gun confiscations, it was only a matter of time until any opposition was dismissed as being founded in bigotry. After all, if climate change, math, and perhaps most bizarrely college football can be racist, why not the second amendment?
Left-leaning outlets such as The Guardian and New Republic are working to racialize the gun debate. These columnists argue that the Founding Fathers gave Americans the right to bear arms partially to ensure the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans and partially to keep down African Americans. The more mainstream but perhaps even less scrupulous outlet, CNN, suggests that gun ownership is linked to toxic masculinity. One might call these fringe opinions, but every major Democratic presidential candidate, besides maybe Senator Klobuchar, have echoed similar points. As the American left has become increasingly dominated by postmodernism and critical race theory, it has begun to see the Second Amendment as the mechanism by which an inherently white supremacist and patriarchal system perpetuates the oppression of marginalized groups.
While in 2020, charges of bigotry are often levied but seldom proven, there is something particularly pernicious about painting gun rights advocates this way. It isn’t just wrong. It isn’t even just a lie. Any attempt to paint the Second Amendment as oppressive is exactly the type of farce Orwell warned of in 1984. It is an exact inversion of the truth.
Let us first dismiss the argument that “gun culture” is in any way used to reinforce a system of patriarchy. Men and women may be intellectually, morally, and spiritually equal, but they are not and never have been physically equal. There is a telling line in season two of True Detective:
The fundamental difference between the sexes is that one of them can kill the other with their bare hands.
This is obviously true. While there are exceptions, if a randomly selected male and female fought, the male would win nine of ten times and perhaps more. The fact that men have a dramatic advantage in their capacity for violence is the biggest contributor to why women were politically and legally subservient until recent history. Firearms largely neutralized this advantage or, at the very least, minimized its importance. The average woman with a gun is every bit as dangerous as the average man with a gun. Firearms do not contribute to female oppression. In fact, there is a case to be made that any level of political and legal gender equality could not exist at all independent of access to guns.
Let us take as an example the most oppressive act a man can perpetrate against a woman, violent rape. When a woman is unarmed, thirty-two percent of rape attempts are successful, but when she is armed, that number drops to three percent. In 1966, Orlando responded to an uptick in sexual assaults by emphasizing gun ownership and training to vulnerable women. Rapes dropped nearly ninety percent the following year. When the U.K. effectively banned private gun ownership, they saw a rise in sexual assault at the same time, America saw a dramatic decrease. Access to firearms is the most important tool for female empowerment outside of reliable birth control.
While the assertion that gun ownership is a tool of female oppression is ridiculous at face value, the idea that gun ownership is a tool of racial oppression seems reasonable at face value. After all, black men are massively overrepresented in shooting victim statistics. However, it does not bear any real level of scrutiny. The infamous Dred Scott of 1857, which made the Civil War all but inevitable, stated that no black man could be an American citizen because he would then have the right to bear arms. The Democratic Party, the political organ of proslavery sentiment, was acutely aware that even if only a few black freemen had access to weapons, they would soon be unable to hold any slaves in bondage.
The NRA was formed in the aftermath of the Civil War to help close the marksmanship gap between Union and Confederate soldiers. Many Northern generals cited the proficiency Southern men had with weapons as a primary reason the Civil War lasted as long as it did. These generals wanted their soldiers better able to deal with the pockets of Confederate resistance in Reconstruction states. In fact, the event that made clear the need for a rifle association was when Nathan Bedford Forrest and the Ku Klux Klan massacred black soldiers at Fort Pillow in 1869.
Many credit the eloquence and vision of Martin Luther King Jr. for making Congress pass the Civil Rights Bill of 1964, the first real civil rights legislation since the thirteenth amendment. However, modern historians often forget that Malcolm X’s calls for African-Americans to arm and protect themselves was just as important in pressuring politicians for reform. History is quite clear on this matter. The right to bear arms worked in concert with efforts towards black abolition and equality, not against it.
Finally, there is the Native Americans. Many “intellectuals” try to make the case that the Second Amendment was included in the Bill of Rights to ensure that white colonists would have the means to displace Indian populations and spread further west. The first issue with this argument is that the Founding Fathers left an abundance of records detailing their intent with regards to the Constitution, and none of the Federalist Papers or their accompanying documents make mention of ethnic cleansing as the reason for an armed citizenry. It is also false that bands of private citizens with their family musket were the primary enforcers of relocating Native American communities. Of course, the Indian conflicts in the colonial period were mostly categorized by Puritan militias clashing with a variety of tribes but mostly the Iroquois over control of NorthWestern fur trade.
However, by 1763 British regulars were responsible for guarding the border. Also, by this point, beaver fur had largely gone out of style in Europe, making the trapper routes far less lucrative. By the time of the Constitutional Convention, individual settlers would occasionally skirmish with restless “braves,” but an organized military handled any real conflict between America and tribal confederations. Of course, there were unforgivable crimes by both parties as westward expansion lumbered on. Still, the most egregious sins committed by America (the Trail of Tears, Wounded Knee, etc.) were undertaken by the U.S. cavalry, not mobs of armed citizens. This is not even to mention that the greatest tragedy to befall the Indians and kill ninety percent of their population was the plague. A tragic accident, but one that has little to do with weapons of any kind.
It is also important to note that modern Native Americans are a semi-sovereign nation, and because of this cannot count on police protection in the same way regular citizens can. As a result, crime rates in Indian reserves have steadily increased since the ’90s. Many tribal people have begun seeing private gun ownership as a means of curbing this uptick in crime while simultaneously maintaining their independence.
Any attempt to suggest gun rights have been used as a means to oppress marginalized communities in America is, at best, historically illiterate and, at worst, cynical lying. There is a once-popular saying in America:
God made man, Sam Colt made men equal, and John Browning kept men free.
This is the true nature of guns in America. This article did not have time to go over groups like the Pink Pistols who use weapons to protect gays from homophobic related attacks, or that the Haitian revolutionaries only declared their full independence from France when Napoleon tried to disarm the population of freed slaves. However, these are equally important examples. Access to cheap and reliable firearms has been one of the greatest tools for Man’s ever-continuing drive towards equality and freedom.