The United States stands alone in its permissive laws regarding gun ownership among major industrialized powers. But the United States is also one of the most heterogeneous countries on the planet. Are those two factors related? Could it be that our fear of each other inspires pro-gun laws that one doesn’t see in less diverse cultures?
There’s an argument that the Second Amendment itself was adopted to defend slavery. Please note: I don’t agree with this argument. I think the Second Amendment was adopted because we’d just fought a war that we couldn’t have won without the martial powers of citizens militias. That’s why “A well regulated Militia” is right in the text of the Amendment (a phrase modern gun nuts are quick to gloss over). But it’s clear that widespread gun ownership helped white plantation owners keep control of their slaves. And the right to bear arms was certainly useful when it came time to “settle” additional territory away from the people who were already living there. Gun rights, who has them, and who does not, are inextricably tied to our history of racial oppression.
Do these “race-war” justifications for gun ownership still apply to our modern understanding of the right? A new study suggests that they could…
If you own a gun, you might be a little bit racist, according to a new study from Australian researchers about American gun ownership. From the Huffington Post:
The researchers found that “for each 1 point increase in symbolic racism there was a 50% increase in the odds of having a gun at home,” as well as “a 28% increase in support for permits to carry concealed handguns.”
To measure levels of prejudice, the team asked survey participants questions that measured both symbolic racism, defined as “a belief structure underpinned by both anti-black affect and traditional values,” and implicit racial attitudes, which are more subtle associations about people of different races. For example, in the symbolic racism section, participants were asked, ““How well does the word ‘violent’ describe most blacks?” on a scale of 1 to 5.
It’s unsurprising, but still interesting, that having a gun in your home is highly correlative with thinking that black people don’t share your values and are violent. People don’t buy guns to protect themselves from their neighbors and friends, they buy guns to protect themselves from somebody else.
And while we’re here, let’s not forget that racists are often quite stupid, and stupid people are the ones most resistant to facts about how gun ownership leads to homicide instead of preventing it. Stupid racists are least likely to understand (or care) how “stand your ground” laws are simply a way for whites to justify the killing of black people. Most of the best arguments in favor of gun control are lost on the very kinds of racist people who own guns.
The study focused on white gun ownership, but I’d bet that if you looked at black gun ownership, you’d find a similar pattern: the more racist black people are (whether it’s racism towards white people, other races, or even black-on-black racism), the more likely they are to own a gun.
This isn’t a problem they have in Scandinavia. I mean, I’m sure that Scandinavians are just as racist as anybody else, but… there aren’t a lot of brothers in Denmark. It’s not like they’re worried that Falstaff is going to roll in and rape their families. In a homogenous society, making guns available on the internet to mental patients doesn’t sound like “self defense” as much as it sounds “amazingly stupid.”
America pays a heavy price for her gun laws. But maybe those gun laws are the price we pay for living in a multicultural society?
Liberals like to argue that the Second Amendment is like a vestigial tail, an anachronistic text written before people could conceive of readily available automatic weapons, or what squadron F-35s could do to a “citizen’s militia” well-armed with those weapons. But maybe the Second Amendment has “evolved” to incorporate all of the prejudice and oppression that used to feature much more prominently in our Constitution. Maybe the Second Amendment is the new hood the racist can use to shield his identity.
Gun Ownership And Racist Attitudes Are Linked, Study Finds [Huffington Post]
The Second Amendment was Ratified to Preserve Slavery [Truth Out]