Until America addresses the underlying causes behind why men commit mass murder, no amount of legislation will protect anyone
Sorry folks, but banning AR-15s won’t stop domestic terrorism. It’s far too late for that. There are more guns than people in the United States and those that would do us harm are already locked and loaded. Many of them are preparing for a civil war in fantasy land while journalists and researchers like me who track hate groups fear more isolated attacks across the country similar to the recent and past mass shootings.
Do we need gun reform laws? Absolutely. But the conversation always seems to get lost once we begin to talk about banning any firearms. We know that most Americans support universal background checks, however, many of those supporters are also gun owners who have no interest in outlawing access to small-caliber firearms — including AR-15s. As with all things, when discussing gun reform laws, we must take this and other issues into consideration.
As a gun owner, I support background checks along with requiring training, education about the law, gun insurance, and gun safety — including securing weapons when not in use and more. In fact, most gun owners I know also support all of these things. However, they lose interest when we begin talking about a national gun registry and even more so when we begin talking about banning weapons. No one will ever be fully comfortable with the government tracking anything about us. And I can understand why.
Most gun owners I know are Black or people of color and they all voice the same concerns. Do you see what’s been happening for the last decade or so? Do you see the attacks on minority groups and the rise of hate? Yes, those things bother me too. Does anyone of us think we’ll be in a shootout with a neo-fascist domestic terrorist? No. But, taking my situation as an example with those of my colleagues who have discussed this with me, if just one of the clowns who threaten us regularly tries to come for us, at least we’ll be evenly matched giving us a chance to fight back. The absolute and sad truth about society today is that non-white people are scared.
Minority communities being under threat is a foundational and institutional trait of America’s capitalist society. The menacing intimidation through both social and institutional systems is ever-present and because of America’s unwillingness to address gun violence, more Americans live in fear of each other. The rise in hate group activity, recruiting, and overt attacks on minority communities have skyrocketed due to the political use of race to drive more expansive culture wars. Minorities are under political threat in a throwback to Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Era.
The political threat is a signal to civil society that hateful ideas and language have become mainstream again. That makes the threat to Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) a reality on the street level. In our workplaces, our communities, and our homes. Leading me to another driver of these ideas: the expansion and militarization of the police state and the prison industrial complex. That alone should concern every American. The creepiness of living in a surveillance/police-state is astounding, and again, American complacency just lets it happen.
While some of this may sound like it borders on paranoia, let us not forget the less-than-stellar history of the U.S. government when it comes to exercising its power and authority over its people. Particularly towards BIPOC and especially against poor and BIPOC gun owners.
Let Us Not Forget History
From the Second Amendment opening the door for every American to murder Indigenous people to the gun confiscation at Wounded Knee prior to being attacked and slaughtered by heavily armed Americans. Similarly, from the pre-Revolution South to post-Civil War America, to the Gun Control Act of 1968, Black people have experienced many barriers to gun ownership as well. And beginning in the late 1800s, xenophobic gun control laws were implemented in both the North and South that barred immigrants from owning firearms.
It goes without saying that gun laws have historically been used against non-white populations and America was built on White people terrorizing non-white communities. Yet somehow, when the idea of Black people with guns pops into the minds of White people, that’s when they want to act scared. Once again, this is an act of covert white supremacy and some of you aren’t aware you’re doing it because it’s so deeply ingrained into your thinking.
That’s the reality minorities have always lived with in America.
Americans must not just be aware of the history of gun regulation but of the impacts of the policies they’re proposing. As I stated previously, those that would do us harm are already armed. This does not mean that I or any other BIPOC don’t support gun reform laws. There is far too much gun violence in America and it disproportionately impacts communities of color through crimes of desperation or unnecessary gang violence. Banning a gun won’t solve those problems because most violent crimes occur using handguns bought on the street.
Historically, buying guns on the street via ‘private sales’ is how the U.S government has left the door open to access illegal weapons. The private sale loophole is one of the primary drivers that enable the transfer of guns from gun dealers to city streets. It’s estimated that 6 million private transfers occur every year via sellers who are not required to conduct background checks.
If the loss of life and the trauma left on families and communities don’t faze you, then maybe the costs will get people to do something. It is estimated that the annual cost of gun violence in America hovers around $100 billion a year. Yeah, that’s right, $100 billion a year. We’re not just talking about gun violence in ‘da hood’ as so many white Americans like to point out. We’re talking about all gun violence including incidents of white rage, domestic violence, suicide, and crime-related gun violence. The University of Chicago estimates that every gunshot wound costs society $1 million. If any of this doesn’t move you to do something, I don’t know what will
One thing is clear, it’s not BIPOC stopping America from passing new gun laws.
What Needs to Happen
It is my opinion and the thoughts of many others that closing the private sale loophole is the primary issue to be addressed. The loophole runs a close second to universal background checks but, to be honest, they should be one and the same regarding policy. This won’t end gun violence on the streets of so many communities nationwide. It will put a stop to the open flow of guns flooding the streets. There is only one other time in history that we saw this level of guns make in onto our streets and that was when the government was putting them there.
In addition to universal background checks and closing loopholes, we must require training in the use of a firearm and in the understanding of the laws around guns. Training is important for many reasons. It can prevent everything from accidental deaths or firearm discharges to knowing when you’re legally allowed to engage someone. We’ve seen far too many cases of armed White men believing it’s within their rights to chase down Black people for no reason.
We should also require safety training and safely securing firearms. Aside from accidental deaths and children shooting themselves with guns that were just laying around, firearms that are stolen due to not properly securing them is the second-highest supplier of guns that make it onto the street. In Houston alone, over 2,200 guns a year are stolen from vehicles alone. Tens of thousands of guns are stolen from cars every year across the country that inevitably make it onto the street.
There are so many things that can and must be done before banning weapons comes into play and those measures require American gun owners to act with responsibility. Additionally, making guns harder to get would also help stem the tide of some mass shootings. Again, Americans have to remain aware that despite any of these new laws, those who would do us harm are already armed and have been stockpiling weapons for decades due to American complacency.
What we need now are actual policies that will make a tangible difference. Banning AR-15s sounds good as a slogan but, the reality is anyone with a couple of 9mm semi-automatic handguns can do just as much, if not more damage than an AR-15. Remember, in the Atlanta mass shooting, Robert Aaron Long killed 8 people with a 9mm handgun as I just described.
No, banning a semi-automatic rifle won’t do what you think it will. Closing the loopholes and tackling the ease of acquisition along with training should be the focus. Especially if you want to get anything done. Let’s make those changes without disenfranchising responsible gun owners with gun bans. Otherwise, you risk losing the support of most gun owners who support more regulations and gun reform laws.
America could have reduced the rate of gun deaths long ago and still can if Americans really wanted to make it happen. The problem falls in the hyperbole that people often become consumed by. Far too many people blindly chant the slogans they see on social media without a full understanding of the issue at hand. This is a cultural issue that affects every social issue in the United States. Whether it’s racial justice or politics or healthcare or gun control, America’s unique ability to deter itself from the most important issues is far too common.
To tackle gun violence in America, we need tangible actionable policies and less sloganeering.