"Gun violence is rooted in white supremacy," Nathan Wuertenberg notes in the first sentence of his Washington Post op-ed titled, "Gun rights are about keeping white men on top."
Co-editor of "Demand the Impossible: Essays in History as Activism" and founder of "The Activist History Review," Wuertenberg argued in Friday's op-ed that prior to the establishment of the Second Amendment, "gun ownership equaled power" in Colonial America.
"More specifically," he continued in his Post piece, "it meant the power to control the means of violence and use those means to suppress the voices of the disenfranchised. Throughout the 17th century, almost all the English colonies along the Eastern Seaboard passed legislation prohibiting women and slaves from owning guns and forbidding the sale of guns to native peoples."
Wuertenberg added in his op-ed that a century later, "gun ownership had become a defining feature of white masculinity in the English colonies and guns played an integral role in Colonial men’s public displays of that masculinity."
Invoking a Second Amendment term, he added that the "main purpose of militias — North and South — during this period was to suppress slave rebellions, a constant fear of slaveholders throughout the institution’s existence. ... In fact, for many of the men who became leaders of the Colonial independence movement, the final straw that pushed them toward independence was the British military’s decision to confiscate Colonial militia stores and use them to arm refugee slaves who fled their rebel owners."
More from the op-ed:
It was this culmination of their worst nightmares that the Founders had in mind when they wrote the Second Amendment. Their “right to bear arms” was the right of white men to exercise authority over black men and women by violent means if necessary, and their right to a “well regulated Militia” was the right to do so in large groups.
Many of the individual laws that restricted the right to bear arms along racial lines remained on the books in various forms throughout the antebellum period. Even after the Civil War, when slavery ended and the 14th Amendment guaranteed equal protection under the law to African Americans, white men did their utmost to ensure that gun ownership remained their prerogative. The Ku Klux Klan was notorious for, among many other things, confiscating weapons owned by newly minted black U.S. citizens, and prohibiting black gun ownership became a pillar of Jim Crow legislation.
Wuertenberg also argued that the "prohibition on black gun ownership remains a de facto feature of modern-day law enforcement practice," noting that the NRA "did nothing" following the fatal shooting of Philando Castile by a Minnesota police officer in 2016 — an action that the op-ed author said "reveals its assumption that gun ownership is a white domain."
Perhaps Wuertenberg missed this:
The reports from #Minnesota are troubling and must be thoroughly investigated. #2A #NRA https://t.co/Z7wEQNBs0y— NRA (@NRA) 1468006851.0
He also may not have happened upon pointed statements from the NRA's Colion Noir — who is black — saying the Castile shooting never should have happened and that the media "cowards" have vilified the NRA without evidence.
“If any organization acts in a racist manner towards my gun rights, it’s you, the national news media,” Noir said. “You call the NRA racist, while in the same breath telling blacks like me that we shouldn’t own guns because we can’t be trusted to not just kill each other. Name one thing the NRA does to make it harder for black people to access their Second Amendment rights. Go ahead. Name one. You can’t. Because unlike you, the NRA actually fights for my rights.”
Here's the Noir clip. (Content warning: Some language):
What else did Wuertenberg say?
... White men make up the largest percentage of gun owners (and are ahead of people of color and women by double digits). In the NRA, the breakdown is even more stark, with white men accounting for twice the proportion they do in the general population. They also account for the largest percentage of arrests involving gun violence. This is the case because our society has incentivized white male violence from the beginning and has identified guns as the most effective means of exercising that violence.
This lengthy history means that when white men feel disempowered, they are primed to resort to gun violence to reassert their sense of authority. It’s no coincidence that the rate of gun violence, and mass shootings in particular, has risen in tandem with the expansion of rights and representation for people of color and women in recent decades.
He added that "mass shooters have routinely expressed white-supremacist views or motivations," bringing up Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold who "reportedly made racist remarks as they killed a black student" and William Atchison "who posted racist comments online for years" before killing two New Mexico high schoolers last year.
How did Wuertenberg bring President Donald Trump into his argument?
"Most recently, the suspected shooter in the Parkland, Fla. school massacre, Nikolas Cruz, was reportedly photographed with a 'Make America Great Again' hat," Wuertenberg concluded. "The hat was new. The worldview that put that hat on his head and an AR-15 in his hands is not."
(H/T: Louder With Crowder)