Growing up in a decidedly left-wing household, I was lectured on a regular basis about the dangers and evils of firearms and the horrible kinds of people who own them. This despite the fact that my father kept a .22 rifle hidden in the basement. Granted, a .22 does not pack the firepower of most other guns, but on rare occasions when he thought he could get away with it, my dad would take me out plinking with the admonition that I keep it on the sly, since my mother would have, shall we say, “registered her disapproval.” Very adamantly.
I am not a gun enthusiast, although having lived in a very rural part of the country for many years where hunting and sport shooting were regular parts of people’s lives, I knew quite a few gun enthusiasts. I have no idea if there were or were not a few wannabe militia members on the fringes, but the people I knew enjoyed getting out in the mountains, filling an elk tag and knocking off a few clay pigeons. And I even knew a few mountain man reenactors who owned historic weapons, more to complete a costume than anything else. And in the interest of full disclosure, I have in the past owned guns and even tried out a concealed carry permit. Turns out that when you are my height (5’5” and change), you tend to list to one side when you wear a gun. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. Except a limp, in my case.
It was of course only a matter of time until someone equated guns with racism. To be fair, the op-ed piece by the ACLU that drew some blowback over the weekend is just the latest foray into linking gun ownership with white supremacy. The author asserts that gun laws are enforced unequally, putting black people at risk, and further states that gun rights have been used to “inflame white racial anxiety, and to frame Blackness as an inherent threat.” The piece was a lead-in to an ACLU podcast.
A 2018 ACLU article cites the case of Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford, Jr., a black man who was a licensed firearm owner. He drew his gun and directed people to safety during an active shooter incident in an Alabama mall on Thanksgiving night. According to the article, when police arrived on the scene, they assumed Bradford was the shooter and shot him three times from behind. The article also cites incidents involving Jemel Roberson and Philando Castile, both of whom were shot by police. Roberson was a nightclub security guard and legal gun owner who was shot by police while he had his gun out subduing an active shooter. Castile, the article states, was shot during a traffic stop after disclosing to the officer that he had a gun and a concealed carry permit.
These tragedies represent monumental problems with police procedure and, it might be argued, a horrifically unequal application of the Second Amendment. Incidents such as these should be investigated, and charges made as necessary. But they should not be construed as an indictment of the amendment itself. I have never met a gun enthusiast who owned guns because he feared minorities. To date, I have yet to meet a gun owner who hates black, brown, or gay people. That is not to say that racist gun owners do not exist, but I doubt that racism is as ubiquitous in the gun world as some would have us believe. As stated above, the gun owners I knew enjoyed hunting and shooting, and while I never met someone who spent most of his spare time in fatigues and camouflage face paint, I have met several who expressed sincere fears about government overreach–and about the very types of incidents that claimed the lives of the men mentioned above.
But moreover, I knew many people who owned guns for a very simple reason: They had families to protect. These were not people who would spend an entire weekend at a gun show blowing half a month’s salary on firearms and ammo. They did not subscribe to every gun magazine on the market and did not keep arsenals in their crawlspaces. Why did they own a firearm? Read on.
On July 21, 2021, a man showed up at the door of Amanda Nowak’s Las Vegas home. The man occasionally mumbled to himself and asked if he could come in. Amanda was alone. Her husband, who was away at the time, talked to the individual through the couple’s Ring doorbell. The man wanted to come in to rape and kill the woman who lived there. He added that he had a gun and a knife. He wandered away while Amanda remained silent behind the door until the police arrived. The individual was later apprehended. Later. And yes, he was white.
This is the nightmare of many gun owners across the nation. And included in this nightmare is the possibility that the intruder does not go away. He actually has a gun and a knife and he does what he has come to do. While the police are on the way. And the Second Amendment, among other things, exists to provide those people, no matter their color, with a peace of mind.
By all indications, the deaths of Bradford, Roberson, and Castile were completely unjustified and should be prosecuted. The irony is that not a single gun owner I know would disagree with that.