Global Independent Analytics
Danny Haiphong
Danny Haiphong

Location: USA

Specialization: War, Racism, Capitalist exploitation, Civil rights

A Comprehensive Look into the Question of Gun Control

Under the Obama Administration, Washington has continued its service to global imperialism through its policy of war, impoverishment, and repression of oppressed people all around the world

In the twilight of his administration, Obama shed tears, not for the victims of US-led global imperialism, but for the need enforce gun control by executive order. The order came in the aftermath of a number of mass shootings that have occurred in places such as Sandy Hook and San Bernardino. Obama's crocodile tears gave his image and the image of the Democratic Party a swift public relations boost. The performance also helped draw people’s attention away from the bankrupt gun control narrative inside the US.

The Democratic Party and Republican Party dominate the discourse on gun control in the US. On the one hand, Democrats argue for gun control to supposedly curb future mass shootings. Republicans argue that gun control infringes upon the right to bear arms enshrined by the Second Amendment. Yet while gun rights activists are often cited as racist and backward, gun control advocates have escaped similar criticism. US Empire has given a platform to gun control as a means to distract the oppressed from the fact that the ruling class has always controlled guns for their own interests.

Historically, the Second Amendment, or “the right to bear arms,” was meant to protect chattel slavery and the genocide of indigenous peoples. Militias referenced by the Second Amendment refer to slave patrols. Slave patrols carried the sole purpose of repressing African slave rebellions and stealing indigenous land for the wealthy brokers of the new American state. The slave owning class lobbied for the continuation of the right to put down slave rebellions by way of independent militias and had it codified in the US Constitution. The rich, white elite was thus able to control gun ownership by arming citizens (white, propertied) and disarming noncitizens (African slaves and Natives)

Most people learn from US schools and media outlets that suppress this history. So it becomes difficult for many people in the US to understand how the issue of gun control fits into the current objectives of US Empire. Dominated by Democratic Party operatives, gun control promotes a campaign of respect for “law and order.” The ultimate aim of gun control is to strengthen the power of the US corporate state (“law and order”) over the lives of its exploited subjects. And the argument for gun control in the US carries with it a long history of service to Empire’s twin evils of racism and capitalism.

Gun control was enacted in various moments of history to control and subdue Black rebellion. Black slaves were codified as property, and not free men, by the US Constitution and had no right to bear arms. The few free Blacks allowed to live in the US were often the targets of specific gun control legislation. States such as North Carolina made it illegal for free Black Americans to bear arms in the early 19th century. These laws were emulated throughout the South to weaken and divide the power of Black Americans, both free and enslaved.

During the Black Freedom movement of the 1950's-1970's, groups such as the Deacons of Defense and the Black Panther Party promoted armed self-defense as a Second Amendment Right. Armed self-defense was an essential component to Black survival. The post-slavery Jim Crow era was rife with White supremacist terror, especially in the form of lynching. In the latter half of the 1960's, police brutality of Black Americans sparked rebellions in cities such as Harlem, Newark, and Watts. The rebellions inspired the Black Panther Party to conduct armed patrols of the police in Oakland, CA and surrounding Black neighborhoods. This motivated the California legislature to pass the Mulford Act. The state law made it illegal in the state of California to openly carry firearms in public and effectively disarmed the Black Panther Party's police patrols. Gun control has thus been enacted to disarm revolutionary movements in the US.

There are also many contemporary reasons to question the limitations of gun control advocacy in the US. Gun murders in the US have actually declined since 1993. Nor do gun control advocates acknowledge that Black Americans are killed almost daily by law enforcement while both US political parties continue to support the further militarization of the police. Furthermore, the US is the number one arms dealer in the world. The US has used its lucrative weapons industry to prop up murderous regimes, build a lethal drone program, and conduct numerous invasions of independent countries. But the scale back of state violence is not on the gun control agenda.

This is not to say that the mostly White membership of the National Rifle Association (NRA) has it right, either. White Americans are half as likely to be gun homicide victims as Black Americans and are the most protected section of US society. Gun advocates often cite the Constitution yet disregard the racist history behind the Second Amendment. They fear a tyrannical government, but are the most secure in terms of personal safety from the armed forces of the state. Such cognitive dissonance can only be explained by a desire to return to a past where White privilege ensured a better quality of life than what current conditions in the US can provide. Gun ownership symbolizes power and carries the potential to bring about a “White revival” by force.

Gun control advocates have targeted gun rights activists for being insensitive to the victims of mass shootings and have spoken little of the conditions that make organizations such as the NRA so popular. The mass shootings so heavily cited by gun control advocates are not caused by guns. They are the product of the anti-social nature of US society. Mass shootings have been manipulated by the state to serve a counter-revolutionary agenda to disarm the masses in a period where state repression has never been greater. The question of gun control must be understood from a revolutionary perspective in order to transcend the contradictions in the mainstream debate.

The truth is that the sovereignty of countries such as Vietnam, Cuba, and Zimbabwe would not have been achieved without an armed people. Furthermore, the Second Amendment has been utilized in history by the Black liberation movement in the US to justify the use of arms as a means of self-defense from state terror. The right of workers and oppressed people to defend themselves from corporate attack and state terror should be defended. So the question of gun control should be reframed as a question of armed struggle. The US government’s gun control initiatives should be opposed as we build a movement that promotes armed struggle based on principles of radical and revolutionary justice. Guns are not the problem, the problem is the US repressive state that wields and controls them for the benefit of the rich.

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