Thursday, September 29, 2016

Gun Rights and Black Lives Matter

I do not claim to be an expert on either of the topics I'm about to discuss. I don't have any sort of personal experience with guns, though I definitely don't like them. I don't intend on ever owning a gun, which as I understand it is a right afforded to me by the Constitution, just as it would be my right to own one if I chose.

I also don't really have any expertise when it comes to race relations. I'm a white guy from the suburbs. I haven't had many non-white friends, and even my non-white friends have basically been "White" guys. I worked in a liquor store in Prince George's County for a while, that's about the extent of my immersion in black culture. See, I don't even know enough about black culture to know whether or not I'm supposed to capitalize "black." If I'm supposed to, let me know and I'll try to update my thinking.

Anywho, this blog post isn't truly about gun rights or Black Lives Matter, at least not separately. From reading a lot of posts on the topics over the past few weeks and months, I found myself constantly pondering the whole American environment, and I had what for me qualifies as an epiphany.

There's a way of looking at the two subjects that intertwines them heavily, and when it does, it makes me believe that gun rights advocates should support Black Lives Matter, and vice versa.

Let me walk you through my thought process.

The first factor here is the argument innate to any gun rights advocate, that the possession of firearms is vital to the preservation of a democratic society. When civilians don't have guns (or more basically, the ability to deny oppression), the state can oppress them. Civilians need guns in order to keep politicians in check.

Not really my personal opinion, but that's the stance.

Now, from the dozens of articles I've read about firsthand experiences by black people with police officers, the over-arching sentiment seems to be that police officers are to be obeyed without question, particularly by people of color. I've always felt the same way, having grown up with a police officer in the family, but the tone is very different from my growing-up experience.

Basically, if you're a black person, you listen to the cops or you die. Strong words, but the sentiment across the country is that it's true.

Now, police officers are the most direct (and sometimes only) contact we'll ever have with the state. Most of us don't interact with senators or governors or the FBI. So what we're talking about here is the representative of the state demanding compliance or death. Or at least, that's the perception. Again, I'm not talking about my personal experience, I'm just talking about the articles I've read.

So, wouldn't it make sense for gun activists to rally around Black Lives Matter? You would think that they would say, "You see? This is a group of disenfranchised people who are being heavily oppressed by our government. They are the evidence that our civil liberties have been taken away with gun control, and we need to make sure everyone who wants a weapon to protect him- or herself from the government can acquire and carry one without harassment."

And similarly, people who support the Black Lives Matter movement should be able to look at gun advocates and say, "Yes, exactly, we need to be suspicious of government representatives who demand obedience. We need to make sure that we the people retain the full breadth of our power to dictate terms with our government."

I haven't seen either group reach out to the other, and I haven't seen anyone make this same connection between the two camps. Is this the solution to the problems that face our world today? No. There isn't a solution. If there's a way to reliably avoid the tragedies we've encountered recently, it's not one single tactic or answer. It's a bunch of different stuff, things that will take a long time and a lot of effort.

And it's just as likely that there's no way to avoid it at all. With as many people as are in the United States, there are inevitably going to be some bad people, and some mistakes, and some unlucky circumstances. Smartphones and the Internet have made all of this content available to the world in an instant. My sense is that we're stuck with social judgment for the foreseeable future. So behave.

Literally everybody is watching.

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