If there was one thing, one solid-as-a-rock thing, that the New York Times could be counted on, it was that guns were bad. Guns killed. Screw the Second Amendment, which was a bad one and consequently could be rightly ignored, and eliminate guns. Then came the first crack in the rock.
Emily Bazelon’s homage to illegal guns in the hands of black kids was, to be blunt, simultaneously bizarre and unsurprising. It was less about the virtue of guns than an apologia for illegal guns, but only when held by young men who swore that they were only carrying them in self defense and would never use a gun offensively. It wasn’t their fault. They said so. She believed them.
But the New York Times has had its Doctor Strangelove moment.
What does it take for Black Americans to feel safe right now?
For some, it’s owning a gun. Even if that’s not something they may have ever wanted to do. In the video above, a chorus of Black voices from across the country — a schoolteacher in Oakland, Calif., a political strategist in Aurora, Colo., and others — have an urgent message: “Go buy a gun. Arm yourself. And just make sure you get some training.”
There is no question that the Second Amendment’s fundamental personal right to keep and bear arms protects people regardless of race. Ironically, this goes unmentioned by the Times, which instead presents two arguments in support of the proposition that black people need guns to protect themselves, that white people come to protests with an AR slung over their shoulder and that police pull guns on black people.
Right now, I need a gun to be safe in this country. We see heavily armed folks showing up at the capitals across the nation and demanding that their constitutional rights were being violated. And then we had the back-to-back murders of Black folks. We are not safe.
Both of these arguments are true, but it doesn’t quite address the question of whether guns will make anyone safer.
I parked my bike over here to take a break real quick. Got a white guy out here pointing a gun at four Black men. Look at this. All we’re doing is standing here. This lady literally just pulled a gun because we’re out here and didn’t have reservations.
Brandishing a gun because some black guys show up is very much a problem. But they didn’t shoot anyone. What would have happened had the black guys, in response, drawn weapons? There is no data that suggests there is a new epidemic of white people shooting black people, even if there is a sense of threat from white people with guns. And then there are the cops.
We are not safe. Three years ago, I was driving with my children. We were pulled over to a stop by a police officer. And the police officer brandished a gun on me, with my children crying in the back. That was a turning point for me, understanding that the people that are supposed to take care of us and keep us safe may not always be there for us.
Another huge problem, far better exemplified by the murder of Philando Castille. But would it have gone better, differently, if she had a gun? Would she have drawn it in reaction to the cop? Does she think this would have better served her crying children, about to be motherless?
Unfortunately, we have no choice but to own firearms. Right now, it’s a very key time to get you a firearm, get you some training. We’re not going to live with stigmas. We’re not going to live with fear, period.
That’s when the realization hit. Until we have legislation and all the wrong people don’t have guns, you need a gun.
All Black people pretty much, we need guns to protect ourselves. Go buy a gun. Arm yourself.
The rationale isn’t that their homes are threatened by crazies burning crosses on their lawn, with all the emanations and penumbras that flow from racist attacks on black people. Perhaps this will happen, and there will be evidence that black people are once again being threatened with harm, with death, by white racist mobs, and that the only thing that stands between them and a lynching is their gun. But there’s no evidence that it’s happening now.
If the New York Times’ assertion was that black people have every bit as much right to possess guns as white people, there could be no dispute. They do. The problem of cops presuming a black guy with a gun, even lawful and announced, and pre-emptively killing them has to be addressed. And cops aren’t all that happy about white guys with guns either, because they care more about the First Rule of Policing than the race of the guy they just shot.
But the thrust of the Times epiphany isn’t that Americans have a right to possess a gun, but that black people feel threatened and need to arm themselves to survive. Except the examples offered, the arguments made, reflect a high probability of two things: that gun fights will break out when they otherwise wouldn’t, and that it will end with more black people getting killed, whether by the white crazies whose weapons are already out, locked and loaded, or the cop who won’t hesitate to protect his life if he smells any whiff of a threat.
My personal goal for gun ownership is never to hurt anyone. But if, in fact, my life is threatened, my family is threatened, I probably wouldn’t hesitate.
Who wouldn’t feel the same way? But the solution isn’t to die fighting, but to not die at all.