The Right of the People, But Not THOSE People, to Keep and Bear Arms…

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Em Carpenter

Em was one of those argumentative children who was sarcastically encouraged to become a lawyer, so she did. She is a proud life-long West Virginian, and, paradoxically, a liberal. In addition to writing about society, politics and culture, she enjoys cooking, podcasts, reading, and pretending to be a runner. She will correct your grammar. You can find her on Twitter.

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60 Responses

  1. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    “There’s absolutely no reason why out on the street today a civilian should be carrying a loaded weapon.”

    Reagan was right…sort of. I am okay with concealed carry. Open carry is a blight and I honestly wish they would outlaw it. I increasingly see more and more people open carrying in the grocery store, etc and I really have to resist the urge to ask them what they are trying to prove.

    Also (since I have recently been told that conservatives should declare their lack of racist motives on every topic going forward)…it goes without saying that the racial hypocrisy here is ridiculous.Report

    • Avatar Doctor Jay in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      I don’t like open carry, either. I feel that too many people who don’t know what they are doing are liable to strap one on just to feel good.

      At the same time, I’m wary of writing laws to do it. Private property owners have every right to forbid it on their premises, and I’d like more of them to do just that.Report

  2. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Nearly all of the advocates for gun rights only believe that gun rights are for White Americans. Every time an African-American or another person of color gets in trouble for something a white person would get away with when it comes to guns they shut up.Report

    • Avatar atomickristin in reply to LeeEsq says:

      As someone who knows a fair number of minority gun owners I find the “nearly all” in this statement to be a) wrong and b) unnecessarily divisive.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to atomickristin says:

        Are they “gun owners” (in the same way that they might be automobile owners or necktie owners or labradoodle owners) or “advocates for gun rights” (in the same way they might be geologists or intercity bus drivers or occupational therapists)?

        Because the whole point of this essay, I think, is that nearly all the “advocates for gun rights” are extremely inconsistent as to which “gun owners” rights they devote their resources of time, energy, and political capital advocating for.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to dragonfrog says:

          I know a lot of advocates who get quite incensed over such obvious double standards, especially when held by politicians, pundits, and other leaders. Not only because of the obvious racism, but the classism/elitism. It gives strength to the idea that only important and powerful people should be allowed to be armed, or otherwise protected by armed men (that was part of the Heller argument, after all).Report

    • Avatar Mike Siegel in reply to LeeEsq says:

      I would certainly apply that to the NRA but not to the majority of gun owners, who don’t really have a problem with this (or at least have equal problems with black folks and white folks marching while armed).Report

    • Avatar Damon in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Yah, I can’t stand that black guy Collin Noir…..he should be disarmed. All good and decent 2nd A folks don’t like uppity blacks. He’s damaging the cause of my white supremacy…../sarchasmReport

  3. Avatar jason says:

    Also (since I have recently been told that conservatives should declare their lack of racist motives on every topic going forward)…it goes without saying that the racial hypocrisy here is ridiculous.

    Gee, maybe try growing up a bit. I thought the libs were supposed to be the snowflake cry babies.

    On topic, good article, Em. And I agree with Mike about open carry. It’s funny that the gun bloggers I used to read never criticized Saint Reagan for his actions.Report

  4. Avatar j r says:

    When a group of white men armed with AR-15s march, they are freedom-loving, 2nd Amendment-supporting patriots. When a group of black men do so, they are militant, dangerous radicals. When AR-15s are carried by white people, they are run-of-the-mill firearms used for hunting; when black people carry them, they are assault rifles. Obvious racism is obvious.

    I agree with this full stop, but there is still a problem. And it’s a general problem with arguments based on perceived hypocrisy: with which part of Ingram’s argument do you agree? Is she right that white people marching with AR-15s is OK or is she right that black people marching with AR-15s is a danger.

    Here’s another way to ask the same question: if conservatives were less racist and supported black gun rights as aggressively as they supported white gun rights, would that be enough to sway you to the side of supporting more gun rights? My sense is that for most people of the “nobody needs guns” persuasion, the answer is no (not that I know you’re of that persuasion).

    An argument for or against a group if people is not the same as an argument for or against a particular policy position. And I think that this is one of the reasons that we’ve gotten so bad at moving policy. We’re too busy arguing against each other’s identities.Report

    • Avatar atomickristin in reply to j r says:

      Cool comment.Report

    • Avatar pillsy in reply to j r says:

      My sense is that for most people of the “nobody needs guns” persuasion, the answer is no (not that I know you’re of that persuasion).

      I’m not of the “nobody needs guns” persuasion (like at all), but many of the folks on my side of the aisle are. And I think it would move some of them at the margins. And others who are less extreme could be shifted.

      Consider people who just want to ban “assault rifles”. Yeah it’s a pretty weak idea on the merits but, well, here we are. But it’s weak enough that I think it’s being sustained in large part by culture war bundling. Nonsense like Ingraham’s is not going to help with that perception. Quite the contrary, really.Report

      • Avatar InMD in reply to pillsy says:

        I think for a lot of left of center people the gun is a cultural totem of the enemy. This is of course fed by various right of center groups actually using firearms that way.

        On the rare occasion I’ve disclosed my views on this subject in a politically hostile social situation (which where I live is basically everywhere outside my social circle) I’ve often heard a variation of ‘maybe if gun owners were more like you…’ My response is that plenty are.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to j r says:

      j r if conservatives were less racist and supported black gun rights as aggressively as they supported white gun rights, would that be enough to sway you to the side of supporting more gun rights?

      Speaking only for myself, it would be enough to get me to listen to their arguments with a belief that they were sincerely believed and expressed, which might or might not sway me to the side of supporting more gun rights, depending on the arguments.Report

      • Avatar J_A in reply to dragonfrog says:

        Speaking only for myself, it would be enough to get me to listen to their arguments with a belief that they were sincerely believed and expressed, which might or might not sway me to the side of supporting more gun rights, depending on the arguments

        I think this is a very important point, that gets lost every time we talk about the NRA and similar organizations, and should bona-fide hunters et.al. (hello, @mykedwyer) break up with the NRA or push forcefully for some internal change.

        if the NRA makes it clear to me (and to most) that they care less about gun owners that they care about other things (like gun purchases, or worse), why should I should give the NRA and their arguments the time of the day?

        That doesn’t mean I’m not willing to give gun owners due attention to their concerns, but it’s up to them who they chose as spokespersons. The NRA claims it is representing gun owners, and most gun owners stay mum when the claim is made, which I interpret they are fine being represented by the NRA.

        Gun owners have agency. If they don’t want the NRA carrying their voice, with whatever social consequences that might carry, then they should do something about it. Being “serious people” “greatly concerned” about the message the public receives, like a GOP Senator, and not doing anything else, is not enough.Report

        • Avatar j r in reply to J_A says:

          …why should I should give the NRA and their arguments the time of the day?

          The depends entirely on how much you care about arguments and how much you care about identities.

          More broadly, the thing that I find most weird about your comment is that it implies that gun owners have some obligation to prove their sincerity to you. Why? I’m sure that you’re a perfectly nice person, but the political reality is that gun owners don’t need your support. They occupy most of the high ground. Generally speaking, the onus is on the person trying to change the status quo and not the other way around.Report

          • Avatar J_A in reply to j r says:

            Generally speaking, the onus is on the person trying to change the status quo and not the other way around.

            True, but the status quo is already changing. A majority of people in the USA do want some restrictions in gun ownership, restrictions that can go from background checks to banning. The NRA is the one fighting this change. Gun owners seem to be ok with being represented only by the NRA in this process, and, if they are, so am I.

            If and when the status quo do change -and i think it’s very likely the status quo will change- it will be because the American people did not accept the NRA arguments. which are the only ones on the table

            My suggestion is that the NRA speakership is harming the gun owners. They, of course, are free to disagree, and apparently have. I will just then evaluate what the NRA says, like that Philando Castille is dead because he was a regular weed user, and vote accordingly.Report

          • Avatar pillsy in reply to j r says:

            The depends entirely on how much you care about arguments and how much you care about identities.

            Does it? Because from where I’m sitting, the NRA does more than anybody to make the gun debate about identities. “NRATV” airs ads that are encourage Freikorps cosplayers to defend Donald Trump for sinister leftists, revolting figures like Ollie North and Ted Nugent are the face of the organization, and when it comes time to stand up for the gun rights of people who aren’t old white dudes, the organization generally hems and haws its way to saying nothing.

            And sure, pro-gun types have the upper hand now, but this isn’t exactly an immutable reality. The pendulum could swing all the way back as early as 2020. The last time that happened, 10 years of rapidly declining rates of violent crime mean that gun control was a low priority issue for Team Blue, but since then we’ve had a steady drumbeat of atrocities from Sandy Hook to Thousand Oaks puncuating the national consciousness.

            If it’s all about identities then, well, what do you think will happen?

            (And this leaves aside the issue that a ton of people already live in states where guns are pretty tightly controlled. Not all of them are happy with that status quo.)Report

  5. Avatar Pinky says:

    It strikes me that there’s a difference between carrying a weapon while promoting a cause and carrying a weapon while promoting a candidate. I can’t articulate why, but the latter seems more of an explicit threat.Report

    • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to Pinky says:

      I am fully unsurprised that there would be someone taking this position and that they would be of the right-leaning persuasion.Report

    • Avatar jason in reply to Pinky says:

      If you’re carrying a weapon while promoting a pro-gun cause that makes sense to me.

      However, (openly) carrying weapons to support other causes or candidates both seem like threats. The threat seems to be “vote this way or else.” If you don’t normally open carry, what other reason besides intimidation is there in these cases?

      (Saying this, I understand, and too a certain degree respect what the BP were doing as described in the OP, since they were saying “equal treatment or else.” A non-violent approach is probably best, but I’m a white dude and haven’t faced what they faced.)Report

    • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Pinky says:

      So you feel that the right wing militia types who went around to political rallies sporting ARs were threatening, as a lot of liberals claimed?Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to bookdragon says:

        I don’t know. As I said, I can’t articulate the distinction I’m making, but it’s not partisan. If you go to a pro-something rally with a gun, that doesn’t seem as threatening as if you go to a pro-someone rally. I guess there’s something more ambiguous about carrying a gun and supporting a cause. Something like free speech or health care, you’re not threatening people if they don’t do a specific thing. If you’re carrying a gun and insisting on a particular candidate, that seems more tangible. The reason I’m having a problem with the distinction is that I should be saying that carrying a gun and supporting a specific initiative or proposition is just as specific, but I don’t think it is.Report

        • Avatar greginak in reply to Pinky says:

          Maybe it’s just a personal taste thing. I’m not seeing any real difference between open carrying at a rally for a person vs. a cause. I don’t like either and said so about the Tea Party types years ago. All open carrying does is raise the heat and tension. But, as has been said, if it’s fine now it is fine for everybody.Report

          • Avatar pillsy in reply to greginak says:

            I think the issue may be that it’s an implicit threat, and an implicit threat against a specific person—the opposing candidate. Political assassinations are a pretty common thing. Hell, we’ve had four Presidents murdered in office, and Reagan came extremely close to being a fifth.Report

            • Avatar greginak in reply to pillsy says:

              Yeah i’ve always felt there is an implicit threat in bringing guns publicly into politics. The threat isn’t any less if the public situation is an issue instead of a specific candidate. It’s not like the good ol US of A doesn’t’ have regular examples of people shooting up groups of people and political issue rallies have individuals speaking who will not want to get shot.Report

        • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Pinky says:

          I can understand that, but I tend to feel the opposite way. Strapped guys who show up to counter protest women’s marches for instance strike me as extremely threatening. Same with the armed alt-right dudes whether they’re protesting for something or counter protesting another group.Report

        • Avatar Yuleo in reply to Pinky says:

          How about carrying a gun to a pro-life rally, or a sit-in inside an abortion clinic? Or maybe, carrying a gun when you counter-protest a gay-pride parade? or carrying a gun when protesting Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change? Or how about carrying a gun in a protest of the city’s plan to raise property taxes?

          To my mind, in each of these, carrying a gun is intended as a threat of violence.

          On the other hand, carrying a gun to a rally protesting police violence implies a willingness to defend yourself against further aggression.Report

      • Avatar rexknobus in reply to bookdragon says:

        So you feel that the right wing militia types who went around to political rallies sporting ARs were threatening, as a lot of liberals claimed?

        I certainly do. A person openly carrying a gun / knife / brass knuckles / katana / shillelagh / assegai (get my drift?) a weapon to a political rally or even to a regular public space is at least borderline threatening those around him/her, if not bullying. And even more frightening to me is the fact that that person also seems to feel both threatened and bullied. An armed person who feels threatened and is filled with a right-winged sense of both persecution and rectitude is a dangerous person. They can go to the range. Enlist in the military. Go hunting. Their fears and truculence have no place in the public square.Report

    • Avatar Mark Boggs in reply to Pinky says:

      So the armed guys posting themselves as snipers on a freeway overpass aiming at BLM officers in support of Cliven Bundy’s gang in Nevada seem less threatening than guys marching with a candidate?Report

        • Avatar mark boggs in reply to Pinky says:

          Good. But that seems a fair bit in opposition to your remark from earlier. But your reconsideration is most appreciated.Report

          • Avatar Pinky in reply to mark boggs says:

            Not a reconsideration. I’m just not thinking in partisan terms. I’m looking at context. Sleep is good; sleeping behind the wheel is bad; Republicans sleeping behind the wheel is as bad as Democrats sleeping behind the wheel. Sleeping behind the wheel when you’re parked in the driveway isn’t bad at all.Report

            • Avatar Maribou in reply to Pinky says:

              @pinky Perhaps “Counter-demonstrating with open carry a demonstration that does not have open carry” is generally bad, also in non-partisan terms, whether it’s a cause or a candidate one is counterprotesting?

              I mean, I can’t imagine NOT finding that threatening…Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to Maribou says:

                Counter-protesting with weapons is a bad scene, whether the demonstration is armed or not. I mean, I can imagine times when public safety requires civilians to take weapons into the street to dispel unrest, but there’s nothing coy about that. If you venture toward a crowd that you disagree with, and you’re armed, isn’t that pretty much a declaration that there will be violence? Not that it mandates a violent response from the initial group. I dunno. I’m trying to think of scenarios, and I’m drawing a blank.Report

              • Avatar Maribou in reply to Pinky says:

                I was generalizing bookdragon’s cause scenario to something more general that I think you would still agree with…Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to Pinky says:

      It strikes me that there’s a difference between carrying a weapon while promoting a cause and carrying a weapon while promoting a candidate. I can’t articulate why, but the latter seems more of an explicit threat.

      You are still hung up on that Rubicon thing, aren’t you? Well, perhaps it’s less worrying to you if the legions move south because they want to clean up the corruption in the Roman Senate, as opposed to supporting Caesar, but come on, somebody has to lead the movement. The two things are not that different.Report

  6. Avatar Em Carpenter says:

    j r: I agree with this full stop, but there is still a problem. And it’s a general problem with arguments based on perceived hypocrisy: with which part of Ingram’s argument do you agree? Is she right that white people marching with AR-15s is OK or is she right that black people marching with AR-15s is a danger.

    Here’s another way to ask the same question: if conservatives were less racist and supported black gun rights as aggressively as they supported white gun rights, would that be enough to sway you to the side of supporting more gun rights? My sense is that for most people of the “nobody needs guns” persuasion, the answer is no (not that I know you’re of that persuasion).

    You’re right not to assume my stance on this issue- I tried not to take one in writing it. If anything, my “stance” in this piece is anti-racism.

    But, since you ask, I am actually a supporter of 2nd Amendment rights (West Virginian, hello), so I take the position that they and the white folk both should be permitted to carry within the law.

    I’ll hand over my lib card at our next meeting.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to Em Carpenter says:

      I’ll hand over my lib card at our next meeting.

      I’m not sure that is necessary. I’m libertarian-ish, with a strong belief in the individual interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, but I would absolutely support universal background checks, licensing and even mandatory training so long as it were paired with universal “shall issue” regulations. The positions of real people are way more nuanced than they are in our political narratives.

      I have a feeling that neither of us are going to get what we want on this issue anytime soon, though, and that’s largely because the debate tends to be about identities and not a straightforward policy discussion about how to get the best outcomes. And that’s a general point about the contours of the debate and not a critique of this post, with which I generally agree.Report

  7. Avatar bookdragon says:

    This made me remember an old CH video:

    New Face of the NRAReport

  8. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I may finally be getting past the point of being disappointed when I see a group with a clear, strong, and at least defensible pronouncement of a principle is exposed to be just another front for something hateful.

    Look, I’ve come to modify my own understanding of the meaning of the Second Amendment to something that is pretty dissatisfactory all the way around and which is different from what the NRA announces its own interpretation is. But I can see the principle the NRA is defending, the vision of the Constitutional right that it articulates.

    That this vision of the Constitutional right is originally rooted in the legal theories of Huey Newton and the Black Panther Party is by now well-documented and in light of these events, supremely ironic.

    With all that noted, I simply no longer expect the NRA to do anything like a principled defense of its own articulated principles. The ACLU would, and has, defended actual Nazis because its articulated principles demanded doing so. I’ve no such expectation for the NRA. It’s a trade group lobby (“buy more guns” is always its answer to any question) and this post demonstrates that it is really a cog in the larger right-wing machine — one as corrupted and controlled by money as the right-wing media, which means that whatever defensibility might be found in the principles is going to bow to consumer pressure because the paramount interest is that the cash keep flowing.Report

    • Avatar Richard Hershberger in reply to Burt Likko says:

      My entirely unsatisfying understanding of the Second Amendment is that the bit about a well-ordered militia was meant to mean something, or they wouldn’t have put it there, but for the life of me I don’t know what. But any interpretation of the amendment that pretends that bit isn’t there is on its face faulty. Many people advocate an interpretation that would be unchanged were that bit deleted. This can’t be right.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        Well ordered and regulated was to mean trained and drilled, etc.

        When we effectively did away with citizen militias, the regulated part kinda lost it’s intent, and AFAIK no one bothered to see if a new intent could be forged, and it was kinda left open to whatever interpretation was convenient.Report

        • Avatar J_A in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

          When we effectively did away with citizen militias, the regulated part kinda lost it’s intent, and AFAIK no one bothered to see if a new intent could be forged, and it was kinda left open to whatever interpretation was convenient.

          Since we effectively did away with the Militia, we have proved that it was not indeed necessary at all to have one for the security of a free state. So it kind of makes the righ to bear arms unnecessary too, doesn’t it?Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to J_A says:

            In a way, yes. But IMHO you still have two separate but intertwined clauses. Just because one is largely irrelevant doesn’t make the other moot. It just muddies the waters.

            In short, the 2nd was just ignored, when it should have long ago been amended by Congress, or more directly addressed by the courts.Report

            • Avatar J_A in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              I agree that the waters are muddled and should be addressed. I disagree that we just should ignore the first clause, like Scalia wanted.

              Well regulated, for instance, would apply to proper licensing, including training and testing, and, if applicable, medical approval, no more, no less, than drivingReport

        • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          We never did away with “citizen militias”. We just call it the “National Guard”. That’s one off the two hats they wear (the other is the United States reserve, basically). But they’re citizens, regularly drilled and trained, and under the command of the State government (when not being the US military reserve).

          Of course, they don’t actually need to bring their own guns to duty anymore (industrialization means that the NG has plenty to go around), which bites into the 2nd Amendment the other direction.

          But given the fairly obvious “worried about Federal Government jack-booted thuggery” origins of the 2nd Amendment (the whole ‘tyrannous federal government of the future’ thing being a bit of a sticking point during the whole drafting of the Constitution) , it seems clear to me that the National Guard actually fulfills the intent of the 2nd Amendment.

          It is a well regulated, well drilled force of citizens (specifically citizens of that State), well armed (ie, similar equipment to the armed forces of the Federal Government) , and subject to control by it’s State (except, of course, when it’s not). That they don’t actually need to own their own guns to be a member of the militia would probably be a surprise to our Founding Fathers, if only because of the sheer cost of acquisition and maintenance at the time.

          Which does sort of leave the 2nd Amendment floating around, untethered by original intent but still very much existing as part of the Constitution.

          Of course which side of the 2nd Amendment is obsolete or not really as applicable depends on whether you see the original intent to be about the individual defending or rebelling against a tyrannical federal government, or about an individual State doing the same thing.

          I lean towards the latter — but of course a State could always form a state militia, and instead of keeping it’s weapons in depots, issue them to it’s members or require it’s members to provide them, in which case the 2nd Amendment would definitely apply to trying to ban, seize, or control those weapons. (Because doing so would be, quite simply, an attempt to prevent the State from creating a well armed and regulated militia).

          Of course that’d be a pretty dumb move by whatever State decided it in general, but the Constitution has no “Unless that law was stupid and pointless” exemption.Report

  9. Avatar Philip H says:

    Being a dyed in the wool liberal gun owner, I tend to smack my head repeatedly at bot articles like this and the ensuing comment threads. Partly because so many people seem to not understand what liberals want regarding guns, and second because too many conservatives refuse to actually acknowledge the idiots on their side who have made guns a totem of stupidity. Were that second part not really a thing, we probably wouldn’t have to resort to significant over the top hyperbole just to get the conversation going.

    j r: Here’s another way to ask the same question: if conservatives were less racist and supported black gun rights as aggressively as they supported white gun rights, would that be enough to sway you to the side of supporting more gun rights? My sense is that for most people of the “nobody needs guns” persuasion, the answer is no (not that I know you’re of that persuasion).

    It would be a start, though there is no need for “more gun rights.” What we need is a sensible application of the existing rights.

    Take the “Well regulated” clause. Absent an actual militia with involuntary services (like, say, Switzerland), one can achieve “well regulated” through universal background checks, mandatory regular training, routine proficiency testing, and storage and handling affidavits along with liability insurance requirements. None of that requires seizing firearms (which is usually a fascist/authoritarian approach and not an actual liberal one).

    And before i get buried in an avalanche of 2nd amendment hooey, remember that the right to vote is secured in three separate amendments and an article of the Constitution, and we still have to register to vote and in most states we now have to have ID (to prevent non-existent voting fraud).Report

  10. Avatar The Question says:

    I used to be in the too many guns crowd we should take your guns away. then I spent a lot of time actually interacting with well the socialists of color on Twitter and such and got educated about this very fact.
    the state doesn’t care when white people have guns. the state care a shitload when non-white people have guns. if we ban guns that’s who the state’s going to take them away from.
    There for everybody gets a gun.Report

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