For those of you who have been reading this blog for some time, or who have gone back to read my old pieces, you know that I support the arming of oppressed populations when necessary (that would be always) in one of many acts to counter the violence hierarchies present in civilization. I wrote briefly about this in relation to the trend of women being psychologically trained to be scared of guns.
Today I need to talk about something more far reaching: gun control. In light of the recent murder of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen who was gunned down by an overzealous vigilante who deemed him suspicious for, it seems, simply being black and wearing a hoodie, I've seen the usual outcry. Much of it is constructive, and has allowed some people to talk about systemic racism who otherwise might not have. But I've also seen the unfortunate knee-jerk reaction one usually expects from leftists when a shooting gains national attention: "MORE GUN CONTROL". But I've been saddened to see this same line from people I thought were a bit better at critical thinking, a bit better at understanding resistance and violence hierarchies, a bit better at understanding the role of militancy, and people who rejected the state to various degrees. I see this from supposed radicals, and it's time someone calls out this incongruity.
For some specific points to this case, we need to understand that the law that Zimmerman is using to evade arrest and responsibility does not actually apply. Since he pursued Trayvon, he has no grounds on which to fall back on it. No law would change this situation, because the police are siding with someone who killed a black boy (probably makes it easier for them to relate to him).
Further, a law that allows a victim to fire on an attacker can be used by people of color to protect themselves from the sort of unrepentant aggressor we see in George Zimmerman. There are numerous cases of people using such defenses after defending themselves from white supremacist and patriarchal violence.
There are numerous problems with supporting gun control (unless you're a statist authoritarian, then just fuck off). The primary is that gun control itself is racist. The original gun control laws in this country were drafted to keep black and brown people from resisting racist oppression at the hands of the KKK (primarily). The advocacy group Jews for the Protection of Firearms Ownership, in its short movie No Guns for Negroes, easily builds up the case that such laws only subject people of color to more violence, and their follow-up No Guns for Jews shows that the same has been true for Jews in Europe in the early twentieth century. Whether we're talking about Jews having their guns registered and then taken away before the Nazis starting their genocidal campaign, or Southern police disarming black folks and then coming back with hoods on to kill them, we see gun control consistently used as a tool for oppression and genocide. The same goes for Stalin and Mao using gun control as a way to disarm populations and making it easier to round up and kill dissidents and indigenous people.
Gun control is also sexist. When the Brady bill was passed, it was marketed heavily to women, using fear tactics. However, women have been the biggest victims of the bill; the waiting period has been a huge blow to women in terms of increasing the rates of violence, as women being stalked and harrassed have been the primary people who require a weapon in a short amount of time. Criminologist Gary Kleck points out that 550 rapes are prevented every day in America just by a woman producing a firearm, and since we know most rape statistics are understated, it's probably at least half as many more again.
Gun control is classist. Let's face it, most of these rules exist just to make it impractical for the poor to be reasonably armed. Many levy taxes on weapons and ammunition, pricing the poor out of owning weaponry. In the state that I live in, I cannot legally keep my weapons at home unless I pay for the right to have a permit. Yes, I have to PAY for a right
It also just doesn't work. Gun crime soars in areas where peoples aren't allowed to arm themselves. Big shock: criminals don't follow the laws, and find ways to break them. A disarmed public just makes them more confident. In terms of something like the now expired "Assault Weapons Ban" (I'll do another piece some time on how much of a propaganda piece the term "assault weapon" is), it had no effect, primarily because both the constituency that voted for it and the politicians pushing for it had no idea what they were banning in the first place. As it turns out, it was basically a bunch of cosmetic features and a couple that did effect functionality, but none effected lethality. But most people still think it was a law that covered machineguns, which it did not in the slightest (machineguns are legal by the way, you just need to register for a tax stamp). In essence, a lack of understanding of firearms allows those wishing to disarm the populace to instill unreasonable fear of them into them, leading to voting based on manipulated emotion rather than reason, knowledge, and logic. To even talk about banning firearms of any sort, or even restricting them further, one must first have a basic understanding of them.
We should be critical even of some laws that seem "reasonable" or "sensible", like the psychiatric laws. Sure, we want to keep violent psychopaths from having high powered weapons, but who gets to define who is mentally fit? In recent years we've seen an upsurge in the psychiatric profession labelling dissidents and anti-authoritarians as being paranoid and suffering from "oppositional defiant disorder"
. That's a fancy way to turn non-traditional political analyses into a mental disorder. We clearly need a better way to screen this than to leave it in the hands of the state and corporate mental health industry. Further, if we agree that this culture, and civilized cultures in general, normalize top-down violence, then those sorts of violence will be readily excused and normalized by a psychiatric profession aimed at maintaining social order.
On a personal note, I call shenanigans on any person with relatively high amounts of privilege (white people, males) who tell that those who don't have that privilege what is and isn't permissible as means to protect themselves. You have no right. Period.
The final point calls into question the legitimacy of the people promoting harsher gun control: to keep people disarmed and to enforce laws, you need the police. You need the state. You need hierarchy, which is inherently unjust and unable to behave in any way but exploitation. A socialist utopia would be no different, so long as the state still exists. We can't delude ourselves into thinking that this is a problem solely of capitalism, but rather that capitalism is just another, particularly vicious incarnation of colonialism and empire, which are based fundamentally on exerting violence. To quote George Orwell, "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." Or to quote Malcolm X, "I don't even call it violence when it's in self defense; I call it intelligence."
Instead, reject the monopoly on violence held by the state and by corporations (insomuch as they're separate) and do for yourself and your own community what the White power structure consistently fails to do. We cannot trust the police, and it's embarrassing I even need to point that out. If we build real communities, real cultures of resistance, we cannot rely on the state to protect us. We need to do it ourselves, and therefore we can't support legislation which would prevent that. Let's instead follow the paths of Robert F. Williams and Malcolm X, of the Jews who took part in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, or of Sitting Bull who said, when his people were being forcefully disarmed by the U.S. government, "I wish it to be remembered that I was the last man of my tribe to surrender my rifle."
Most importantly, stop thinking that effective self-defense (armed self-reliance, as Robert Williams called it) is something restricted to patriarchal White supremacist homophobes. If we can't get past the mental block first, we've already lost.
Labels: activism, anti-racism, defense, feminism, firearms, law, violence, weapons