The National Rifle Association usually doesn’t mince words when defending the right of Americans to arm themselves. But we now have a case where a person, legally licensed to carry a concealed weapon, was stopped by the police for a broken taillight. He informed the officer that he had a firearm. The officer asked him for his driver’s license and he reached for his wallet, and the officer shot and killed him.
Normally, I suspect the NRA would be howling. But this case is different. The dead man is an African American. I guess they believe that the second amendment doesn’t apply to black people.
The NRA released a statement expressing “deep anguish” about the killing of police in Dallas, but that statement did not even mention the reasons for the protest there, nor anything about either Alton Sterling or Philando Castile. On the NRA’s Facebook page, NRA members have taken them to task for their silence. Here’s just one example of many:
Why the silence on the Philando Castile’s shooting? As a member I expect you to support and speak out when a person’s rights are viloated. A man was killed for exercising his second amendment rights. If you don’t speak out on this, then why should I bother to be a member?
Probably in response to the complaints, the NRA did belatedly release a statement about the “reports from Minnesota” (Castile, whose name was not even mentioned, was killed in Minnesota), but all they said was that they would not comment “while the investigation was ongoing”.
Not surprisingly, America has a long history of racial disparity regarding guns. In fact, the first gun control law in this land, even before it became the United States, was passed in Virginia in 1640. It explicitly prohibited blacks from owning guns, even if they were not slaves.
Two hundred years later, in 1857 the Dred Scott case denied constitutional rights to slaves. One of the main reasons stated was because doing that would give them the right to “keep and carry arms wherever they went.” Even after slavery was abolished, many Southern states enacted laws that prohibited former slaves from owning guns.
In 1956, Martin Luther King Jr was denied a gun permit even after his house was bombed and he received numerous death threats. And in 1967, in response to Black Panthers openly (but legally) carrying their guns into the State Capitol building in California, then-governor Ronald Reagan signed into law a bill sponsored by Republicans that banned the open carrying of firearms. The federal Gun Control Act of 1968 (the first major gun-related law since the 1930s) was passed mainly to outlaw the cheap handguns owned by blacks and poor people. In both cases, the NRA supported those laws.
There are lots of other examples. The NRA claims to support the second amendment, but is silent when the person exercising that right is not white. Indeed, if the firearm-toting ranchers who illegally took over the Malheur Wildlife Refuge at gunpoint had been black, do you think the response might have been a little bit different?
Also published on Medium.