Tuesday, March 13, 2018

An anti-gunner demonstrates his prejudice and ignorance

The late President Ronald Reagan put it in a nutshell in 1964.

Never have his words been so clearly demonstrated in action as in this article in the Washington Post.

Gun violence is rooted in white supremacy. We can’t solve the first without understanding its connection to the second.

. . .

In Colonial America, gun ownership equaled power. More specifically, it meant the power to control the means of violence and use those means to suppress the voices of the disenfranchised. Throughout the 17th century, almost all the English colonies along the Eastern Seaboard passed legislation prohibiting women and slaves from owning guns and forbidding the sale of guns to native peoples. By the 18th century, gun ownership had become a defining feature of white masculinity in the English colonies and guns played an integral role in Colonial men’s public displays of that masculinity.

The public training exercises Colonial men participated in as part of their militia service were central to such displays and offered opportunities for them to participate in competitions to demonstrate their martial prowess. In many cases, guns were not only central to these demonstrations but were the prize for victory. The commander of the militia in Henrico County, Va., William Byrd, noted in his diary that he made a practice of awarding pistols to the men who won the competitions that took place on militia days. Such guns thus acted as material manifestations of a Colonial man’s physical domination of his peers, augmenting his reputation in terms of property ownership and bodily prowess.

But the main purpose of militias — North and South — during this period was to suppress slave rebellions, a constant fear of slaveholders throughout the institution’s existence. Militias’ sole responsibility in peacetime was to patrol local slave quarters for possible signs of subversion. When slave rebellions did occur, as in the 1739 Stono Rebellion in South Carolina, Colonial officials increased militia patrols for months and even years after the rebellions had been quelled.

They also usually expanded the caches of guns held in Colonial capitals. In Colonial minds, those guns were key to preventing any future slave rebellions. In fact, for many of the men who became leaders of the Colonial independence movement, the final straw that pushed them toward independence was the British military’s decision to confiscate Colonial militia stores and use them to arm refugee slaves who fled their rebel owners.

It was this culmination of their worst nightmares that the Founders had in mind when they wrote the Second Amendment. Their “right to bear arms” was the right of white men to exercise authority over black men and women by violent means if necessary, and their right to a “well regulated Militia” was the right to do so in large groups.

There's (unfortunately) more at the link.

A few simple checks would have revealed the utter fallacy of the author's argument.
  • The main purpose of firearms in colonial America was twofold.  One was to put meat on the table.  The other was to defend one's home and community against attacks by native Americans.  The pages of this country's history are filled with accounts of both activities.  Colonial and local governments continually urged their people, and frequently required them under penalty of law, to maintain personal weapons and bring them with them if they had to mobilize to defend their homes, individually and collectively.  The threat of slave risings became greater in the South as the number of slaves there increased, but that was a much later development, and was not a factor in the original thirteen colonies that formed the United States.
  • The author makes the usual mistake of conflating "the militia" with the right to keep and bear arms.  The Second Amendment's text is clear and unambiguous.  The first clause merely states that a well armed militia is necessary to the freedom, safety and security of the state - self-explanatory, in the light of the recent rebellion against Britain that had secured independence.  The second clause is not dependent on the first, and recognizes a pre-existing right to keep and bear arms.  That right is not conferred by the Constitution, but acknowledged as a natural right already in existence, just like the other rights recognized in the Bill of Rights.  Therefore, it cannot be related to slavery or any other factor.  As noted above, the Bill of Rights predates the massive expansion of slavery in the southern states - which, BTW, did not occur in northern states - and therefore cannot be argued to be a defense-against-rebellious-slaves conception.

I don't know what the author was smoking, but it was certainly powerful stuff to produce such a load of inaccurate drivel!



Gorges Smythe said...

There's nothing like a little rewritten history to start the day. If gun ownership is solely about "white" supremacy, I wonder how he explains Mao and Pol Pot?

Anonymous said...

The primary purpose of the Second Amendment was not hunting or self-defense (though it does protect those things). It was written to protect the rights of individuals to own military weapons to deter tyranny while serving in their local militias. The militia referred to was not a select group like that National Guard, but is composed of EVERYONE capable of bearing arms. The founding fathers had an extreme fear of standing armies and rulers brutalizing the people.

This is no surprise, as this is exactly what they had experienced- with the redcoats forcibly trying to seize private guns, and burning towns.

If anyone wants to read copious documentation of this fact, I recommend "The Founders' Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms" by Halbrook.

Here are some juicy period quotes:
""Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American . . . . The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people." — Tench Coxe, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788"

"Whereas civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow citizens, the people are confirmed by the article in their right to keep and bear their private arms."

"Remarks on the First Part of the Amendments to the Federal Constitution," under the pseudonym "A Pennsylvanian" in the Philadelphia Federal Gazette, June 18, 1789, p. 2 col. 1. As quoted in the Federal Gazette, June 18, 1789, A friend of James Madison, writing in support of the Madison's first draft of the Bill of Rights.

Borepatch said...

It's actually much worse than this. Gun control laws were indeed aimed at keeping blacks disarmed. But those laws were the first attempts to nibble away at the Second Amendment. It's quite striking that the author did not see that in proposing gun restrictions, he was siding with the racists who disarmed minorities.

dave said...

Borepatch beat me to it--see, for example, Tennessee's Army and Navy laws, essentially denying arms to those too poor to buy higher-priced arms: recently-freed blacks and poorer whites. The trend continues today, with bans covering modern arms of low price ("Saturday Night Special" laws).

Gun grabbers are the racists, not gun owners.

Larry said...

Well, there's a grain of truth as far as South Carolina goes. Slaves (of all colors) outnumbered free men in South Carolina since 1709, and in Georgia not long afterwards. Slave revolts were a concern. It's also true that the British southern strategy in the Revolution following failures in the north was based upon a real perception of greater Tory support in the southern colonies. Certainly there was less support for the Revolution, and later the Constitution in the South. The Disunionists gradually gained power, and finally got their way in 1860. Where the author goes way off the rails is that the early colonial laws were aimed at non-free men, not blacks in general. There were free blacks and mulattoes in the southern colonies who owned slaves and firearms and were part of the militia. And there were non-free whites, mostly Scots and Irish, who were banned from owning firearms. The author is dishonest in not presenting all of the facts. The colonial situation was a lot more complicated than it's portrayed in the article, and the 2nd Amendment part is simply wrong for half of the original 13 states, and only partially right for the rest of them. The article is a mostly dishonest polemic.

Eccentric Cowboy said...

Wow, so much ignorance in such a small bit of writing. I confess, this is the first new anti-gun piece I've seen in awhile. But this one is delightfully easy to slap down. Even a cursory examination of history would show this guy that he's on the wrong side.

After all, after the Emancipation Proclamation, who was it that wanted to keep guns out of the hands of freed slaves so that they might be terrorized? Oops. Gun control always has and always will be a tool of leaving people defenseless to tyranny. The Brits did it in India. The Klan did it to former slaves. In other words, the consistent racists wanted to deny firearms to those they wished to oppress. The lack of critical thinking of this individual astounds me.

A lesser known bit of history is the first gun confiscation in US history, at least the earliest to my knowledge. The Mormons were just getting started, and local militias in their areas kept attacking them. The Mormons of course defended themselves. The local governments asked for the Mormons to hand over their guns, but they declined, as this obviously would leave them open to the predations of their persecutors. In a compromise the Mormons said they would relinquish their arms if the government took those of their attackers as well.
Instead the government took the guns from the Saints and handed them over to the mobs, and were promptly run out of one state after another, then forced to cross the Great Plains on foot in the middle of the winter.

Feel free to research that history. Very interesting.

Anonymous said...

The WAPO author may be on to something. Using firearms signify White power. So minorities killing each other are asserting their White Power over each other. Sneaky NRA - they are tricking minorities into killing one another !!

What a tangled web we weave . . .

C. S. P. Schofield said...

The Establishment Left still has fond memories of the spontaneous orgasms they had when they read ARMING AMERICA, and the sad letdown when it developed that Michael Bellesiles has the scholarly ethics of a slowworm. I've noticed in the last few years several attempts to revive their favorite parts of the ARMING AMERICA thesis, all of which (of course) run aground on the shoals off stubborn facts.

This won't be the last time they try to revive this particular corpse.

Dave said...

Perhaps he should read something published by his own paper:


Anonymous said...

Oh, I dunno ... all it needs is a minor rewrite to fit it to the modern day situation:

"In post Colonial America, gun ownership equals power. More specifically, it means the power to control the means of violence and use those means to suppress the voices of the citizens. Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, almost all the states along the Eastern Seaboard attempted and mostly succeeded in passing legislation prohibiting non state controlled organisations and people from owning guns and forbidding the sale of effective guns to the common people. By the 21st century, gun ownership had become a defining feature of those favoured by the state and guns played an integral role in the removal of peoples rights".

Makes sense now?

Phil B