One could make a very good argument that our nation’s oldest and most successful gun control advocacy group was the Ku Klux Klan. Their earliest incarnation was largely a means of disarming newly freed blacks. For the last five years we have been hearing from much of the corporate media networks, such as CNN and MSNBC, that our nation is awash in Klansmen all across the country preaching their hateful belief in white supremacy.
This has seemed like an utterly baseless claim, built on the idea of “dog whistling racists” spreading their rhetoric with a wink and a nod. But over the last week I have come to realize they are absolutely right. They have cleverly taken off their hoods and white robes in exchange for a three-piece suit and a law degree as their distinguishing means of secret identification of their fellow bigots and appear to have gone through some serious rebranding. Changing the name of their organization from the KKK to the ACLU.
It was also about five years ago when the ACLU put out a public statement that their organization had decided to stop considering taking on any litigation that was predicated on defending the right to keep and bear arms as an essential civil liberty. But nothing could have prepared me for the more recently announced position from this organization which I once held in the highest regard. That the Second Amendment isn’t a right, it’s a manifestation of white supremacy and anti-blackness. Not only has the ACLU turned its back on the Bill of Rights they were founded to protect, they have collectively forgotten how to even read the Constitution.
The Constitution is not the law that governs us. The Constitution is the law that governs those who govern us. To act as though the Second Amendment is a grant to the people of a right to keep and bear arms is a legal absurdity. The right of every individual to defend themselves by force of arms is a natural right we had before our government was formed and it is a right we will have long after the American Empire collapses. As the preamble to the Bill of Rights states:
The States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added
The Second Amendment has nothing to do with protecting our right to arms. It is a declaratory statement that reminds the government that because this right exists, independent of any document stating as much, that they have no business ever taking arms from any individual.
It says nothing about race, and therefore any attempts by government to disarm any group of people cannot be restricted either through the democratic process or government fiat. Any time our government has denied the right to own arms to certain groups of people, or to remove the right to own a particular category of firearm from all people, what has taken place is an abrogation of the Second Amendment and is repugnant to their expressly delegated Constitutional authority.
And though the Second Amendment is an individual right, if, for the sake of argument, we grant the ACLU’s indefensible claim that the Second Amendment is a collective right of militias (or as Justice Stevens erroneously claim in DC v Heller (2008) that the Second Amendment is an individual right to arms, predicated on service in a militia) that doesn’t change the fact that the militias were never created as an excuse for a group of racist thugs to terrorize slaves by breaking into their quarters to ransack the place looking for weapons and escaped slaves. Not one shred of evidence backs that up. Every single source we have from the Founders as the government was being formed makes clear the militias are essential to make standing armies unnecessary if possible and if a standing army must be formed, the militia acts like a bulwark to protect the citizens should the government turn that standing army against us. It guarantees that if push comes to shove, the Second Amendment is there to make sure the people, and not the government, are the ones doing the pushing and the shoving.
The militia was not a domestic police force. We continued to approach law enforcement much the same as we did when we were still colonies under the British Common Law. There was generally an official, like a sherriff who could put out the hue & cry or enable the posse comitatus.
This whole argument by the ACLU shows the complete lack of principles that is fundamental to a “Living Constitution”—when a text can mean anything, it will always mean nothing.
It is a sad fact that when our government created this brilliant charter that is the Constitution, premised on limited government and individual liberty, we did not truly live those values right away. But the ACLU doesn’t really believe the Second Amendment is racist, they just don’t like the fact that the majority of Americans have not fully submitted to the government as their one and only protector. They need us to give up our guns for that to happen.
In fact, I can prove their disapproval has nothing to do with racism. The reason the statutory companion to the Fourteenth Amendment, the Civil Rights Act of 1867 guarantees all individuals, including the freedmen was because too often, black were being denied their right to bear arms, in spite of the Second Amendment, not because of it.
“To have full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and estates, including the Constitutional right of bearing arms” (Civil Rights Act of 1867, Public Law 14 Stat. 27-30,)
If you extend this logic to the other amendments and statutes that were meant to protect the rights of freedmen that were often being denied you would have to say that voting is racist. After all, the Fifteenth Amendment needed to be passed, because despite being citizens, many freedmen were also being denied the right to vote by the same racists denying their right to have a gun for defense. The only principled conclusion the ACLU could reach is that voting is racist and democracy is a clear extension of white supremacy and anti-blackness that is supposedly inseparable from any right that was not universally recognized and equally protected for all people from the Constitution’s ratification in 1789 to today.
In fact, voting is even more bigoted than the right to bear arms. There has never been a time in this country when women were denied the right to own, carry or use a gun for all lawful purposes. But they weren’t allowed to vote for over 100 years until the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. When the ACLU comes out against voting as a means of sexist oppression and declare democracy a bigoted curse of the patriarchy I will be happy to take their claims the Second Amendment is racist as something they actually believe.
I’m not sure why a group like the ACLU that, to their credit, seem to understand the very existence of a police force poses an existential threat to our safety and liberty take such a strong stand against citizens keeping arms to take responsibility for their own protection.
The ACLU recognizes that the truly corrupt cops are more than just “a few bad apples.” They aren’t the entire bushel either. But even the most honest, integrous police officer who genuinely wants to make his community better and do everything by the book are themselves a threat too. Because the book they follow imposes all manner of police powers that are wholly inconsistent with many of the provisions of our theoretically “limited government” and the vast majority of laws they enforce are entirely immoral prima facie.
Even police who may be very good, honest, ethical people in their private lives believe that they are doing the right thing when they throw people in cages for carrying a plant on them. They believe they are doing the right thing when they seize thousands of dollars in cash and tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of personal property under civil asset forfeiture laws. Because the only people who carry cash and own nice things are all drug dealers, or something. The ACLU seems to understand all these things perfectly well and agree even these actions, though inside the bounds of the law, are outside the bounds of ethical policing. And yet they want these people who already have a dangerous excess of power to be the only people with guns, and that somehow we can trust them to only use that totalitarian level of control in a way that is helpful to law abiding citizens and used in proportion to the amount of force necessary against the criminal elements of society.
And that all gun control is inherently racist it seems absurd I would even have to explain why. Until the end of the Civil War, the several states were a de facto equivalent of our modern de jure constitutional carry. Once blacks gained their freedom and citizenship is when the first gun control laws were enacted. That these measures were officially known as “The Black Codes” tells you everything you need to know about their purpose. The next great gun grab was the passage of the NFA in 1934. This was sold to the general public as a necessary step to protect people from those shifty Italians that made up the mafia (who only came into existence after the government created a black market so lucrative, by passing the Volstead Act and eventually passing the Eighteenth Amendment’s prohibition on liquor).The government needed a scapegoat, so the violence they created wasn’t blamed on them. We just needed to get rid of those machine guns, short barreled rifles, and silencers that were so popular among the bootleggers, then these violent foreigners couldn’t kill each other anymore. Because of course they won’t just commit a criminal act and keep the banned guns they own.
Next was an amendment to the NFA under Title II,, known as the GCA (Gun Control Act) of 1968, passed bcause white people were terrified that groups like the Black Panthers were beginning to think they had a right to also have weapons for lawful self-defense. After the inner-city riots in Watts and Detroit, as well as the Black Panthers showing up in the Capital Building in California where the legislature was meeting, representatives got really scared and passed “The Mulford Act” in California that became the basis for the federal laws passed later on, unquestionably meant to take guns from these minorities tired of being treated as second class citizens and taking their rights into their own hands. That every major act of gun control here in America has always been motivated by racism is clear, we saw the same thing with the 1986 amendment to the NFA, known as FOPA, and the 1994 “Assault Weapons” ban that was part of the racist policies that were meant to get tough on crime and mostly ended up destroying the family unit in the inner-city where these policies were targeted.
I understand that from its founding we have often fallen short of living up to that vision of equal liberty for all people. But that doesn’t make it a bad idea, and it doesn’t mean the better solution is to give up our natural rights and exist in perfect and equal tyranny. I prefer perfect and equal liberty for all. I don’t know if that’s possible. But it’s worth continuing to strive towards. In the mean time I’ll take imperfect liberty over perfect tyranny every time.