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Blacks and Gun Control: A tale of two opinions

African Americans diverging views toward gun law and ownership

Juliana Norwood | 7/7/2016, midnight
As has become commonplace, after the recent mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub, which left 49 people dead and 53 ...

Just this week, protests have arisen in Baton Rouge, L.A., after 37-year-old Alton Sterling was fatally shot during an altercation with police.

This leads Americans to hold divergent attitudes about gun ownership. About 41 percent of White households own guns, compared to just 19 percent of Black households, according to a 2014 Pew survey. And White Americans (62 percent) are more likely than Black Americans (54 percent) to say that gun ownership does more to protect people than endanger personal safety.

A survey taken of the employees at OW found that only two owned a gun—but for varying reasons. Some employees expressed a dislike for guns overall, while others cited having young children in the home as a deterrent to gun ownership. The employees who were interested in buying a gun explained that they would feel safer having one in the home, but haven’t taken the steps to procure one just yet.

To be sure, gun violence against African Americans is not a mainly a police/civilian issue, nor is it mainly a Black/White issue. Scores more Black people are killed by other Black people than either of the former. Which explains their attitudes towards gun laws and gun reform. In essence, most Blacks are much less focused on the infringement on their rights than they are with making their communities safer places to grow, live and work. And, most would agree that fewer guns on the street overall would be the best way to accomplish that.

But does this way of thinking come at a cost?

Gun control laws at their very core were created to be racist. The original purpose of these laws was to keep weapons out of the hands of slaves, and later, even freed Black people, to quell the irrational fears of Whites. In essence: gun laws were made to make sure that Black people didn’t kill White people.

As very poignantly put by historian Clayton E. Cramer in his article “The Racist Roots of Gun Control” he states, “Gun control advocates today are not so foolish as to openly promote racist laws, and so the question might be asked what relevance the racist past of gun control laws has. One concern is that the motivations for disarming Blacks in the past are really not so different from the motivations for disarming law-abiding citizens today. In the last century, the official rhetoric in support of such laws was that “they” were too violent, too untrustworthy, to be allowed weapons. Today, the same elitist rhetoric regards law-abiding Americans in the same way, as child-like creatures in need of guidance from the government. In the last century, while never openly admitted, one of the goals of disarming Blacks was to make them more willing to accept various forms of economic oppression. The analogy of disarming those whom you wish to economically disadvantage, has a certain worrisome validity to it.”

He goes on to say, “Racism is so intimately tied to the history of gun control in America that we should regard gun control aimed at law-abiding people as a “suspect idea,” and require that the courts use the same demanding standards when reviewing the constitutionality of a gun control law, that they would use with respect to a law that discriminated based on race.”