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VA – OPINION- The iconic ‘man with a gun’ in this country is and has always been white

Around 22,000 people came here last week to protest potential new restrictions on guns under consideration by the new Democratic majority in the General Assembly. Most of the protesters were outside the grounds of the state Capitol, and most appeared to be carrying weapons: handguns, shotguns, carbines and semi-automatic rifles. There were armed men in camouflage and military-style equipment threatening insurrection if the state’s elected representatives acted contrary to their wishes. But that “peace” can’t be separated from intimidation; progressive groups urged members not to go to the Capitol to avoid violent confrontation with extremists. There were no counterprotests or rival demonstrations. The Second Amendment had effectively limited the First. As I watched the rally, it was impossible not to think through counterfactuals. What if these were left-wing protesters instead? Twenty-two thousand members of the Democratic Socialists of America, armed and threatening insurrection if the Commonwealth of Virginia didn’t establish a system for single-payer health care. How would the state authorities react? Would they give them a wide berth or would they assume hostile intent? What if this were 22,000 black nationalists, similarly armed, similarly enraged at the prospect of gun control? Would the police have had the same light touch, watching and listening but allowing events to unfold? Or would they have gone into overdrive with riot gear and armored vehicles, aggressive tactics and a presumption of criminality? We know the answer. In Virginia and many of the 30 other states that allow open carry, Americans have a right to mass, armed protest. But that right, and the right to bear arms in general, is informed by the settler history of the American nation and structured by hierarchies of race and gender, despite our collective pretense to universalism. Or put another way, every American has a right to gun ownership, but the paradigmatic gun owner is still a white man.  [full article]

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