Continuing the torrent of anti-rights rhetoric from The New York Times is an editorial by University of Notre Dame professor of philosophy, Gary Gutting, titled, “Guns and Racism.” His argument in brief is the claim that “Our permissive gun laws are a manifestation of racism, an evil that, in other contexts, most gun-control advocates see as a fundamental threat to American society.”
We live in a time when “racism” is treated as the trump card for every situation. The word these days all too often means “you’re doing or believing something I don’t like.” But diction and history don’t accept such slovenly usage, and we aren’t obliged to fall in line with current trends.
The subject of racism and gun control has been debated at length, and it’s not one that helps Gutting’s cause. If we look into the origins of gun control laws, particularly in the south, we find that many were passed to prevent black people from arming themselves. The discretionary policies with regard to carry licenses that the Brady Campaign praises, for example, were designed to limit the carrying of firearms in public to suitable people—in other words, whites.
Another attempt to tie gun rights to racism was seen in the claim by the political commentator Thom Hartmann that the Second Amendment was written to protect slave patrols. We can see that commentator and raise a constitutional law scholar, Paul Finkleman—not someone who supports gun rights as something belonging to each of us individually—who takes apart Hartmann’s claims point by point.
But Gutting’s specific assertion in his New York Times article is that “gun proliferation” is racist. I still marvel at the twisting of words here. To me, racism is the belief that some groups, by virtue of their genetic heritage, are inferior to other groups. To Gutting, apparently, racism is the belief that all groups are equal.
Consider this point—as a nation, we decided at our beginning to protect the right of all of us to own and carry firearms. Slaves clearly didn’t have access to the free exercise of this right, but we went through a civil war to correct many violations done in law to them. We then had to have decades of work to underline the point that rights are the possession of all of us, even minorities, during the civil rights struggles of the second half of the twentieth century. But now, Gutting wants us to believe that making choice available to all is somehow racist. Does he mean that some groups aren’t capable of exercising rights in a responsible manner? If so, I take issue with his claim that I’m the racist here.
Black on black crime is a problem in our largest cities, as Gutting admits and quickly passes over. If we stopped putting so many black young men in prison for petty drug crimes and made all schools—including those in the inner cities—excellent, we’d go a long way toward reducing the violence that persists in urban areas despite the overall downward trend, both nationwide and globally, of violent crimes. But it’s not racism to say that people who didn’t commit those crimes are not obliged to punish themselves. It’s not racism to hold people responsible for their individual actions, instead of believing that policy applied to members of group X must be based on the supposed collective acts of group Y. By contrast, it is racism to claim that freedom isn’t something some group of people in this country can handle. Gutting’s inversion of the word only muddies our understanding of the problems we face in this nation and the solutions that would work, while at the same time protecting rights for all.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.