The Black Lives Matter movement has been at the center of controversy since its inception three years ago. Just as with firearms, the questions of how law enforcement treat minorities and the broader claims about privilege and American history create sharp divisions between two sides without much overlap or interest in even hearing what the other side has to say.
Many on the right wing of American politics have cited examples of protesters calling for the killing of law enforcement or cheering when a police officer is hurt. This is taken as evidence that the movement as a whole is violent.
To people who are suspicious of the Black Lives Matter movement, this seems obvious. And yet, to my readers who are in that category, look at things from the other side. For every protester who identifies with the BLM who has called for violence, anti-gun activists will raise BLM protesters—protesters who were involved in standoffs with the Bureau of Land Management and other government agencies. Mention the officers killed in Dallas by a man who wanted to attack white members of law enforcement, and the response will be a question about the killers who identified themselves with the Bundy Ranch protests and murdered five people in the Las Vegas area, including two officers.
And on and on. Accusations made against Black Lives Matter members are similar in kind and severity to those made against the gun community. Consider a tweet from Everytown for Gun Safety about a protest outside the NAACP office in Houston: “Gun extremists protest outside NAACP office in Houston.”
The protest in question was done by a group declaring that “White Lives Matter.” Many of the protesters were armed, and several held Confederate battle flags. One held a sign on which was written the slogan, “14 words,” a reference to the belief that white people face an existential threat that they must band together to fight.
And yet, the protesters in Houston claim that they’re not racists, using the cliché that their displays of the Confederate flag were a celebration of heritage, not hate. Whenever I hear that remark, I always ask, a heritage of what, since the Confederacy was indeed an uprising against the perceived threat of federal intrusion into state powers—specifically the power to maintain legal slavery within the state.
Calling that a heritage of hate would be accurate, and I say this as someone who was born and raised in the south and who has lived in the former Confederate states for all but two years of my life. As a southerner, as someone from Appalachia with Scots-Irish ancestors, I understand the resistance against meddlesome outsiders. I don’t want the gun laws that I must follow to be made in New York City. At the same time, I value the document that created our federal government and that protects individual rights against the will of some local majority.
That’s the key point here. Name any group—Black Lives Matter or American gun owners, for examples—and you can find wrongdoers among them. But the Houston protest only serves to deepen division, rather than to bring recognition on the part of all sides that on the subject of rights, we’ll only be secure if we stand together. A government that is powerful enough to get away with excessive use of force against blacks is powerful enough to take guns away from anyone. And a government that can disarm law-abiding Americans can also treat other law-abiding citizens as guilty unless proved innocent. Until we get this reality, no right is safe.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.