The Progressive Cynic on Bias, Perception, and Guns

White Privilege and the 2nd Amendment – Josh Sager

The gun-murder epidemic in the United States has provoked a great deal of discussion about the 2nd Amendment and the right to bear arms. On one side of this argument, there is the vast majority who want increased gun control, while, on the other, there is a small, but powerful and vocal, minority of gun extremists.

In the recent fights over gun control and ownership, we have seen many gun-enthusiasts claim that guns are just tools and that the simple act of owning a gun is not threatening in the slightest—in fact, these people claim that virtually everybody should be armed and trained to use guns from an early age. Despite these claims, it is evident to anybody who cares to look that not everybody in the United States is treated equally in regard to gun ownership.

Many assume that the issues surrounding gun control are race-blind, as everybody has access to the same weapons (weapons dealers rarely see any color but green), but these people would be incorrect. Our society’s perception of gun owners who are exercising their “2nd Amendment rights” is often linked to the color of their skin—in this, Americans’ gun rights are extremely different depending upon who is carrying the weapon.

And, of course, there are more than two sides. There’s also the repeal side. There’s also the individual community side. Repeal the 2nd Amendment and devise a comprehensive federalized scheme for addressing gun violence and accidental death due to firearms. Devise it with flexibility so local communities can decide for themselves whether they choose gun culture or no. Include in that federalized scheme regulatory measures for gun manufacturers,  gun sellers, and gun owners with a rethinking of tort laws that will hold the first two responsible for what they sell and to whom they sell and hold the latter responsible for deaths and injuries resulting from the guns they own. Even without a repeal of the 2nd Amendment, if a crime or an accident is committed with a firearm in this country the owner of that firearm should be held legally responsible for that occurrence regardless of who pulled the trigger or how well (or not) that firearm was accessible to the one who did pull the trigger. With rights come responsibilities.

Pro-White Gun Bias

For the most part, white Americans have a level of privilege when carrying their weapons which is simply not given to people of other races. Other white people (who are still the majority) are far less likely to perceive a heavily armed white “good ol boy” to be a threat than if they saw the same weapons being carried by somebody of black, Hispanic or middle eastern descent.

The ugly truth is, the 2nd Amendment may be idolized by many Americans, but a significant portion of these people see it as the exclusive domain of WHITE Americans—if it is a brown hand holding the gun that they see as an absolute right, then they immediately think of terrorists, drug gangs, and “thugs.”

For example: When gatherings of white gun enthusiasts congregate around a business in the south (ex. in Texas), they are usually given the benefit of the doubt and not treated as potential criminal threats. Contrasting this, if a group of black youths wearing baggy clothes or a group of Muslim men wearing headscarves were to hold the same weapons in the same place, it is highly likely that the locals would soil themselves, call the police or feds, and hide in the closet clutching their assault rifles until “help” arrives.


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