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A constant refrain among many proponents of gun rights is that firearms are necessary for self-defense. "An armed society is a polite society", we are often told. Moreover, we are constantly told that gun control enabled the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. If one believes its proponents, guns always make the owner safer, are almost never used improperly or involved in accidents, and help the marginalized groups of society defend themselves. If everyone were armed, slavery would never have existed, the Holocaust would never have occurred, or so their argument goes.


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The first two points have already been extensively covered in our community, but let's step back and look at the last point: that gun proliferation is a path towards equality and tolerance in society. But this is a deeply flawed and problematic claim, belying an unconscious assumption of privilege. If you are a member of a marginalized minority, the sheer fact of your survival rests on the route of not escalating situations in which you'd be inevitably outnumbered or outgunned, in not attracting the attention of the authority figures who are always inclined to judge against you. Even supposing the ridiculous scenario in which slaves on plantations had been armed... what do you imagine would happen the first time a slave used his weapon in self-defense against a master? The judicial system would have convicted him almost immediately, and a single armed man would be far more vulnerable when faced by an entire armed mob.

Consider trans women of color in this nation, who are probably at a higher risk of facing violent assault and murder than anyone else. Supposedly, they are the poster example of people in need of their right to self-defense. And yet it's almost obvious to the point of going unsaid of why that right is almost never used - because there's almost no possibility of getting a fair hearing under a judicial system that automatically suspects you of being a prostitute or drug-dealer. The main example I could find of a trans woman who actually defended herself against an assault was that of CeCe McDonald, who defended herself with a pair of scissors when assaulted in a hate crime, and was ultimately sentenced to several years in a man's prison as a result. Whether the state intended to use her as an example or not, they have definitely succeeded in discouraging any other trans women who might have the temerity to defend themselves from an assault in the future.

It's the same reason ultimately why 'Stand your Ground' laws are almost always used against minority individuals by armed white men, why polling has consistently shown minorities to be far more in favor of gun control. And even if minorities were able to achieve any brief success, authority figures would simply change the laws to suit their needs. Ironically, many of the current gun control laws actually came about in reaction to the Black Panthers, who indeed sought to achieve liberation through armaments. An immediate backlash ensued, and the fear inspired by armed black men quickly inspired a series of new gun control legislation. One can only too easily imagine what would have happened to an armed black man faced with a lynch mob then, or even an armed girl faced with a rapist football player today.

To extend my examples to Europe, discrimination, stigma, and injustice are the very same reasons why the historically marginalized Jewish and Romani (the latter of whom are still very stigmatized) have almost never taken up arms against that same discrimination, stigma, and injustice. In 2011, when an Italian Romani population was faced by a mob armed with clubs and torches (over a false allegation of rape), they fled and let their homes be torched (Italian link here.) To a middle-class Westerner, if you're faced by a mob marching towards your house, you're inclined to fight; your home is considered your castle, the whole reason why the  (atrocious) Stand-Your-Ground law exists in the first place. But the Romani did the rational thing instead by fleeing; their lives were more important than their belongings, and long histories of persecution had taught the lesson that staying to fight would only result in vilification by the media, possibly even a state deportation as had just occurred in France.

My point? Even if ownership of guns increases the safety of our population (an extremely dubious claim), the effect is extremely regressive. The people who benefit the most from this increase in safety are those who can already expect close to a fair treatment under the law, who can already expect authority figures to act reasonably in their interest. Even fanatical anti-government militia members can muster up a significant amount of support in their defense on Capital Hill. It's the marginalized people who suffer, those who are already in need of safety, justice, and equality; they have almost no capability to employ the rights supposedly made for their benefit. It's far more likely for a firearm to be used against them, than in their own self-defense.

This is a concept I call social regression (hence the title), decreasing equality just as a regressive tax decreases economic equality. The ownership of guns acts as a regressive redistribution of safety, reducing the safety of those in need of it to give to those who already have it. Is this not a form of class warfare, though of a different sort than usually imagined? Is there any philosophical difference between gun proliferation (as an architect of increasing inequality in safety) or a regressive tax, or Social Security cuts, or outsourcing, or all the regressive backwards pro-establishment/pro-elite policies that we as progressives have always vocally opposed?

I've been on the Kos boards for close to a decade now (scary thought), though mostly a lurker, and know that there's a vocal minority of pro-gun writers in our community (the impression I've gotten is that they're more in favor of guns for hunting, personal freedom than for safety, though I've read arguments in favor of the latter.) To those readers, I'd appreciate any honest thoughtful critiques of my argument and analysis. This isn't really the type of diary that gets on the rec list here (it'd probably need to be flashier, less analytical, etc. for that), but I'd appreciate any response that I get.

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Originally posted to Michiganliberal on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 03:03 PM PDT.

Also republished by Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA) and Shut Down the NRA.

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