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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.

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.

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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Comment Preferences

  •  This is a very thoughtful and impressive analysis. (8+ / 0-)

    I agree that most of the folks here who own guns are more traditional in their reasons. They grew up around guns. Some live rurally in places where they are required, or at least prudent to have. Quite a few are hunters or sports shooters.

    They are pushed hard on the issue these days, however.

    I'm not sure why they insist on hiding behind the skirts of the Second Amendment.

    Throughout the world, guns are used by ranchers, farmers, hunters, and for sports -- regardless of civilian gun laws. No nation is after those guns. A constitutional clause is not necessary in any of those countries for such gun ownership. Nor would it be necessary in the US.

    For example, in South Korea, handgun ownership is strictly forbidden. Yet, in the London Olympics, the South Koreans swept all the medals for sports shooting, beating out the US and every other nation in the world.

    That, notably, leaves the terror and hysteria surrounding the issue of gun control in the US to dangle -- unexplained by any of this.

    I believe that it is a cultural issue, since the Great Genocide of this continent could not have taken place without guns. So guns fully represent to Americans their ongoing wealth and their ongoing protection.

    It's deeply embedded.

    Denial is a drug.

    by Pluto on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 03:33:50 PM PDT

  •  armed society is a polite society (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The "armed society is a polite society" phrase has dual interpretations. The folks who seem to think that people give in to their sudden urges at the drop of a hat interpret it as a statement that everyone walks around polite because they are afraid of people getting shot. Myself and the folks I know of who carry interpret it as a statement that the people who have cleared the requirements to carry walk around politely because we don't want a situation to progress to actual use.

  •  Societal tolerance (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Near as I can tell, you want people who are marginalized minorities to act like marginalized minorities rather than as equal members of society.... Apparently because it's better for them to go ahead and actively act like second class citizens rather than provoke the first class citizenry into taking actions to put the marginalized minorities in their place.

    That is what your diary sounds like to me.

    •  Oh, to be able to edit a comment! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      heybuddy, FrankRose

      Your diary is like the "sour grapes" argument!

      It's like you are telling the marginalized minorities not to even bother making the effort to be recognized as fully equal, because "the man" will just use his nasty gavel to prevent it anyway!

      It's also got the "Abused woman should just shut up rather than speak up and risk the abuser's attention" theme running through it.

      Gah! I reject your diary! Begone, foul thing!

      •  Frankly, your comment is rather offensive (8+ / 0-)

        and these sorts of responses are the main reason why I've been mostly staying a lurker for this long (and will go back to doing so after this diary.)

        As a member of four different marginalized groups, I can assure you that as nice as it may sound to keep saying "X oppressed group should stand up and fight for their rights" (especially when you have no idea how hard their plight is), that's not always a good idea in practice. Most of the really marginalized minorities (the main examples that come to mind are the Romani in Europe, trans individuals worldwide, and LGB individuals in some parts of the world) are not activists pure and simple because at that level your first priority is survival, the sheer fact of your existence is a transgression against the social order; there are many individuals who would gladly put you to death given the opportunity, and the simple act of surviving another day becomes a victory in its own way.

        Unless you've ever been in a situation where you've faced firsthand the dilemma between speaking up and risking the collective wrath of your entire society (with all the attendant risks to your personal safety, both physical and mental) or staying silent and remaining safe, you have absolutely no right at all to judge others for that choice. Claiming that abused women (or men for that matter) should always speak up rather than remaining silent (with the implicit judgment against those who do choose to stay silent) is incredibly irresponsible. What level of retributive harm (both physical and mental) is acceptable in exchange for the slight satisfaction of possibly bringing your abuser to justice (with varying likelihood depending on the situation)? The victim is the only one who has any right whatsoever to make that decision.

        And even if a marginalized individual managed to become mildly successful (whether through luck or talent), society has all these minor traps and pitfalls that heavily discourage you from ever speaking up (you can either play along to society, be sort-of-respected as the 'model minority' and be held up as the token example, or you can ruin your career, isolate yourself completely, etc. by speaking up. This was especially found quite often in famous mixed-race individuals historically... considered black at birth, but claimed as white on their death certificates after they'd became successful.) I can assure you that almost anyone who survives all of that ends up with all sorts of inadvertent societal conditioning that speaking up is always disastrous, all authority figures can and will rule against you no matter how reasonable your case is, and fighting back only makes things worse.

        I'm going to refrain from pointing out many of the far more offensive assumptions and insinuations behind your words... but seriously, think about what you're saying before you post. I don't expect this to change your mind or elicit an apology. But really, give it a moment's thought at least.

        •  Excellent response (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Glen The Plumber, Pluto, a2nite

          to an absurd comment(s).

          Thank you for your thoughtful diary.

          Hope to see more from you.

        •  If we are speaking broadly.... (0+ / 0-)

          Then I would say even though dred scott got denied his rights in court, we are a better nation for him having the courage to stand up in defiance of being a marginalized minority of the time.

          Some individuals are not in a position to reject second class citizen status, but that doesn't mean it's always better for an entire marginalized minority segment to sit back and survive while waiting for the rest of the population to recognize their equality.

          Blacks helped secure their equality in lincoln's time and in rosa park's time continuing through present day. Gays have been helping secure their equality from before the violent riot at stonewall through the long period of coming out of the closet through will&grace through present day.

          The folks who cause change in society are the folks who cause a commotion, not the ones who sit back in quiet service to a priority of mere survival.

  •  Good, but not sure on premise (0+ / 0-)

    If I am reading the diarist correctly, no African-Americans ever got lynched, because they were more proportionately unarmed than the majority white population.

    Or, that if no guns had been possessed by the Lumbee Indians, the Klan would have just quietly said their piece and gone home, much like the whites did here.

    I would say that progressive social policy has reduced the need for guns as a tool to ensure fair treatment. Guns did not give fair treatment under the law, but encouraged fair treatment because of the implied threat to those who would otherwise be able to act with impunity because the law favored them.

    That there is less need is a good thing. But it does not mean there is no need. I do not think gun proliferation is a path towards equality, but rather it is a signpost that you are there. That is, if everyone is allowed equal access to guns (or the lunch counter, or the front of the bus, etc.), then that universal access is a sign that the progressive social policies are working. And ironically enough, if the progressive social policies are working, people may see less need to be armed in order to encourage recognition of their civil rights. When was the last time you saw a group of armed Black Panthers?

    After all, if everyone felt secure about their neighbors and fellow citizens of any race, color or creed and was happy with their government, conservatives would be a fringe party and assault rifles would be a tiny niche market of the gun industry.

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