By Ja'Loni OwensColumnist
The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
When it comes to the Second Amendment, some argue the individual rights theory, which suggests the Second Amendment creates an individual constitutional right for U.S. citizens, thus making it unconstitutional to restrict firearm possession.
Others argue the collective rights theory, which suggests the Second Amendment only forbids Congress from infringing upon the state’s right to self-defense.
Those who are indigenous to North America and/or are the descendants of slaves understand that regardless of which theory is most widely believed, the Second Amendment is an enabler and justification of white violence and is an impediment to black liberation in America.
Your response to my articulation of the reality of the Second Amendment might be, “You make everything about race” or, “But now the Constitution applies to you people so the past is irrelevant.”
To address your first hypothetical response, everything is about race. That fact persists not because I continue to address racism, but rather because whites have racialized people of color and reduced our existence to what their definitions of blackness, brownness, etc. mean socially, politically and economically.
To address your second hypothetical response, I want to make myself abundantly clear. To suggest that a document that stated black bodies were three-fifths of a whole person can ever protect black people and people of color the way it protects white people and white supremacy is asinine.
It is intellectually lazy to interpret the Second Amendment outside of the context that it was written. The Second Amendment was written to further the white agenda, which was and still remains to be the exploitation of vulnerable populations made vulnerable through colonization, enslavement and other abuses.
Let’s begin with the genocide of the Native Americans. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of “Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment,” writes, “The violent appropriation of Native land by white settlers was seen as an individual right in the Second Amendment … Settler-militias and armed households were institutionalized for the destruction and control of Native peoples, communities, and nations.”
The Second Amendment and its language was not written to be the foundation for “common-sense gun legislation”; the Second Amendment and its language was formulated to grant white colonists permission to use whatever violence necessary to seize land, turning Natives into collateral damage.
Let’s move on to the 19th Century. After the passage of the 13th Amendment, many states adopted “Black Codes,” which disarmed both freed and enslaved blacks because as the late poet Langston Hughes wrote, “Negroes, sweet and docile, meek, humble, and kind: beware the day they change their minds.”
Let’s transition to the 1960s, specifically 1967 and 1968. After the Black Panther Party, a leftist, pro-black political party, stood visibly armed in front of the California capitol building to protect their communities from police, then-Gov. Ronald Reagan signed the 1967 Mulford Act prohibiting open carry of weapons in public places. In 1968, Gov. Reagan signed the Gun Control Act of 1968 which explicitly barred felons and the mentally ill from owning firearms and banned cheaply-made, easily accessible handguns known as “Saturday Night Specials” completely.
The history of gun legislation runs through the blood of indigenous peoples and one that has historically punished black people for attempting to free ourselves from the oppressive state. America’s decision to ignore this context reveals that America is a country not interested in “common sense gun laws” at all.
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