Before one begins any discussion about the gun debate, it is necessary to dismiss the slow-thinking zealots from the room by pointing out that two things can be true: I can believe that Church’s fried chicken is actually deep-fried Triceratops raised on a secret Jurassic Park-type farm, and it tastes delicious. I also believe that the Second Amendment to the Constitution provides us the right to gun ownership, and there is a need for commonsense gun legislation.
I believe in the right to vote, but recognize that I must register and provide proof of identity. I believe in freedom of assembly, but I know that I can’t organize a parade on the busiest intersection of my city without a permit. Every right afforded by the Constitution is regulated. While this may seem obvious, I point this out because someone will inevitably raise the idiotic argument that the ultimate goal of anyone in favor of gun control legislation is to kick in your door, snatch your weapons, drink the last bit of Kool-Aid and eat the big piece of chicken.
After the most recent mass shooting in Parkland, Fla. (which may not be the most recent by the time I finish this sentence), some have theorized that one way to force gun control is to pit the intersecting groups in the Venn diagram of conservatism against each other. The argument is, if black people started purchasing firearms in bulk, conservative racists (or is it “racist conservatives”? I get confused sometimes) might get so outraged at the thought of gun-toting Negroes that racism might overwhelm their natural predilection for firearms and cause them to support gun-reform laws.
The argument is not without merit. I’ve even said it before. White men have always been afraid of armed black people. The 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law, was passed, in part, because during Reconstruction, the South was inundated with newly formed groups dedicated to disarming blacks. The most famous of these organizations was a fraternity of men who called themselves the Ku Klux Klan.
California Gov. Ronald Reagan fought for gun control legislation after another group of black men called Black Panthers marched on California’s Capitol carrying shotguns. California’s Mulford Act eventually became the blueprint for the Gun Control Act of 1968, the law banning felons from owning firearms and outlawing Saturday night specials, cheap handguns associated with black communities.
This makes the math seem simple: If black people arm themselves, America always figures out a way to disarm them through legislation. While no one doubts the strength of the American brand of racism, the theoretical use of America’s anti-black sentiment as a legislative, race-based Jedi mind trick ignores an important reality: It won’t work.
When people talk about commonsense gun legislation, we wrongly assume that rank-and-file Republican voters are against it. However, 70 percent of Republicans and 79 percent of all Americans favor banning assault-style weapons, according to an October 2017 Gallup Poll. A 2016 CNN poll (pdf) showed that 92 percent of white people favored universal background checks, and 89 percent of whites favored stopping felons and people with mental health issues from owning guns.
Although the prevailing narrative would have you believe that gun owners are against gun reform, they are not. There is only one entity preventing legislative gun reform, and it is not Republicans, white people or even gun owners.
It is the National Rifle Association.
To be clear, it is not the members of the NRA who oppose gun control. Data from Pew research shows that the majority of NRA members are in favor of universal background checks, closing gun-show loopholes and preventing the mentally ill from purchasing weapons.
Even though the NRA boasts 4.5 million members (a dubious claim that most researchers don’t believe), the NRA’s influence doesn’t come from its member rolls. The organization’s power comes from its ability to lobby lawmakers, essentially bribing them with barrels of cash. More important, the stacks of money don’t come from dues; they come from gun manufacturers.
The reason there is not gun reform is that the NRA is not the mythical nationwide coterie of gun nuts that most people would have you believe. It represents gun manufacturers, and gun manufacturers wouldn’t care if black people bought guns. In fact, they’d love it.
For instance, there are millions of people who donate to the NRA who have no idea they are doing so. Sturm, Ruger manufactured more than 1.6 million guns in 2017 and gave $1 to the NRA every time it sold a firearm. The Taurus company buys a year’s membership for every person who purchases one of its guns, about 92,000 in 2012, according to Shooting Industry. There are shooting ranges across the country that include an NRA membership in the cost of their visits.
There are millions of Nation Rifle Association members who have no idea they are in the NRA! Advertising, sponsorships and corporate donations account for most of the money received by the NRA. Less than half of the money the NRA rolls out to purchase the souls of politicians in exchange for the blood of children comes from membership dues.
Because of this, the NRA is not beholden to its rank and file. It has become the lobbying wing of the gun industry, and there is only one thing stronger than racism in America:
The prospect of black people armed to the teeth is actually a good thing for the NRA because it is the de facto supplier of America’s addiction. Thinking that the NRA will ever be concerned about a 12-point rise in African-American gun ownership (the increase that would raise black gun ownership to 36 percent, the same as whites) is like expecting the cigarette industry to care about a rise in black smokers. It just means more money for them.
Even if most white people were racists who were scared shitless because black people started buying AR-15s, the NRA would care as much about that as it cared about dead first-graders in Newtown, Conn., or high school freshmen in Parkland, Fla.
It wouldn’t give a damn.
So, yes, black people should exercise their right to gun ownership for a number of reasons. But doing so won’t cause the NRA to stop its war against children, no matter how racist or fragile white America may seem.
Sadly, two things can be true at the same time.