Racism and Gun Culture: the Perfect Storm

What happened last night in Dallas was tragic, but probably inevitable in a nation where racism and gun culture have long had the potential to seamlessly combine.

Plenty of attention, both useful and exacerbating, will be devoted to the role that racism appears to have played in this latest mass-murder, but I expect that far less will be said about the familiar signature of the lone gunman equipped to take out an army.

The penny has yet to drop on the likelihood that, following years of spectacularly bad news about the justice system and race in America, imbalanced and aggrieved individuals who exist in the black community just as surely as they do in the white community, have finally heeded the message carried by the NRA, and even Donald Trump, that the only way to deal with gun violence is to arm yourself and enter, guns blazing, into the fray.

Sadly, this day has been coming for a long time, as we allowed gun-rights advocates to dominate the regulatory conversation, and arms manufacturers took advantage of ginned-up paranoia to dump an arsenal of ever more lethal weapons on the streets.

On the books, gun manufacturers look like they’ve just been good businessmen, in the fine old tradition of free enterprise. In reality, the Wild West has been opening up all across America.

Who’d have thought that the disadvantaged and legitimately aggrieved might be listening to the same paranoid messaging that amps-up Trump rallies: “Don’t trust the government;” “Anyone who doesn’t look like you might be the Enemy,” “Arm yourself for Armegeddon.”

It used to be that white men were more likely to be packing heat than black men; but in just the two incidents within twenty-four hours that prompted the Dallas mass murder, both black victims of police shootings were found to be carrying guns; and that mere fact was cited by the shooters as a risk to their own safety that seemed to justify lethal force.

In neither case did the victim actually withdraw the gun from his person or threaten the detaining officer in any way. The mere presence of the civilian gun in the scene seems to have raised tension so much as to cost the carrier his life.

If history has taught us anything, it is that the pattern of shootings will continue and escalate into as yet unthinkable territory; and it may be too late to do anything about it.

Even common sense gun regulation, unlikely to ever get a vote in Congress, can only do so much to make us safer at this point.

By allowing the arguments of gun ‘rights’ advocates to twist and bend the Second Amendment into something it was never meant to be, we have, as a nation, surrendered our future to a perpetual cycle of unparalleled gun violence.

Anyone who thought that the poor and the downtrodden wouldn’t eventually arm themselves and turn their guns on their perceived tormenters was kidding themselves.

Welcome to the United States of Armerica.

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

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