The Black Gun Owner Next Door

Mar 09, 2019 · 557 comments
Richard H. Duggan (Newark, DE)
First, let me say it's a delight to see this article in the NYT. I'm a middle-aged white man. I voted for Obama (enthusiastically) and Hillary Clinton (reluctantly). I'm a gun owner and I've been a life member of the NRA for over 30 years (though I don't always agree with the positions of the leadership). I've also contributed to the ACLU and I enthusiastically support their defense of civil rights (though I don't appreciate thier equivocation on the 2nd Ammendment while they support the other 9). My point: Despite what the liberal media would have people believe, not all members of the NRA are ignorant, ultra-right-wing neo-facists who believe the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax. I would gladly share the range with any of these people. As long as they are responsible gun-owners they are my brothers and sisters and I stand beside them in defense of our rights as United States citizens. One final point: I believe that violent video games, movies, and television, along with drugs and poverty, are at the heart of the violence problem we have in this country today. 40 years ago when I was in high school there was no such thing as a "school shooter". It's not like people didn't have guns in their homes then, and in many cases kids had much greater access to them. What they had then that they don't have now, if you ask me, is parents. These problems, though much more challenging, are what we need to fix.
Mike D (Hartford Ct)
My father was a black sports hunter and NRA member in the 1960s, I use to read cover to cover the NRA magazines which came to the house. I never once saw a black person featured in all the years I read them, but that didn’t deter him from hunting or displacing his NRA sticker proudly. And he always kept a weapon at ready in his bedroom especially in those turbulent times. I now understand as an adult that it would be foolish to not do everything you can to protect yourself and your family especially in today’s society which is full of rage.
Mike B (Ridgewood, NJ)
Once again: For ya'll who wrap yourselves in the Constitution but never read it. Guns are for active duty militia who are in the chain of command who may keep arms and then bear them when called up to serve. There's more to the document than the 2d half of the 2d amendment. When you or your family member gets shot or killed it's not in the name of freedom, personal protection or Whomevers' Lives Matter. It's in the name of corporate profits, except you're too distracted by the noise to realize it. Guns are every bit as dangerous as sugar and cigarettes, except people have been made to believe, even judges and justices, that they have a unique constitutional protection. It's the biggest marketing sham in history. The problem's working, because you'll believe anything.
Porky Pine (Fort Mudge)
I attended a rural high school in the early '70s. It was not uncommon in the fall of the year for some students to have deer hunting rifles carried openly on the racks in their pickup trucks, in the school parking lot, either because they had hunted in the morning before going to school or they planned to go hunting after school before going home. Not a single incident of firearm violence or use of a firearm to threaten anyone. That any student might do such a thing was beyond our reckoning. Guns were an accepted part of the culture. It was a different time. On the other hand, a few years later, my wife taught at an elementary school where the principal was fatally stabbed on school premises by an angry student with a fingernail file. I am licensed and trained in the use of firearms. In years past I carried, legally, a firearm on the job for protection and had occasion to discharge it for that purpose, again legally. I am glad I had it. I now keep a couple in my home for protection. I'm a liberal and have never voted for a Republican in my life.
Sparky Jones (Charlotte)
This, of course, brings up the old saying, a man with a gun is a free man, one without is a slave.
Mixilplix (Fairhope, Alabama)
2nd Amendment gives the right to form a militia if threatened by invading power and nothing more. NRA, once just a dopey hunting club, ran with this upon becoming a concubine 4 gun manufacturers. if Trump can so easily override Congress for his wall then the Democrats should override to get gun control and dismantle the NRA
lastcard jb (westport ct)
Look at the recent case of a black man picking up garbage in an area that was private being confronted by first 1 then 6 officers. A gun was drawn while the black man told them he was using a "claw" to pick up garbage. Even when shown ID, and had corroborating witnesses the officer on the scene fondled his gun and demanded that the black man put down his garbage "claw" or face consequences. Instead of de-escaltion, the officer made a show of force and escalated the situation. So what if the black man was carrying? How would that have ended ? Better to not have a gun and never have to use it then have one and get shot for your right to bear arms.
Hooey (Woods Hole)
This is the most thoughtful and balanced journalistic work I have seen in NYT in many years. The author deserves a Pulitzer Prize for it.
Suzabella (Santa Ynez, CA)
Odd headline confused me. I thought it was about a black gun. I couldn't figure out why anyone would care about a black gun. I had to read the story to find out it was about a black man owning a gun. Glad I read the story, though. It was quite interesting.
Bobotheclown (Pennsylvania)
There is an easy way to enact all the gun control laws that anyone has ever wanted. Simply encourage a lot of young black men to legally open carry in public. You will get all the gun control laws you can image after that.
goshawkguy (Wisconsin)
The historian author neglected to read, and consider, the history of the NRA. " The Ku Klux Klan, Ronald Reagan, and, for most of its history, the NRA all worked to control guns. The Founding Fathers? They required gun ownership—and regulated it. And no group has more fiercely advocated the right to bear loaded weapons in public than the Black Panthers—the true pioneers of the modern pro-gun movement. In the battle over gun rights in America, both sides have distorted history and the law, and there’s no resolution in sight."
JustAnotherNewYorker (NYC)
Being anti-gun and being anti-NRA are two different things, and when we conflait them it only servers the purpose of the NRA.
CRT (Kansas City)
I live in a middle-sized American city with a substantial black population. Black people are often shot here, at least weekly. The shooters are invariably black. Most shootings, where a motive is known, involve the drug trade or young men punishing violations of the code of "respect." Some stem from domestic violence. And the most tragic shootings come when children shoot themselves or other children with guns adults keep for "protection." Gun ownership here is a bloody plague for black citizens, just as it is for whites.
Caded (Sunny Side of the Bay)
I am white and don't have a gun, don't feel a need for it, but if I were black I might feel very differently.
Michael Z (Sacramento)
For some reason, seeing photos of humans (of any color) posing proudly with their guns has always stricken me as being bizarre and ridiculous. I can see future generations (should they exist) viewing those images with disgust, sorta like I feel when I see a grainy old photo of a huge crowd in a southern town, gathered to watch a lynching. Just LOOK at yourselves!
Mono (Bogota, Colombia)
Thank you for an honest and excellent article, with it's several surprises for me as well. In the early 1900s the Turks restricted gun ownership among Armenians before beginning the genocide that today they deny. The Nazis also restricted gun ownership among Jewish populations before beginning their larger scale genocide. As an old white guy, I applaud what I see here, and surprise, I feel more secure, not less.
Étienne Guérin (Astoria, NY)
The heritage of slavery has trapped this poor country we call the greatest in the world in so many cycles of hate and violence that it's just impossible to see the end. White Americans need guns because they fear their freed slaves will come after them. Black Americans need guns to protect themselves from trigger happy-whites. So whites need more guns, etc etc... Where do we stop this???? I can just see one solution: retrieve all guns.
jim gerard (Baltimore)
I read Dr. Miles' article with great interest but was a bit disappointed she didn't mention an organized armed African American defense movement that ironically saw both the NRA and then Governor Ronald Reagan , a life time NRA member, calling for gun control in 1967. I refer to California's Mulford Act, a law repealing an open fire arm carry law. The Black Panther Party(BPP) conducted openly armed patrols of Oakland, California neighborhoods in response to the membership's assertion of police brutality and oppression. As a result of the proposed law ,BPD members protested on the steps of the California Statehouse openly armed with various firearms. Governor Reagan quickly signed the bill into law prohibiting carrying of firearms on one's person or in a vehicle, in any public place or on any public street , particularly, the California State House . He also signed off on a 15 day waiting period for firearm purchases. However , since the law could not just restrict black Americans from open carry , it applied to one and all. Another irony in all this, is that today's NRA is merely spouting what the BPP asserted over 50 years ago, -the rights of citizens to carry guns of all types with little to no interference from the government. I can only speculate what Mr.Lewis Hayden would say about this piece of history.
Lisa (Fl)
Should the need arise to protect others from a shooter, how does the legal, lawful gun owning citizen distinguish themself when the police arrive? An off duty officer was shot and killed in the Sherman Oaks bar attack, he was trying to defend others when the police shot him. This is a big conundrum for me. In the adrenaline fueled moment, how does this play out?
Mark Andrew (Folsom)
This just in: An alien spaceship landed on the White House Lawn, and Jesus stepped out, snapped his fingers, and all of the guns in America disappeared! In fact, all of the guns in the entire world and all of the myriad types of explosive death machines, from cannons to cruise missiles, no longer function. Will the world dissolve into anarchy and destruction? Will we have to invent some new method for quickly and cheaply killing people from a safe distance, or will we just fall back on the tried and true bow and arrow, spears, sling and stone? Will we still be so fearful of others that we begin carrying knives and swords whenever we leave the house? Think about it: Aliens exist. Jesus exists, and he came back. And he took away our guns and all of war making ordinance. Now what? If you partake of this thought experiment, what seems the most unbelievable part- Alien spaceship, Jesus returning, or a world without guns? They all seem equally unlikely to most Americans, I would bet, but the first two do have adherents in large numbers. One of those things is completely under the control of the human race, and yet anyone who would propose such a change to society has to be dismissed as either insane or hopelessly unrealistic.
Anthony La Macchia (New York, NY)
The irony of history here is delicious! Do the research, people. One of the stated purposes of the 14th Amendment as debated in Congress was also to allow African-American men (1868) the right as freed men to own firearms as white men, as per the Second Amendment interpretation of the time. Interestingly, there has been a push recently (by conservative groups, contrary to what has been posted here) to encourage black people to increasingly own legal firearms. You can speculate as to what political motives may be intertwined with this. Finally, the (in)famous Sullivan Law of New York passed in the early 20th Century, implementing draconian gun control and virtually eliminating concealed carry, was passed because African-Americans and Italian-Americans could not be trusted with guns!! We were too criminally oriented to be trusted! Here we are a hundred years later.
Vesuviano (Altadena, California)
Very thought-provoking piece, and I'm glad I read it. I'm not exactly looking forward to it, but there will be a day when an armed black man or woman in Florida shoots and kills a white person under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. I suspect the national reactions will be interesting. Full disclosure - I'm a white liberal public school teacher. I own two pistols and a camp carbine, and they never leave my home except to go to and from the range. I don't want teachers to be armed. I support a ban on assault weapons and universal background checks for firearms purchases. I think the NRA is evil, and, given what I know of their ties to Russian interests, possibly treasonous in the spirit, if not the letter, of that term.
Jack (North Brunswick)
There are two NRAs...One has a history in the belief that a gun ownership without training in safe handling, safe storage and maintenance is a danger to the citizens. As a result, gun owners are taught the basics. The other NRA uses appeals to a 'Second Amendment remedies' to get donations and make gun-owners fear that the government is coming to 'take their guns'. They also take PAC money from undisclosed sources and use it to back elections of politicians they like. This is driven largely by their out of touch Executive Board that ought to be dismissed. That's why I joined the NRA after Sandy Hook happened and our Senate opted to take no action on better background checks. I vote in every election for boardmembers who will fire Wayne LaPierre and Co.
Barbara (SC)
I have absolutely no idea what it feels like to be an African-American descendant of slaves facing the NRA. But I am the descendant of another oppressed minority. The NRA, its opposition to sane gun rules and the huge amount of money it has amassed for its political aims make me very nervous. Surely the answer to gun violence from the right does not lie in gun violence from the left, regardless of race/skin color.
Anton (Busto)
The photographs are clear in what is understood by arms and freedom. The justification of a liberal is too complicated. Buy it! Madness is contagious and practiced by liberal and conservatives
This is what is wrong with the NRA. They present guns as toys and entertainment, denying that they are death machines. Guns must be treated soberly and with the greatest respect because each gun and every bullet represents the absoluteness of death. Our gun laws should reflect this sobriety. Gun owners should take a solemn oath every day to pay tribute to death and to their own mortality. Every gun owner should have someone whisper in their ears every morning, "Remember you are mortal." The NRA spokeswoman, treating guns and the use of guns in dealing out death like it is entertainment, is abhorrent. In movies, guns are entertaining. In movies, you see the villain doing terrible things, and then it feels great when the terrible, evil villain gets shot up in the end. But all the time a part of you knows it isn't real, that the villain is an actor, the bullets aren't real, nobody really dies. In real life, there is no "woo hoo" factor in killing someone with a gun. Even when it is justified, even when the man you shoot broke into your house and was going to kill you children and your wife or husband, even then, afterwards, no one goes, "woo hoo, did you see how I shot that bad guy!" No one does that. You dealt death and it was justified, but afterwards the feeling is sober, even solemn. This is how guns must be treated, even if they are never shot: with sober reflection, with solemnity. They are not toys for entertainment, ever.
Repat (Seattle)
Gotta get back to planning the move to Canada. I don't want to live in such a society as the one just described by Miles. Guns don't make us safer.
stewart bolinger (westport, ct)
When will we see significant gun controls in the USA? We'll see disarmament when blacks and Hispanics match the white appetite for the same weapons. Notice when TV's Alaska state troopers say over and over that they have to be careful because of widespread gun ownership and use among Alaskans. When the establishment gets a clear sense of the ability and willingness of those they despise to return fire, the tide in favor of gun freedom will reverse. Those who proclaim gun freedoms now will lead the reversal. It will take another twenty years to happen in my estimation.
Entera (Santa Barbara)
I'd bet money on the likely outcome of all those laws that legalize open carry of weapons in lots of Red states, if a bunch of black guys started walking around in public, open carrying guns and automatic weapons. There would be a sudden flurry of rethinking those same laws, and/or a few possible "accidents" by police officers and others, who freaked out at the sight. I hope that doesn't occur, however.
Baldwin (New York)
If on Monday every black person in this country bought a gun, you can bet that we’d see gun control laws introduced on Tuesday. Even as it is, de facto gun control laws are used selectively against people of color. As an example: it’s well established that marijuana laws are systematically applied far more aggressively against black people. Then you add the fact that if a person arrest for such a crime has a firearm in their possession, the minimum sentence increases to 5 years. When the NRA talks about gun rights, they are not thinking about people of color. Their whole platform is based on an underlying dread of the dangerous “other”. We all know who that is.
Rufus (SF)
The arguments put forth by the current owners of the Hayden House (while perhaps well-intentioned) are a monument to specious logic and false equivalence. From today, take any period you choose - the last 10 years, 20 years, 50 years, 100 years - and what exactly has arming the civilian population accomplished in terms of preservation of liberty? NOTHING. What has arming the civilian population accomplished in terms of death and destruction? Placing the US in first-place in the developed world in per-capita murder, roughly on a par with Somalia. The notion of arming oneself to be prepared for a possible collapse of society makes the notion of digging a fallout shelter seem like pure genius. This is idiocy, and is merely yet another tool to pit one segment of society against another and to distract them from the real danger, which is economic enslavement of both black and white.
MHB (Knoxville TN)
My husband is a gun owner as is my daughter. I am not anti-gun but I sure am anti-NRA. That would be the NRA that fights cooling off periods which have been demonstrated to be effective in domestic violence situations; fighting legislation to remove guns from the elderly incapacitated with dementia; silence when black legally carrying guns are shot; and fighting owner identification locking technology.
MassBear (Boston, MA)
There may be a few situations where, in the right place at the right time and circumstance, you would be able to defend yourself with a firearm and not end up shooting an innocent party or yourself by accident. But, very few. Moreover, by putting a firearm in one's house, the likelihood of accidental harm and death goes up exponentially. It's a deadly serious responsibility that most people don't take seriously enough. I sympathize with he sentiment of the people who own firearms expecting that, since they know how to shoot at a paper target, they would be able to defend themselves in a real-life scenario. Without the right training and practice, however, it's unlikely. It's not surprising that non-white, non-conservative people are arming up. I count myself among them. However, the underlying cause for the anxieties and fears that drive this desire to arm up are what will have to be addressed eventually to drive away the fear, and more guns won't do that.
Maureen (Denver)
It's as simple as this: all who wish to own a gun should have to go through a year-long, 12-step process, that includes how to secure that gun; how to fire it safely; and how to avoid conflict through conflict resolution training. If all in the US are expected to respect the rights of those that wish to respond to threats by purchasing a gun or guns, then gun purchasers must respect the rights of all to know that the gun that they own was purchased safey and will not be misused.
Mike (Republic Of Texas)
@Maureen And, what of the ne'er do wells that forego this requirement? Any solution must deal with the totality of the problem. There X million guns in America. Requiring all gun owners to submit to some form of a process, will likely net a very few gun owners. Some hunters and those that feel the government "knows best" will submit. The remainder are criminals and skeptics.
David D (Oakland, CA)
It's disappointing to see liberal opinion (as exemplified by this author) slowly turn to a detente with the NRA and other pro-gun views. It's very easy to see what will happen over the next twenty years, as liberal groups slowly abandon any serious efforts at gun control. I see ultimately the political calculus involved -- gun control efforts have been unsuccessful and the NRA has been successful at shifting public opinion -- but it is nevertheless disappointing and, I think, not in the nation's interest.
dmanuta (Waverly, OH)
Thank you for sharing an important piece of American History that few of us had any prior knowledge. Per Attorney Dean's comment, possession of a firearm and the wherewithal to know how to use it, can be an equalizer. The Second Amendment is often thought of as having made the First Amendment possible.
Mike (Republic Of Texas)
@dmanuta If the Second Amendment goes first, the First will be next.
Steve Brown (Springfield, Va)
Another piece on guns. I have been involved in the progun movement since 1986, and the vast majority of ardent anti-gunners I have encountered fall into the following groups: never held a gun, never owned a gun, never fired a gun, never been to a gun range and never been to a gunshow.
mike4vfr (weston, fl, I k)
@sacques... There is an overwhelming stench of wishful thinking in that interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, and apparently with regard to the "Bill of Rights" in general. How could you argue that the 1st Amendment be interpreted any differently? There is no affirmative reference to the "state" in either Amendment. General consensus over the last 230 years has been that the 1st ten Amendments to the U.S. Constitution (traditionally referred to as the "Bill of Rights" in recognition of that clear intent) was specifically passed in aggregate by the individual states and Congress following the Amendment process provided in the Constitution because of the fear and popular suspicion created by the failure of the original document to provide explicit acknowledgement and protection for the basic citizen's rights essential to establish and protect democracy.
Larry (Fresno, California)
Gun owner here. Not a prepper. I applaud Professor Tiya Miles for writing this piece, and the NY Times for publishing it. Gun ownership by law-abiding people is a matter of self-respect. It is taking responsibility for yourself and your loved ones. If someone is trying to kick down your door, you will wish you had a gun. It is that simple. In California, there is an unrelenting war on law-abiding gun owners. Believe it or not, a law-abiding person will soon need a background check to buy ammunition. Really. Too many liberal Democrats would support the disarming of America. Let me suggest that Professor Miles is starting on the path to conservatism. She is opening her eyes to reality, and to the meaning of freedom. Thank you, Professor Miles. I hope the liberal establishment doesn’t try to punish you for heresy.
PJ (Salt Lake City)
I'm a liberal gun owner. I know my guns don't guarantee my safety. I know nothing guarantees my safety. That's reality, especially in America. Oh well. I choose to prepare myself to defend myself. I'm not going to fool myself into relying on only "thoughts and prayers".
Bravo for the professor for contacting the Nat. Park Service regarding political advertising on a national historical site. Privately-owned or not, there must be a rule against it and they should be forced to comply by removing it. I'm a white guy and my reaction would be the same but I'm not an African-American historian at Harvard. During the Boston busing crisis of 1975 in which a black lawyer was beaten with an American flag in broad daylight at nearby Government Center, I seem to remember anti-busing protestors occupying the monument to Colonel Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Regiment near the State House and covering it with banners. People instinctively recognize the power of historical sites. No, I don't think the professor will rethink her anti-gun stance. Kenneth Janken's biography of Walter White (Mr. NAACP) begins with a particularly vitriolic 1906 Georgia governor's race in which both white candidates tried to out-race-bait each other and the Atlanta Journal fanned the flames. Janken depicts both W.E.B. Du Bois and John Hope sitting on the steps of Atlanta U. with shotguns in their laps. Scholars with guns are not an effective defense against an angry mob. Then during the Wash. D.C. riot of 1919 (which even Woodrow Wilson determined to be instigated by white), Walter White claimed to have successfully fended off a mob that came looking for his father by threatening them with a shotgun. But he made up that story.
Miss Anne Thrope (Utah)
* US violent crime peaked in 1992 and dropped 34% by 2017 despite a 28% population growth. * Murders peaked in 1991 then dropped 30% by 2017. * Murder rates dropped 46% over the same period. * 77% of gun deaths are suicides. * 18-24 year olds are more likely to die by gun than any other age group. * Gun death rates among blacks peaked in 1993 and dropped 52% by 2010. * Nonfatal gun crimes dropped 69% between 1993 and 2011. * In 2011, 70% of homicides and 8% of nonfatal violent crimes were committed with a gun, mainly a handgun. * In 2007-11, Only 1% of victims in nonfatal violent crimes used a gun to defend themselves. Just .1% of property crime victims used a gun in self-defense. Yet 67% of gun owners cite self-defense as the reason for owning a gun. * The odds of an American being killed in a mass shooting are .00009. * Robberies peaked in 1991 and dropped 54% by 2017. * Burglaries peaked in 1991 and dropped 57% by 2017. * Urban (250k+) violent crime and murders both dropped nearly 50% from '95 to '14. * There is a strong correlation between reduced crime and the reduction of environmental lead, particularly elimination of leaded gas. * 30% of American adults own a gun, 72% are handguns. * Shotguns are cited as best for home defense * 19% of urban (250k+) Americans own a gun. * 41% of Republicans and 16% of Democrats own guns. * 38% of gun owners keep a loaded gun "easily accessible" when at home. We have nothing to fear but fear itself.
Xoxarle (Tampa)
Care to share any statistical comparisons between the USA and countries that have strict gun control laws in place? Thought not.
Moxiemom (PA)
I truly believe that there would be fewer police shootings if the police didn't have to consider or couldn't make the claim that any person might be armed.
Mike (Republic Of Texas)
If we outlaw(all) guns, what is the response when someone commits a crime with a gun? Our response then, will be the same response as today. * Has anyone ever asked the rank and file of law enforcement, "If you are ordered to confiscate the guns of everyone in your jurisdiction, how would you do it?" The shorter question is, "Would you do it?" * People that want gun control, must live a very angry existence. They know what needs to be done, but they can't do it. They can't make the politicians do it. And they can't make the people with guns do it. Maybe someday, they can make the politicians do it.
Steve (Maryland)
Will the next step be arming ten year-olds? Eight year-olds? Sadly there is no answer to the question, "Where will it all stop?"
Teresa Eddy (East Nassau, NY)
A thought provoking article. What we've done in the past doesn't dictate what we design for our future. This article has given me new insight to consider. Fear is certainly a strong motivator, so are hope and unity. Personal reality can temper any vision. To fight for peace has always presented much philosophical thought. To want a gun in defense of your church and to understand the justification fills me with sadness. But what if the killer didn't have a gun?
Mike (Republic Of Texas)
@Teresa Eddy But, if the killer has a gun?
sacques (Fair Lawn, NJ)
1. The Second Amendment does NOT refer to individual gun ownership. It refers to the rights of States ("the people", collectively) to have militias to protect "states rights" from Federal overreach. It does not say that "every American has the right to bear arms." This is a recent interpretation. Why should black gun ownership be any different from white gun ownership? The answer is to monitor gun ownership for ALL Americans. To limit the kind and number of guns any one person or household can have, to remove machine guns from the marketplace and underground, and to modernize and monitor police departments with much stronger gun-use restrictions.
Justin (Miami)
You should read the Federalist Papers. I think Madison, Hamilton, and Jay would disagree with you. Armed citizens to guard against dictatorship was widely popular on both sides of the Atlantic in the century after Cromwell.
pablo (oregon)
@sacques Actually the "people" are made up of individuals and each individual person's right to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.
Bobotheclown (Pennsylvania)
I agree with the spirit of your post but you have that individual right thing wrong. The amendment uses the term “people” (the right of the people..., shall not be infringed) which has always meant individual rights when used in the constitution. It does not matter that the issue they were addressing was the maintenance of a militia (it was the reason the amendment was written) what matters is that they created an individual right for that purpose. Today the need for a militia has vanished but the right still stands in the language of the amendment. But the fact that this language exists in no way prohibits the regulation of that right for the general welfare. Every state has the authority to impose significant restraints on gun ownership without running afoul of the second amendment. (See California and New Jersey laws for examples) The problem has never been the amendment, the problem is the culture that has mythologized and politicized gun ownership and used it to make guns a totem rather than a tool. You can’t change culture with laws, you do that with education, politics, voting, and understanding the fears if the people around you.
thelastminstrel (Texas)
Every responsible adult should attend a gun training class so they can; 1. Identify a firearm by type 2. Clear (remove the magazine and round from the chamber, or if a revolver, cartridges from the cylinder) 3. Secure the weapon until it can given to authorities. There are millions of firearms in this country. Someday all of the swords will be beaten into plowshares, but, until that day comes you should be able to competently deal with the one that falls under your hand.
Producer (Major City)
@thelastminstrel Such a course already exists - it's called "Eddie Eagle" (no firearms used) - designed for grade school level - and given by the (gasp!) - NRA But knowledge of how to keep yourself safe around guns (especially kids) is about where sex education was in the 1950's - expecting that they they will just figure it out. Same way they used to handle alcohol education for teenagers - until they realized it just didn't work.
David Gage (Grand Haven, MI)
Wake up gun supporters! The 2nd Amendment was written in order to protect the states from the monarchist desires of some leaders. H'm Trump does want to become King Donald the 1st of the Americas today, but that is a different problem. Anyway, this amendment was never there to give everyone a machine gun type weapon and certainly not at the prices they are today. Either those founding fathers were dumb or we are. Take your pick.
PJ (Salt Lake City)
@David Gage Guess it is good that machine guns aren't legal.
Xoxarle (Tampa)
Every comment I’ve read on this thread from those living outside the USA expresses gratitude for not having a gun culture and sympathy or horror for Americans. What does that tell you about the “right” to bear arms? Isn’t a good right one recognized as such universally? What should we conclude about a right that is viewed with alarm almost everywhere on the planet?
Producer (Major City)
@Xoxarle You read comments like that from Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, the Middle East, Africa? How about France - with the nightclub shooting that killed 139? Who are you trying to kid?
Larry Bennett (Cooperstown NY)
I am not worried about a zombie apocalypse or an armed insurrection in America. I'm not a doomer or a prepper. Anyone using these kind of "ideas" as excuses to arm themselves need to understand the shakiness of their own psychological makeup and seek help. I live on a farm and own three long guns, which I use highly infrequently to reduce our woodchuck population. However, I do not fear a woodchuck apocalypse, nor an apocalypse of any sort.
Bert Floryanzia (Sanford, NC)
We live in a world where every nation-state is armed, and for good reasons. Human nature being what it is, why should the individual not also be armed? Go home and think.
Xoxarle (Tampa)
Because countries that allow citizens to bear arms suffer disproportionately more gun violence and death. Because countries with strict gun control look to the USA and see validation for their approach.
Producer (Major City)
@Xoxarle In the UK - they use knives - incredible number of stabbings - they were proposing a ban on pointed devices. No civilized society needs them.
Xoxarle (Tampa)
Yeah when guns aren’t available the violent turn to other weapons. Would you rather face someone armed with a gun or a knife? Please explain how the Vegas shooter would have been able to kill 50 from a great distance using knives. Then you can post a comparison of gun deaths in the USA vs knife realty rates in countries with strict gun control.
The Owl (Massachusetts)
What strikes me with Ms. Miles comment is the shallowness of her previous assumptions about gun ownership and the Second Amendment. I also find as I speak with others regarding the legality of firearms is that Ms. Miles' shallowness of thought is mirrored across the wide spectrum of the anti-gun crowd. Will the liberal/progressive reader of the NY Times and of this essay understand what Ms. Miles is trying to say? Unlikely...Very, very unlikely.
VirginiaDude (Culpepper, Virginia)
Funny how this debate continues on and on and on. In the end, no matter what federal regulations the intolerant antigun faction gets enacted, we will have gun sanctuary states and Americans who refuse to have their rights taken away from them. I believe the liberal mantra that illegal aliens shouldn't have to comply with US immigration laws gives us the example to follow. The intolerance and bigotry of the antigunners stuns me, and I plan on being one of those individuals who will refuse to comply. Given there are 380 millon guns in US hands, I know I won't be alone.
Io (Georgia)
“Ask yourself this. It’s a zombie apocalypse." This and other opinions in this poorly constructed essay reflect pre-enlightenment thinking. We have mounds of data and evidence but none of that is considered - we hear stories about hypothetical ideas that are rooted in the individual's own biases and fears. You can mine the past for ideas but guessing that Hayden would have joined the NRA is beyond foolish, it's stupid. Sorry but 2019 I'm tired of pretending.
Producer (Major City)
@Io So keep pretending... The term "zombie" is used because in today's politically-correct environment - you can't refer to a bad guy with criminal intent as anything else - even through the "mounds of data" do identify them. The person was speaking in code words that the gun owners understand - but you don't.
Liz Walker (Boston, MA)
Gun violence already disproportionately affects black communities and black males. We are already killing ourselves more successfully than the attacks of any enemy, real or perceived. I'm wondering how this movement to arm ourselves and our homes will affect that problem. Just saying....
Producer (Major City)
@Liz Walker In Chicago - the gun violence is 80% black-on-black. Doesn't appear that black gun owners want to protect themselves from whites. Just saying...
Diane Thompson (Seal Beach, CA)
Guns don't make violent people safer: they only make people more violent and provoke dangerous thinking and a false sense of security. Plus collateral damage when used indiscriminately. Please America, come to your senses... don't give in to hype, be you black, white or brown. Guns are not the answer.
SCH (Friendswood)
An armed society is a polite society.
Xoxarle (Tampa)
The USA is an armed society and it has near war zone levels of civilian death and maiming. Almost all of it related to gun violence. Japan is an unarmed society and it suffers the lowest rates of gun death and injury on the planet. As few as 10 or 20 dead per year in a country of many millions.
Producer (Major City)
@Xoxarle "Japan is an unarmed society and it suffers the lowest rates of gun death and injury on the planet." Japan (no guns) has the highest suicide rates in the world - which they try to disguise. We (the US) do the same thing with alcohol and cars - alcohol motor-vehicle death stats are about the same for firearms fatalities. And some want to lower the drinking age back down to 18 - not only was it a disaster last time, recently New Zealand tried that - it was also disaster.
George (Salt Lake City)
Check your facts. This is not correct. You’re most likely mixing up suicide rate with societal attitude towards suicide per se. Additionally, the (faulty) factoid you provide has no influence on the argument against guns. Apples and oranges.
Sean O'Brien (Sacramento)
There are more than 300 million reasons why the 2nd Amendment is a total anachronism and should be abolished. Have we forgotten Dr. King. Thanks for the history lesson, but this is nonsense.
Joseph (Wellfleet)
Gun "sickness" is clearly color blind.
James Northrup (Dallas)
Absolutely, blacks should own as many guns as they can afford and use them whenever they feel threatened- excellent conclusion. Rack back that slide brother and empty that clip. This article will surely maximize the life expectancy of many deserving people.
Mark (Hartford)
Being able to defend yourself is a fundamental liberal notion. It becomes anti-liberal, even feudal, when you start believing the elected government is evil and guns are a for an anti-democracy, fascist, might-makes-right revolution. Racism loves guns because it fears blacks that vote. So let's be glad for the right to self defense but also recognize that a machine gun will be not do a better job against a break-in than a double barrel shotgun and there isn't any realistic self-defense circumstance where a 50mm sniper rifle is needed.
raphael colb (exeter, nh)
Non-violence may work when your oppressor is susceptible to moral suasion (e.g., MLK. ). It is delusional, however, to imagine it a magical deterrent to yesterday's slave catchers and Brownshirts, or today's white supremacists (see Pittsburgh). In our present American reality, if endangered minorities abjure firearms, they make themselves defenseless against attack. Guns have no romance for me, but I keep one at home. Like inoculation, it's dreary, but it beats the alternative.
Mike Bonnell (Montreal, Canada)
1) You may think guns are the solution. You're entitled to your opinion. But, to accept or endorse the NRA because of this, is ridiculous...particularly if you are a person of color. To me that would be like saying that an African American should join the KKK 'cause they have good neighbourhood watch. Even the most rudimentary of research will help you realize that the NRA was founded with the specific purpose to arm white citizens so that they could "protect" themselves from recently freed slaves. Also known as intimidate/attack/hurt freed slaves. Since then the NRA has consistently SUPPORTED gun legislation that was aimed at curtailing the ability of black Americans from owning specific types of guns. Why a black person would want any association with, or acceptance of, the NRA - a racist outfit from its founding - is beyond me. 2) US law enforcement is so racist, that encouraging African American's to carry guns is an invitation for more deaths and "justified" police shootings. For Pete's sake; black children can't even play with toy guns in the US without getting shot and killed by your police forces. 3) If you live by the gun, you die by the gun. Is that really what you want in a society? Travel a bit. Go to England. France. Canada. We all live very peacefully and safely without guns. Why do you seek to live in fear and in death when you can aspire to live in peace? You CAN do better - but you seek not to.
Producer (Major City)
@Mike Bonnell "Even the most rudimentary of research.." Sorry - says otherwise - as do other references - it was founded in New York to promote marksmanship and the first range was on Long Island. " black children can't even play with toy guns in the US .." - parents these days - (all colors) generally don't let their kids play with guns - at all. And those "toys" are often "imitation" guns which are very difficult to tell from the real thing - and pointing one of them at a police office who tells you to "drop the gun" - even if you are an adult - will have a bad outcome - in Massachusetts - if you commit a crime with an "imitation" gun - the penalties are the same as with the real thing. "Go to England. France. Canada" - England- get stabbed, France - nightclub shooting of 139 people, Canada? -periodic mass shootings - even with the antiseptic gun laws (no handguns). Who are you trying to kind?
Jay (Florida)
"I am still suspicious of the N.R.A., and I would not abide having a gun inside my dwelling or my children’s schools." The truth and the reality is that if your home was invaded, or your car hijacked, or Neo-Nazis marched in your neighborhood, and that is a reality, you would be the first to call for men and women with guns. You would expect well armed police to defend and protect you. At that point would you still be "suspicious"? Or would you be grateful? And consider this too please; In rural and isolated areas where it would take 30 minutes or an hour or more for police to respond who would you rely upon to save and protect you? Neo-Nazis can now march and chant with impunity. White racists/supremacists no longer hide in the shadows. There are real, actual, virulent anti-black, anti-Semitic, anti-gay and lesbian groups that openly profess their penchant for violence. Our schools are invaded by violent sociopaths. So are churches and synagogues and government buildings. Love is not going to stop an armed man or woman bent on destruction. This is indeed 2019 and not 1820. But racism and violence are alive and well. The bad guys have armed themselves with both legal and illegal firearms. Our laws prohibiting and restricting gun sales have not protected us. They have greatly failed and continue to fail. Why do you fail to understand that you are the sole person ultimately responsible for your own safety? Why do you want any laws that prevent self-defense?
Michael (London UK)
Mass civilian gun ownership is crazy full stop.
Xoxarle (Tampa)
Do you really think Brits envy Americans for their gun culture? Britain suffered one mass school shooting and banned handguns. There has been no repeat. How did doing nothing after Sandy Hook work out for Americans?
Mark Miller (WI)
Good article and good reflections. I've own a gun since I was 10 and hunted most of my life. I learned about safety from my father and grandfather, each in a world war and one a consummate hunter. But public gun ownership generally lacks training; if you can afford a gun and ammo, you're in. Even young hunters must get more training than that. And before we let officers on the streets or military in the field, they get lots of training, including safety. If the rest of us feel we need a gun, we should be have to pass significant training, and there should be an easy process for taking a license away from someone who acts unsafely. "A good guy with a gun" seems less common than a macho idiot with a gun who wants to threaten people or fantasizes being a hero someday. Part of safety is storage; locked up or trigger locks. When Mom leaves guns around that her son can use to shoot up Sandyhook, Mom should be responsible too. Proof of safe storage should be part of the right to own/carry. There are guns we need and guns we don't need. Nobody needs assault rifles or large capacity clips to defend themselves, to hunt or to target practice. It takes 50 people killed and 500 wounded in one evening to get some people to even reconsider bump stocks. I'll never join NRA as long as a) they advocate for guns for nearly everyone, and b) they're run by the gun & ammo companies whose just want more and more sales. I hope NAAGA and BGM are doing better than that.
tom (boston)
No mention of Robert Williams' 1962 book "Negroes with Guns"?
Aristotle Gluteus Maximus (Louisiana)
Massachusetts was one of the first states to declare in its state constitution the right for the people to keep and bear arms, its bill of rights drafted by John Adams, who never owned slaves. Americans have the second amendment so that we don't have the massive purges of people the likes of which happened during China's Cultural Revolution where unknown numbers of people were killed by young revolutionaries zealously intent on ridding the country of those who weren't loyal enough to Mao's ideals. Private citizens have guns because even the police are not free from corruption like in Bogalusa, LA where the KKK owned the police department and the city attorney's office. Today we have liberal righteous fighters like Antifa who attack people on the streets for wearing a red hat or are suspected of being conservative. Liberals pay lip service to respecting the second amendment but what they really want to do is confiscate legally owned guns. They have said so right here in the NYT. That is why they insist on "universal background checks" which would require a system of nationwide gun registration to function. We already have background checks, if you didn't know that. The author is no doubt familiar with the book written by Fordham University professor Nicholas Johnson entitled "Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms", published in 2014.
Lynn in DC (um, DC)
Condoleeza Rice said that her father and the other men in her 1960s Birmingham, Alabama neighborhood mounted a defense against the KKK by firing their rifles in the air as a warning to stay away. Guns didn't always succeed as a deterrent during Jim Crow but imagine if they had not been armed in this case. During the Kentucky shooting a few months back, an armed man in the Kroger parking lot prevented Gregory Bush from killing his wife. I am sorry the two victims could not have been saved but the presence of a firearm certainly ended the victim count.
Observer of the Zeitgeist (Middle America)
Considering the amount of gun violence in cities like Chicago and Baltimore, perpetrated by non-white and non Asian criminals, the more trained and licensed firearm owners in those areas, the better. The life they save may be yours. Or more likely, their own.
Xoxarle (Tampa)
Illinois as a state suffers statistically less gun violence than states with fewer gun laws. Almost all the states in the top 20 for gun violence are red states.
JW (New York)
I want to live in an America that values its black citizens for all they have done, for all their accomplishments and contributions. An America in which the unique African ancestry and values that has become part of who we are is not feared or hated but loved and celebrated. But until that time, I understand black fear and the need, whether imagined, exaggerated or real, for black people to be vigilant when it comes to white supremacist and other bigots and racists. I do not, however, see the need to support the NRA and its all holds barred approach to gun legislation and clear racist agenda. Nobody is taking about taking away people's right to own guns, we are merely keeping an eye on what kind of weapons are going to what kind of people. Not to stop gun ownership but to be aware so that we too can protect ourselves from a potential threat. After all, that is the theme, isn't it?
Chelsea (Hillsborough, NC)
Just another article demonstrating what a dangerous crazy country this . Do you think having a gun is going to protect you from the police? Nonsense . If this wasn't so scary it would be sad. Every morning I read how many people where shot that day before in the Triangle NC. There are daily murders often mutilple in Durham NC . Add that to all the family members shooting each other including little kids. . Look at the data , Black Americans are killing Black Americans in large numbers doing the racist a favor. As a women who hikes alone I have a small pistol which just makes me stupidly feel safe. Actually I think my bear spray is more effective in that situation. I sure wish I could leave this nightmare country.
D. Michael Hill (Vermont)
Black, white, blue, green, yellow or purple, blood is the same color for us all. So, when you write a piece that makes guns seem like a kinda cool thing and explore a hidden culture of more people with guns you are just adding to the problem. Skin color doesn’t matter to anyone who’s life has been shattered by gun violence. The “ball don’t lie” when it comes to gun ownership. More guns=more dead people. If you believe the NRA is about anything other than money you need to wake up. Your freedom is not protected by a piece of cold mindless steel. Use your voice, your energy and your vote to create the freedoms you believe guns provide. Whoops gotta run, someone else just lost their child to the freedom protecting tool their child found in the nightstand.
HSBDecatur (Decatur Ga)
I hate the idea of "race war!" I'm white, and feel like I would prefer to be on the side of African Americans. But would they want me?
Michael Scala (Nashville, TN)
Heller showed that the essential right in the Second Amendment is that of self defense. McDonald showed that the 14th Amendment of due process to all applies to the states. Dred Scott showed that gun control is essentially racist at its heart.
Xoxarle (Tampa)
If gun control is racist, why are substantially fewer minorities shot dead in countries with strict gun control?
This article was definitely interesting.
Nuri Heckler (Denver, CO)
I wonder why the author determined to leave out the history of the Black Panther party, and their relationship to armed self-defense? It seems like a glaring omission.
Gunby (Grass Valley, Ca)
Zombie Apocalypse? The invocation of a lawless future where one must “protect” one’s family and home from intruders seems to be the go-to justification for owning and practicing with guns. All the photos are handguns and assault rifles. So the coming firefight is going to be spectacular for these gun owners. A blaze of glory. Reality does not square with these intricate fantasies. Reality is mundane. The black folks just get shot, or convicted. I doubt black gun ownership, nor NRA membership is going to change anything on the streets, nor in our courts. Only law enforcement accountability will give black people justice in our country.
Steve Clark (Tennessee)
I truly wish that every person of color would go legally buy and register all the guns they can afford to buy. I wouldn't blame them at all! I promise if they did it all legal and such and then walked in the streets carrying like white folk suddenly the conversation would turn on gun control. I wonder if it would bother anyone if they took over a federal building for a month or so...heros?
Brian Brennan (philly)
If yoi want gun reform passed, have a large Black peaceful open carry march like the one in California when Reagan was Governor. You will have white people pass substantial reform so fast it will make your head spin.
C (Colorado)
I really hope the black community wakes up and starts embracing private property ownership, gun ownership, business ownership, etc. Would be great for the country. As a conservative, I really hope to see conservative ranks bolstered by the black vote.
NYCgg (New York, NY)
Black, white or purple, our country would be better off without guns and the violence they inflict. I would never let a few losers trolling the internet or a dying breed of racist fools convince me otherwise. All this hysteria in the media is distracting us from moving forward, which MOST of us Americans who work and live side by side peacefully are doing. And without the use of guns. That’s the direction we need to be moving and without the fear that we need a gun to protect us from the fearful neighbors who went and got a gun whether it’s their “right or not.
philair (Daytona Beach, FL)
Many years ago, I was given some words of wisdom by a man whose family survived the holocaust and death camps in Germany. He shared that the greatness of the United States was the middle class, and as long as the poor could dream and move up to a better life, our country would prosper. But if the white leaders evolved into a closed Christian ruling wealthy class, the middle class would gradually disappear and the economic disparity would grow. The non-whites would continue to be suppressed, and if they and the fragments of the middle class would become armed, the beginnings of a new revolution would stir. I’m amazed at that vision, for we worry today about the trashing of our constitution, the vanishing middle class, the resurgence of anti-semitism and white nationalists. Arming yourself is a regretful necessity, but the best weapon is to VOTE.
Joe Runciter (Santa Fe, NM)
The more guns, the more deaths.
Joe (Raleigh, NC)
Most African-Americans whom I know, would prefer to have fewer guns in their neighborhoods. Of course, they don't get to live in the kind of neighborhood that Harvard professor Miles probably lives in.
Old Cav Trooper (Earth)
I support minority gun ownership but only insofar as it scares white gun owners into rethinking their desire for a gun saturated society.
bobdc6 (FL)
“If there is some kind of race war — or whatever it might be — we’re definitely outnumbered when it comes to firearms and bullets.” So true Ms. Ross, so arm yourselves if you must, but get black people out to vote. Your real enemy is those in political power that keep you away from the polls and gerrymander your vote away.
William Doolittle (Stroudsbrg Pa)
No one needs self protection in our country more than Black people, but armed Black people are more likely to be wrongly shot by police than anyone else.
Micoz (North Myrtle Beach, SC)
Whatever your politics, there can be little doubt in American history that those who are unarmed are more easily subjugated, enslaved, lynched and generally mistreated than those who can defend themselves against tyranny. THAT is the reason that we have the Second Amendment as a basic RIGHT. The states which demanded it in the Bill of Rights knew the fundamental oppression in late colonial times where British troops marched to Lexington and Concord. Why? To confiscate the guns of the colonists. Never again, they swore. Never again. Blacks in chains knew the same subjugation in slavery times and after, when Democrats founded the KKK and promulgated Jim Crow. Only those, ignorant of American history--blacks and whites--would abrogate the Second Amendment, especially in dangerous times. The right to bear arms marches through history in America and around the world, with the right to be free. It really would be highly beneficial if schools in the northeast would teach this real history, instead of liberal propaganda.
Dougal E (Texas)
Most of the homicidal violence directed at black people these days is by other black people, i.e. criminals. If for no other reason they should be arming to protect themselves against that. It's also true that blacks kill more whites than whites kill blacks. According to the 2013 FBI Crime Report, that year the number of blacks killed by whites was at approximately 0.77 per 1,000,000 blacks, while the number of whites killed by blacks was at 9.83 per 1,000,000 whites. But yes, I support responsible, trained black people arming themselves for purposes of self-defense as per the 2nd amendment.
Jimd (Planet Earth)
I am happy to see the picture of the women holding a AR style semi-automatic rifle, I happen to have the same shirt Black Guns Matter. I only wear it at home, I don't want to cause a problem or get sucker punched by some self righteous liberal. I can see why some people would take an issue with it but now since a back person wears it in public I will wear by Black Guns Matter T-shirt in public.
David F (NYC)
You're quite right to still be suspicious of the NRA. It's because of their propaganda you'd be surprised to find liberals, and even progressives, own and use guns. It's also because of their propaganda that people think common sense gun laws are an assault on the 2nd amendment. The folks you sat and had tea with are, apparently, among the approximately 0.085% of American gun owners who agree with the NRA-ILA's stance on this. (Do the math; NRA claims between 4-5 million members, internal polling consistently shows about 70% of them do not agree with the ILA's stances; there are about 80 million gun owners in America.) The fear, of course, is part of the NRA's mission to sow, and, given their overt racial hatred, I'm surprised any Black person would sign up (let alone be on their board). But people do strange things. I know this because I was a member well into the Obama presidency. The mail I received was so disgustingly racist I could no longer associate myself with them. It is not the organization I originally joined as a teenager. I now support the Giffords organization.
McGloin (Brooklyn)
I don't have time to be anti-gun. There are far more important issues facing the country. I understand why some black people would want guns. There are actual racist terrorists in this country that kill minorities to instill fear meant to keep them from asserting themselves economically and politically. Anyone that doesn't clearly see that there are white supremacist terrorists in the USA who commit actual violence on a regular basis, and that many police departments don't only turn a blind eye to it, and that some of them are actual police, is either lying to themselves or others. There is video of half of the Charlottesville police force watching heavily armed neo-nazis beating a black man with pipes in the parking lot across the street from the police station, doing nothing. Ohio is an open carry state, with whites regularly walking around with assault rifles, but a 12 year old black child with a toy gun was shot down by the police with no warning. However, a gun is not a defensive weapon. If someone is pointing a gun at you, the gun in your pocket is nearly useless. (Learn to use your hands.) More importantly, the same white people and police who think white people should walk around with guns, think black men with guns should be shot on sight. We have recently seen good guys with guns shot down by police, even when white. A good guy with a gun who is black is in serious danger. We need to attack white supremacist terror with words and love and left economics.
kenneth (new york)
Look at the photos in this article - the people have that "NRA sneer"!! This is something that white people do very well in gun magazines, the message is "I'm packing power"! I was hoping that society in general could get rid of. Is this something that black people really want to copy and imitate?
Gunby (Grass Valley, Ca)
The NRA sticker is too small. In fact, just putting the sticker on your house is not enough. I suggest these good people interested in defending themselves put huge NRA stickers on everything they own, but especially their clothing. Hats, jackets, shoes, cell phone cases....everything. Make sure there are huge, gaudy NRA snickers all over their cars, or just get the full NRA paint job, with lots of big visible NRA logos everywhere. Schools, daycare centers, gyms, should get lots of stickers too. Because as soon as law enforcement sees a black 2nd Amendment Patriot with a gun, that black person becomes a perpetrator to be neutralized because the officers feared for their life. Maybe the sticker crusade could actually save someone’s life.
Lane (Riverbank ca)
Once in my youth I was given the the task of getting a dangerous bull out of our pasture. Entering the field the animal was aggressive and me fearful. Went back and retrieved the 12 ga.pump shotgun and reentered the field without fear, the animal saw this and retreated. My body language changed. The same can be said for the weak or elderly in high crime areas. Criminal types prey on the fearful. Having effective defence changes your body language and just that will detour aggression in many cases. That right to defend ones self against real or perceived threats belongs to every US citizen regardless of background. This white Trump voter supports these folks 100%.
Xoxarle (Tampa)
Owning a gun correlated to a 6 times higher likelihood of self harm, according to multiple controlled independent studies. The risk of having to confront an armed stranger is hugely outweighed by the risk of using the gun on yourself or a family member in rage, impairment, accident or confusion. Or them or a stranger using your gun on you.
Chuck in the Adirondacks (Ray Brook)
A much needed article. I have a hard time seeing how somebody can be both an anti-racist and at the same time even raise an eyebrow at the concept of black people arming themselves. Black Americans have been on the wrong end of the gun since their enslavement in this hemisphere. To take away their right to armed self-defense is to render them powerless. Why isn't that just transparently obvious upon the most casual first glance? For a useful exploration of this idea, put "Negroes with Guns" into your search engine, and you will see a number of movies, video-clips and books stemming from Robert Williams' 1962 book of the same title. I urge people interested in this issue to view and read this material.
Calvin (NJ)
I am amazed the rationale of ‘if society topples’ for gun ownership is some sort of revelation to Tiya. Certainly different definitions of society and what ‘toppling’means but that is the core of most gun owners argument. The pictures and subsequent glorification of gun owners in this article and published by The NY Times is disgusting. I cannot imagine a purpose those pictures serve.
Fritz Lauenstein (Dennis Port, Mass.)
Black or white, straight or's still the same old trope; that you're safer owning a gun than not. Your liberal instincts should serve you better. Do your homework. Statistics don't lie. You may choose to focus on one person who successfully defends himself or his home, or choose to see the entire picture. We are awash in handguns, and their presence in American homes is slaughtering kids, veterans, and those suffering from depression. Own a gun and your many more times likely to die, or be maimed. That it's more likely to occur because you're black just makes the idea worse. Stop spreading NRA propaganda.
Angela R. Dean (Elkins Park, PA)
I’m an African American woman and attorney. I was held up at gun point by a 16 year old kid who was high on drugs, took my purse and started going through my jean pants pocket looking for more money. I shudder to think what he would have tried if people hadn’t showed up. I remember feeling powerless and preparing to fight and die if he tries to rape me. Until you have stared down the barrel of a criminal’s gun don’t judge. Yes there is good in the world. But if evil shows up at your door or in your face, be ready to defend yourself.
Ms. Pea (Seattle)
@Angela R. Dean--I often wonder how someone in your situation supposes a gun would help. Unless you are carrying the gun in your hand as you walk down the street, how would a gun have protected you? The kid already had his gun in your face. What chance would a victim have to pull his/her gun out from a pocket, holster, handbag? If you had had a gun, the kid would have taken it. I don't see how having a gun would have made your frightening situation any less frightening, or altered the outcome.
Dan (Morris County, NJ)
@Ms. Pea "If you had had a gun, the kid would have taken it." Taken it? If he saw her reaching for it, more likely he would have shot her before she got the chance to point it at him. But that's just one example. Certainly, having a gun in the home can protect against potential intruders (provided one brandishes the gun and makes it known he or she has it before the intruder makes it in with his or her gun).
Sarah (LA)
@Angela R. Dean I was in a similar situation. Held up by gun point by a young kid who wanted my pocketbook. It happened so fast that if I had a gun, I wouldn't have been able to respond in time. And as angry as I was afterwards, I never wanted to go out and buy a gun in fact I wanted the opposite. I wanted less guns out there in circulation. Less guns getting into the wrong hands.
David (California)
As a black person who is too very liberal, I myself don't see anything positive in gun ownership, nothing. I suppose if one was a celebrity or in a line of work where the type of trouble one would need a gun for was forthcoming on an all too regular basis, sure, but in little else would I deem it necessary or positive to curing this country of its rabid fixation on guns. The more guns there are on the street, the more senseless killings of blacks. Blacks in particular should be leery of gun ownership if for no other reason, we get shoot to death without guns now. The only positive to blacks owning guns would be to make it easier for trigger happy whites (including cops) shooting blacks to say, "he had a gun", and be correct.
Porky Pine (Fort Mudge)
Another liberal gun owner here. The 2nd Amendment is color-blind and does not protect the liberties of conservatives only. Nor does it require fealty to the NRA.
Xoxarle (Tampa)
2nd Amendment has killed more people than perhaps any other single document in history. Over a million Americans shot dead in peacetime by armed fellow citizens. More deaths than those serving in the military in all wars fought since the nations founding. And the carnage is increasing. Gun deaths are spiking upwards, as the flow of weaponry increases in civilian hands.
Tsk (Tsk)
This should not be surprising at all. While the author is incorrect about the rise in hate crimes (more entities are reporting in 2017 than did in 2016, thereby appearing to be an increase), she should not be surprised that guns are used for self-defense... by anyone. That's what they are for. ...Based in local churches, the Deacons for Defense and Justice set up armed patrol car systems in cities such as Bogalusa and Jonesboro, Louisiana, and completely succeeded in deterring Klan and other attacks on civil rights workers and black residents. Sixty chapters of the Deacons were formed throughout the South. Of the more than 100 civil rights workers martyred in the 1960s, almost none were armed. … Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.. her father used guns to protect himself from the Ku Klux Klan in the ‘60s. “I was a little girl growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, in the late fifties, early sixties,. “There was no way that Bull Connor and the Birmingham Police were going to protect you.” ...“so when White Knight Riders would come through our neighborhood, my father and his friends would take their guns and they’d go to the head of the neighborhood, it’s a little cul-de-sac and they would fire in the air, if anybody came through. “I don’t think they actually ever hit anybody, but they protected the neighborhood. And I’m sure if Bull Connor had known where those guns were he would have rounded them up. And so, I don’t favor some things like gun registration.”
Deborah (Ithaca, NY)
I wrote a book studying the divisiveness gun politics of the 1990s, and in the process interviewd a number of women, some who hunted deer or turkey or owned guns for self-defense, while others had been shot or had their sons wounded by bullets. In the process, I ready lots of Congressional testimonies and fund-raising speeches by Wayne LaPierre and his lieutenant, the ferocious. Tanya Metaksa. It was LaPierre who coined the phrase “jack-booted government thugs” to describe BATF agents and, by extension, all agents of the federal government whom sought to limit citizens’ access enormous semi-automatic weapons and unrecorded sales of guns to all comers at gun shows. At one point, I was paging through an NRA magazine and saw an ad picturing an armed white homeowner, backed by his terrified family, kneeling bravely, pointing a gun at the front window where a black intruder was pictured, trying to jimmy the lock. THIS is always the underlying racist, macho fantasy that empowers and guides the NRA. You want a gun? Go right ahead. You have the right to buy one. But please appreciate the simple fact that this weapon is more likely to harm children, friends, and family members than to scare off an intruder ... or Armageddon. And remember that the overwhelming majority (by percentage) of gunshot victims in the US are young black men between the ages of 18 and 30.
RER (Mission Viejo Ca)
The best way to get Conservatives to support sensible gun restrictions is for African Americans to arm themselves.
Matthew (Nevada City CA)
Yes. California only passed restrictive gun laws when the Black Panthers realized it was perfectly legal to carry guns everywhere they went. They made a show of force, and California passed restrictive tune laws.
Paul (NC)
Dear Professor: thank you for the article. I wish you had learned personally the lesson that you are telling others. Go to a gun range and at least take a lesson for yourself. Maybe you will lose your fear, whatever it is, and find you like the sport. Yes, it is also a sport, one of the few that also allows you to participate in your own self defense. You will find white gun owners in most of the country are not Klansmen. You are welcome to join us any time you are ready.
Greenie (Vermont)
Your approach toward guns and self-defense has also been widely shared by Jewish Americans. It’s interesting as both blacks and Jews have been and continue to be targeted by racist or anti-Semitic attacks. I think that you have to find a way to separate yourself in your own mind from the reprehensible use of illegal guns in black on black killings such as in Chicago, Baltimore and places like that. What you are considering is being a responsible thoughtful gun owner who would only use one to defend their homes, family or community from those that would do them harm. I don’t see that as negative and in fact responsible and deserving of praise. It’s great to want us to all just gather together and sing kumbaya and all of that, and maybe someday we will get there but this is not so at present. So wearing rose colored glasses in an attempt to wish it so won’t keep your loved ones safe. And obviously, if you do choose gun ownership, learn gun safety, practice often and keep guns and ammo securely locked up if you’re not using/wearing them.
lester ostroy (Redondo Beach, CA)
A Harvard professor who is against the NRA view that gun ownership rights should have no restrictions changes her mind when she finds out that there are black people who agree with the NRA. That’s mind boggling.
Martin (New York, NY)
I am always surprised that people who have been historically persecuted (black, women, jews and homosexuals) are the most ardent anti-gunners. They look to the government for protection instead of being self sufficient. How many times does the the government have to fail them for this mentality to change?
profwilliams (Montclair)
Oh, these pictures!!!! They make me so proud. From way back, guns have been the only thing Black folks had to protect us from the evils of some White folks (those Democrats!). Years ago I learned the history of guns and Black folks- that picture of Harriet Tubman stuck with me when I saw it as a kid. She had to gun for protection and to keep her Underground Railroad "passengers" in check. From that to Malcolm X, to The Deacons for Defense and Justice, to the Black Panthers, guns have been used as protection and a symbol to White folks that Black folks will not be intimidated and will fight back if needed. I'm not a gun owner. I voted for Clinton. But as a Black Professor and Lawyer in 2018 whose been pulled over and harassed by cops, I certainly understand those who believe that they must protect themselves rather than hope for the best when calling the cops.
PaulN (Columbus, Ohio, USA)
It’s one thing to own a gun, any kind of a gun, and it’s another thing to carry a gun. Anyone of the latter kind draws no sympathy from me when he gets killed.
bruce (usa)
The NRA fights to protect our inalienable right to defend our own lives. Just say thank you by joining the NRA, educating yourself and your kids in safe gun handling and join the rest of America who stand ready to serve in a well-regulated militia to defeat those who seek to fundamentally transform the USA and the Constitution.
Sven Gall (Phoenix, AZ)
Without guns we have no 1st Amendment. No one will ever take our guns away and no one will ever enter our homes with out paying a price. No discussion. Ever. May God bless the NRA and may God bless America. MAGA!
Xoxarle (Tampa)
Other countries with strict gun control have freedom of speech. Some have had it longer than the USA has existed. British people are free to buy books Americans can’t buy (see Bare Faced Messiah, a biography of L Ron Hubbard), are free to boycott Israel without legal sanction, a free speech right Americans don’t have, and are free to visit countries (Cuba) Americans can’t visit. Tell me again how your guns make you freer than everyone else.
Matthew (Nevada City CA)
First, I am a gun owner for hunting and home defense as I live in a sparsely populated area where law enforcement is not always readily available. So I’m fine with guns. I like guns. I grew up with them and am comfortable with them. But this trope of guns protecting us and our freedoms from an oppressive government is silly in this day and age. The disparity in firepower and training between an armed citizen, or group of armed citizens, and the military is so huge as to be insurmountable. In the 18th century, and armed citizen and a soldier were on near equal footing. No more. What truly protects the 1st, and all, amendments is a strong civil society, legal system and the military’s respect of civilian control. That and the faith of the populace in these institutions. And when things don’t go as planned and the government gets out of line, it’s the ACLU and other lawyers that set them straight, not a citizens militia.
Bob Jordan (Chevy Chase MD)
What I will never understand about gun owners is their obsessive desire to display their weapons. Look at every photo in this article as an example. Does your gun define you?
FFFF (Munich, Germany)
At the time European countries were occupied by nazi German forces, it was meaningful and appropriate to have guns and to use them against the occupiers. Today, it is not. In my view, the situation is the same in the USA. It does not make sense the refer to appropriate behaviors of gone times for justifying inappropriate behaviors of today.
Henry (Wisconsin)
As a Progressive, a Jew and an active and passionate competition pistol shooter, I cannot tell you how much of a minority I feel in the gun world. And that is why I find "Liberal = Anti-Gun" unfit for the task of addressing our current social realities. Who more than Liberals could better balance the need for access (hunting, sports, etc.) with education, training, safety, literacy and sensible gun control legislation? This was exactly the kind of thing the NRA was founded to provide until their cynical lurch to the right into a gun lobby PAC and largest American domestic terrorist organiztion. The NRA -- with its tiny membership -- has assumed a massively disproportionate bully pulpit wholly out of proportion to its actual representation of the will and beliefs of most American gun owners and in doing so have marginalized and isolated the many liberals, progressives, minorites, etc, who do enjoy shooting. We must admit that America will never be "gun-free" as they are too imbedded in both our historic self-identity and in many homes. "Anti-gun" is a chimera which needlessly divides and inflames its own political base, exactly as does the NRA with its "cold, dead fingers" hiccup. By reclaiming a collective ownership over the narrative of gun ownership, education, sensible legislation and access, we can and will eliminate the NRA and its cynical, destructive handlers.
Jake Cashill (Los Angeles)
“the ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box.” Genius. Great article. To Ms. Miles and others who, it seems, are prone to outgroup homogeneity-think : C'mon on in, the water's fine.
Gareth Sparham (California)
People all looked like and sounded like gun owners to me.
Tara (MI)
NRA leadership is a Trump lobby group. In 2016, it was dog-whistling its membership to use gun violence to further their agendas. Basic error of this article is that it poses a syllogism, a defective reasoning. It suggests that because the NRA argues for 'rights' it is an instrument for 'everybody's rights'. This is like saying that the cops under Bull Conners were a comfort to blacks because their mandate was to 'prevent violations of law and order' -- of which the blacks were undeniably victims. Or, that Jim Crow laws made black people 'comfortable', by steering them to shacks where they'd be 'more comfortable' among themselves.
Gdo (California)
Guns are awful, but if I were black, I'd definitely think about getting one. With the amount of violent threat from white people that black people live under every day, and whispers of race war from the radical right, it's not a crazy thought. The good news is that the last time we had meaningful gun control legislation was when Black Panthers started arming themselves.
dan (ny)
I wish they didn't love the NRA and pose with their guns like that. But I can't help being reminded of Christianity: i.e. it's not my thing, but the black people version seems more real and less toxic.
B. Honest (Puyallup WA)
As others have pointed out: These days it can be plain deadly to 'be holding a gun while Black'. A kid was killed within seconds of a cop showing up and opening his door, seeing this kid with what just happened to be a Toy Gun, but all the cop saw was a black person with a gun evident. In this Nation everyone has the right to own a firearm, this Should also mean to be able to visibly carry one, and even to have it in one's hands. Not to say one can be threatening with it, that is plain stupid for anyone. We saw at the White Supremacist rallies all kinds of White men with firearms evident, and even in one case drawing and firing a pistol. I put forth that had that been a Black Person there would have been a panicked, fatal response from the predominantly white cops. The police need to be much more cognizant of the fact that Yes, even Blacks, Hispanics etc have the same Second Amendment Rights as do White Folks, and that yes, people of all colors have the RIGHT to be able to hold their arms in public, ALL RACES, ALL PEOPLE, not just the white right wing folks who are actually more prone to use those weapons in violence, as their extremist groups at the same time push, and yet deny that they do. Holding a gun, for anyone, as long as it is not obviously being used in a threatening manner, is LEGAL and Constitutionally Protected. And yet we lose too many lives due to bigoted, armed individuals who wrongly feel they have the law, and culture, behind them and shoot on sight.
Steve (New York)
I have as much problem with an exclusively black gun club or organization as I do for a white only one. There is a passing reference to a future "race war" as a reason for black citizens arming themselves. It is one thing to form an organization that advocates for a minority group or celebrates a specific culture/heritage, but framing gun ownership along the lines of race that identifies all the members of a different race as potential enemies will only deepen our divisions and mistrust.
mary bardmess (camas wa)
I have tremendous respect for Tiya Miles and her sharp insight into contemporary culture through her historical perspective, so I have a question for her. Is the NRA really necessary, and if so, why? I've read this article more than twice to try to figure out how the NRA fits in with the many reasons people choose to arm themselves with a deadly force. We do not sort ourselves into pro-car and anti-car, although cars kill and a lot of people every year. We accept the DMV, registration, licensing, mandatory insurance because cars can be used to commit crimes and otherwise hurt people. We have allowed the NRA to equate anti-gun with pro-gun control so much that it is taken for granted. I know many gun owners who loathe the NRA and would not mind background checks and other sensible regulations aimed at improving public safety.
gunnygene (MS)
I hope she’s ready for what comes next. She’ll be treated like a heretic, and shunned by her Liberal friends. She’ll be trashed on social media, maybe fired or given a “window seat” by the University. She’ll have no choice but to continue her journey to the rational side of society, buy a gun and learn how to use it.
Mike B (Ridgewood, NJ)
Why do most of these photographs show the owners in a menacing pose or attitude. I could say that this gives gun owners and NRA folk a bad rap AND I can say it gives gun owners a bad rap and I should fear each and every one of them. For me it's the latter.
The Owl (Massachusetts)
@Mike B... Menacing? That is your construct of the photos...Perhaps you need to look into YOUR thinking a bit more carefully. Would you fell menaced if they were holding, say, a leg of lamb in the same way?
Xoxarle (Tampa)
Guns are menacing and threatening. Their purpose is to kill or maim efficiently, with minimal effort, up close or at a distance. Try taking one openly into a movie theater, mall, restaurant or school and see what reaction you get. Do people feel more safe around you or more unsafe?
B. (Brooklyn)
Agreed. Prefer my gun carriers to wear tweed caps and sports jackets and not sullen, morose scowls on their faces. No matter their color. Look at movie ads on buses, in subways, everywhere. Black or white, the so-called heroes look as though they've never in their lives read a book or played peek-a-boo with a baby. Just plain moronic viciousness. Not a good thing for a civil society.
Dave Alexander (Boston)
I have no issue with the owners of the historic home supporting the 2nd amendment right to bear arms. However, I do question their choice of supporting an organization that is responsible for the unrestricted and irresponsible proliferation of guns in this country that have resulted in the needless deaths of tens of thousands, not to mention pushing legislation such as stand your ground laws that have resulted in the deaths of many blacks and allowed their killers to avoid responsibility. I sincerely doubt that Lewis Hayden would have supported such an organization.
VirginiaDude (Culpepper, Virginia)
@Dave Alexander You mean the only organization out there that actually represents gun owners like myself, the NRA? Meanwhile you have deep pocketed, intolerant antigun groups like Mothers Against Gun Owners and other Bloomberg funded organizations. Thank God for the NRA, it is the only organization we gun owners have to fight the left's intolerance.
Anthony Cheeseboro (Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville)
As an American citizen of African descent, I claim all of the rights granted citizens by the US Constitution. That obviously includes the right to own firearms. I have no problem with regulating guns, including regulating the public carry of guns, but as long as guns are legal, I will own a gun.
Randall Brown (Minneapolis)
The 2A is not about hunting. Nicely done. Keep writing, keep researching.
Deirdre (New Jersey)
Lots of responsible people own guns and store/care for them properly. You don’t need to support the NRA to do any of this. The NRA is a terrorist organization that accepts foreign money and uses it to fuel fear in the US and encourage citizens to buy more and more ammunition and guns. No one needs an AR15 or an Arsenal. Most Americans support reasonable gun control legislation but the NRA does not. Seeing the sign of the NRA is the same as the maga hat for me. It’s just wearing their hate and intolerance for all to see.
VirginiaDude (Culpepper, Virginia)
@Deirdre Apparently you're the one with hate and intolerance for all to see. I am both an NRA member, a Trump supporter, an AR-15 owner, and have several other firearms as well--what the uninformed would call an "arsenal" out of ignorance. Reasonable gun control legislation does not exist in places like NJ and NY. It is in fact onerous and unconstitutional. Plus, we gun owners have learned to not compromise with intolerant anti-gunners since they never stop. This week its "universal background checks" followed by magazine laws followed by something else, until you have NY City laws where there are no gun rights. That is the true intolerance you speak of.
John (Irvine CA)
Although Putin may value Trump as his best American asset, The N.R.A. can't be that far behind. The organization's messaging helps split the country and instills fear that the "others" are coming to kill you, or worse yet, take away your guns. Between his two American assets, the N.R.A. may be more effective in the long run.
Murph (Murph)
When your arguments descend into zombie apocalypse scenarios, doomsday prepper guides, and the necessities of escaped slaves 150+ years ago, you are making terrible arguments. I've always appreciated the role of armed resistance in black history, from West Indian slave rebellions to stands against lynching parties to the militancy of the Black Power movement. But role-playing as survivalists and race warriors is kooky. There's a lot of safe, responsible black guns owners who keep weapons for self-defense. But they don't donate to the NRA, and they're barely included in this op-ed.
John Martinez (San Clemente, California)
I enjoyed reading your thoughtful article. However, by using the reasons Blacks needed guns to defend themselves against slaveowners to evaluate whether people should own guns today, I believe you are making a "category mistake," as in: "What color is the number seven?" See John Martinez, What Color is the Number Seven?--Category Mistake Analysis and the “Legislative/Non-Legislative” Distinction, (SSRN Accepted Paper Series)(2014); 29 BYU J. Public L. 1 (2014).
ted (Japan)
It seems a bit incongruous to fluff out the article with so much gun porn, especially given the following: "Mr. Toure is a member of the N.R.A., and he told me in a phone interview that there are many more black members who will speak of their involvement only in “hushed tones.”" If we are to take this at face value, the combination of subtlety among black gun supporters, and the reluctance on the part of the author to accept her own conversion to supporting guns, why such a collection of glorifying images? Why so many images anyway? Are they in any way necessary to tell this story. Historical pictures of the house really might have been enough. This only serves to remind me, a white guy, that the threat of armed black men has served to agitate white folk for eons. Most people are aware that gun control does not mean taking away everybody's guns, but it does include a motion to stop glorifying them.
css (red hook ny)
Join the NRA. Everyone has the right to carry a pistol and to own the rifle of their choice. The NRA has trained more civilians, law enforcement and military personnel in the proper and safe use of firearms than any organization. The NRA is made of American citizens and reflects the diversity of American. It's every American's job to insure the Bill of Rights gets handed down to the next generation. Tyranny will never again reign in America as long as it's citizens remain armed to the teeth. Join the NRA, purchase the rifle and pistol of your choice, many magazines and much ammunition. Join a local club, NYSRPA, urge all your friends and family to do the same. Shoot more and shoot more often.
Xoxarle (Tampa)
Other countries with strict gun control are free of tyranny. Indeed, many rank higher on international indices of freedom than the USA. The difference is vastly fewer citizens get shot dead or maimed by guns. Tyrannical governments have been toppled in Eastern Europe and Northern Africa in the 90s and more recently by unarmed citizen uprisings, and countries with citizen gun ownership (Iraq) have been invaded and occupied by foreign armies despite such ownership. Guns don’t change the equation either way.
Andrew (Washington DC)
@css Brought to you by the gun manufacturer's of America!
NG (Portland)
If this is about Fear–of civil society toppling, of a so-called race war, of no safety in schools or churches, of a zombie apocalypse (I'm quoting you) –then, no. I don't care how cool anyone looks in their gun photos, or that a gun comes in purple. I care about the bullet that exits the chamber and rips a person to shreds and ends their life. That person is oftentimes a dear one. That person is not the boogeyman coming from afar.
Cordelia28 (Astoria, OR)
I've refused every opportunity to even touch a gun. But after last October's shooting massacre at the Pittsburgh synagogue I found myself wishing I had a gun in case anyone ever came after me for being Jewish. It's a confounding slippery slope for defending ourselves, isn't it.
Sly4alan (Irvington NY)
You want a gun for home protection go ahead. Wait for the American catastrophe, climate or political, with the ability to ward off the 'Zombie Era'. Fill your cupboards with AK 47s, ammo, and dehydrated food. Pray your lil children can't get to 'em. Pretty dismal outlook but under our system your right. However, taking those guns into the streets, cars , schools careens us to tens of thousands of pointless deaths each year. If an epidemic hit our country with these outrageous, horrific numbers the cries to stop this scourge would be historic. Action to end this plague would be immediate. For me, uncontrolled guns in the streets is analogous to health institutions ignoring the polio plague of the 50s to run wild. This is not a black problem, white problem, conservative or liberal problem, but a sign a society is in denial of an epidemic.That NRA sticker is just a symbol of disease Want to carry weapons in the street? Join a well-regulated militia.
poppop (NYC)
Fun fact, the case that incorporated the Heller decision to the states, was brought by Otis McDonald, an African-American resident of Chicago.
D I Shaw (Maryland)
Just what we need! More guns in preparation for a race war! Can we possibly deal in facts rather than ideology? I live in Baltimore County, Maryland. I myself am well beyond the Beltway, and spend my days in the rolling countryside. Before someone tells me to check my privilege, I totally understand my good fortune in life to have been born into an upper-middle class WASP family. That advantage has echoed right through my now long and privileged existence. BUT, I have eyes and ears! Twenty minutes south of me is the City of Baltimore, which has a murder rate THREE TIMES that of Chicago, and is second only to St Louis! Nearly all of that is black people killing black people. Mayor Pugh (a black woman whom I admire) pleads for "cease-fires" amongst the gangs at the weekend! So, whose behavior needs to change if black lives actually matter? Probably not mine! What can I do differently day to day that will help? Abase myself in a virtue-seeking swamp of mea maxima culpa? What will that accomplish? Is there something I can share from my modestly successful life that will help, but will I be shouted down if I try? Called a racist? Or, when I read an article like this, do I stay silent and reinforce my own bunker? Heaven forfend, vote for Trump in secret? I will bet that is the private reaction of a lot of folks reading this. Can we please not racialize every problem? I am not wise enough to know what we should do about guns or race, but this is not that!
JD (San Francisco)
To the folks who write that they fear of their fellow citizens or fear for their children you are statistically speaking just afraid people. The odds of dying are: Suicide = 1 in 115 Accidental overdone or Poisoning = 1 in 139 Death from falls = 1 in 184 DEATH BY CAR ACCIDENT = 1 in 184 Death from narcotics or hallucinogens = 1 in 272 Death (Not suicide) by Firearm = 1 in 300 Your family member is twice as likely to die in a car accident as from a gun. Are people also proposing we ban cars? Science, Logic and Reason say we should if the issue is fear of death. The real issue is the fact that we live in a society where people fear. Some fear guns. Some fear people who have political and economic power and buy guns in response to that fear. I grew up at a time and place where high school kids had their rifles on the rack of their truck in the school parking lot and nobody cared. It is about people, society, and behavior. It is not about the object. Like the professor, I am very left wing on many topics. But the country boy in me supports the Second Amendment. Not for the reasons one thinks however. I think a country that feels that it can trust is citizens with that power (gun ownership) is a Great Republic. One that cannot trust its citizens with that power --- one has to ask why? There are sensible ways to help protect folks against the idiots who shoot things up, but that will not happen until there is consensus on the Second Amendment.
Djt (Norcal)
@JD Um, cars are used more hours per day then guns are. So you can’t compare the rates directly.
Xoxarle (Tampa)
Primary purpose of cars isn’t to kill. Every country in the world allows citizens to own and drive cars. Only 3 nations allow right to bear arms: USA, Mexico and Honduras. Every other nation places restrictions on gun ownership, and the countries with the strictest rules (eg Japan) have the fewest gun deaths.
AIR (Brooklyn)
With the exception of gang and police shootings, virtually all shootings are by a gun owner against an unarmed man (usually of a different race). That's what today's people train for; to shoot an unarmed felon. Preparing to die to defend against armed slave-catchers is a world away from today's reality.
rabrophy (Eckert, Colorado)
For an piece written by an historian this was very poorly researched. Read "Nearly 40,000 People Died From Guns in U.S. Last Year, Highest in 50 Years" published here in the Times on December 18, 2018. 2/3 of those deaths were suicides. I was a Marine in Vietnam, I have shot people and I have been shot and I think that people who need a weapon to feel safe are more in need of counseling than range time. Statistics ( history) have proven over and over again that a home with a weapon in it is much more dangerous for it's occupants than a home without one. Also,it is almost certain that the NRA funneled Russian money to elect our Racist in Chief, making the NRA as dangerous as the weapons it hawks.
Scott B. (Claremont, CA)
Zombie apocalypse aside, in daily life we know that when whites use guns to "protect" themselves, they can count on police and the justice system to indulge them in an expansive view of self-defense, especially when they shoot black people. African-Americans, on the other hand, know that the courts will view their mere possession of a firearm—or a cellphone, or a water gun—as a fair pretext for their murder. As long as this is true, African-Americans gain from any effort we can make to reduce the size of the "well-regulated militia" of George Zimmermans and Dylan Roofs.
Lake Monster (Lake Tahoe)
I'm not confused about my outlook on gun rights. I own a gas charged shotgun. Come around my home late at night at your peril. I'm a left-leaning Independent. Ban Semi-automatic AR type weapons. Ban them. Strictly regulate AR type ammo. Make gun ownership akin to operating a motor vehicle for gawdsake. Register it, insure it, require education to own it. No gun show sales, because, that's ridiculous. No internet gun or ammo sales. All of this full well knowing that the 2nd Amendment has been perverted and hijacked from it's original 'militia' intent. Perverted and hijacked. Any questions?
VirginiaDude (Culpepper, Virginia)
@Lake Monster NO questions. But Americans will never comply with such intolerant laws. And you need to look up the second amendment and the Madison papers. The amendment was never "hijacked" and nothing to do with a militia--but the rights of Americans to have arms.
GregP (27405)
@Lake Monster Is there some reason why a person intent on mass carnage couldn't use a shotgun rather effectively to do it? Especially in a crowded place like a bar or nightclub? You think mass killers need an AR to get a high kill count? Then you just show you do not understand guns, even that shotgun you own very well.
AppleOverEasy (New Orleans)
I'm surprised no one has mentioned tgis book on black gun ownership and the history of the Civil Rights movement.. "This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible" by Charles E. Cobb. Fascinating read.
Kayla (Washington, D.C.)
this is a fantastic article. I wish things weren't so dichotomized between the parties--it leaves so little room for nuance (like a person who is otherwise liberal but doesn't agree with a few key areas of the party's platform). Thank you for this, Tiya!
Andrew (Washington DC)
“Ask yourself this. It’s a zombie apocalypse“ ....when someone uses that as part of an actual argument about real life that’s a pretty good tip-off that we’re in fantasy land. The NRA and the gun manufacturers have us right where they want us, and that’s truly depressing
billinbaltimore (baltimore,md)
I could only wish for all those states with open carry of handguns hanging off the hip and AR-15s slung over the shoulder that black citizens would do the same in overwhelming numbers. Nothing like a group of young black men sauntering down the sidewalk in one of their towns to scare the living daylights out of NRA members. That being said, this writer is just using the black version of "My Second Amendment Rights" ideologues to bolster her opinion piece. The late Justice Scalia rewrote the Second Amendment. The framers wrote: "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." Scalia's version: "The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Ever wonder why the framers wrote it one way and an NRA supporter preferred his own version?
Dave Oedel (Macon, Georgia)
In a place like Macon Georgia, unlicensed guns are ubiquitous, and the homicide rate is high. Moreover, almost all 41 murdered here in 2018 were African Americans, though African Americans only make up about 53 percent of the population. The murderers using guns (guns were used in the vast majority of the murders) were uniformly unlicensed gunmen. In this environment, lawfully bearing arms is a very reasonable defensive strategy.
M (CA)
I get what you’re thinking. The NRA itself is an evil institution which advocates against any kind of restrictions, but as far as I can see, you’d be well within even the most restrictive gun laws. I don’t want to get rid of all guns, everywhere. You sound thoughtful to me, you’re not talking about buying more than one per month, you’d probably pass any kind of background check or training and meet storing guidelines, right? I am not cool with concealed carry everywhere, that’s true. I support temporary impoundment for the mentally ill and maybe permanent for anyone convicted of felony domestic abuse for good, but still. Outside of an outright ban, you should be fine, and you’re within your rights to have one. I want better regulation, not abolition. Outside of that, it’s a decision you’re entitled to make for yourself.
Djt (Norcal)
More guns don't make me feel safer because I rank my own interactions with guns in this order of probability: 1. Right wing militias hunt down Jews and/or liberals. 2. Mass shooter attacking a public place. 3. Accidental discharge from a gun enthusiast, 4. Robbery. 5. 6. 7. 8. Self defense. The first 3 I believe are 99.9% of the risk to me of gun ownership in the US; therefore I support decreasing the number of guns in circulation.
Independent (the South)
We are the only first world country where we have to have active shooter drills in schools for our children.
Xoxarle (Tampa)
Only country where Kevlar backpacks are a thing. Expect perhaps countries that are active war zones. On reflection that would include the USA.
bob karp (new Jersey)
Professor Miles came to the wrong conclusion. He fell for the NRA's and the gun manufacturer's spiel, that somehow, the muskets used back in the 18th and 19th century, when society wasn't formed as it is today, when police and the military weren't organized or not available, when people were isolated in rural areas, has anything to do with today's reality of the semi-automatics, Glock handguns, purchase of unlimited ammunition. The 2nd amendment had its use back then, when the founders of this nation were advocating for freedom for themselves, but were enslaving others, when Indians were an ever present "menace", when wild animals were rampant and when you had to kill your supper. What similarities does that society have with today's? None whatsoever. If anyone actually believes, that today's Americans would have the stamina to defend themselves from their own government, as the NRA keeps harping, after they have grown soft from the easy life and actually fight against other Americans, is certainly hallucinating. If there is a "Zombie apocalypse" as Professor Miles was told and he thinks that a gun would save him, he is mislead, as so many others have been mislead. If he thinks that blacks might have to fight against oppressors, it just creates an arm race against your neighbors. Then, let's live in a jungle. Whoever has the most weapons wins. This society can only come about if we let it. If we let the NRA brainwash us as it did to mr Miles
Max duPont (NYC)
Americans are slaves to weapons manufacturers. What does any civilized nation depends on the US for? Why, weapons and pharmaceuticals. Not much else anymore.
David Godinez (Kansas City, MO)
It's nice to see the 'Times' admit on its opinion page that gun owners are not just white racist buffoons and nutty survivalists. During my time as a younger person in a poorer neighborhood, almost everyone owned a gun, legally or illegally, regardless of race or ethnicity. It was a household necessity, just like having a refrigerator or a stove. Since then, I have often wondered about the stereotyped image of firearms owners that the mainstream press often presents, because that is just not true. This article serves as a useful reminder that the 2nd Amendment is for everyone, and that a very diverse group of citizens take advantage of it. Isn't that one of our goals?
SZ (Minneapolis)
That was then, this is now. Lewis Hayden owned guns then to fend off slave catchers which offered real protection. It is very different from people hoarding guns now because of paranoiac thinking of apocalyptuc disaster or an all out race war.
ziggy stardust (katonah, ny)
This column is a great history lesson and all, but what about Emantic “EJ” Fitzgerald Bradford Jr.? The African-American vet who was shot 3 times in a mall in Hoover, Alabama recently for carrying a firearm? He was trying to assist in taking down a shooter in a crowded mall. The cop that shot him was recently acquitted of any "wrongdoing".
DavidJ (New Jersey)
I just think of the mentality of the NRA. Following President Kennedy’s assasination, the NRA went on a tear to continue the sale of guns through the mail. The way Oswald obtain the weapon that killed the president. I think they lost their original purpose as an organization for gun safety and became political. That was the same year I left the NRA. The world was a different place then. Dewitt Clinton high school had a rifle team. I traveled everyday on the D train with my rifle and live ammo in my book bag. No one gave any of us a second glance. It was all under the jurisdiction of PSAL and several high schools in NYC had ranges and teams.
Oliver (New York, NY)
There’s a big difference between being a gun owner and a gun fanatic. If gun owners would speak up when mass shootings happen maybe they would help move the conversation towards a solution and that doesn’t threaten their second amendment rights. So maybe the reason people (black gun owners) have to speak of the NRA in “hushed tones” is because it’s like sleeping with the enemy?
Vinson (Hampton)
I own a gun for home defense. It is probably a useless purchase. It has never been fired and I waited 52 years to buy it. I would like to see a gun free society but we are headed the opposite way. Now, we have stand your ground laws that promote violence and people walking the streets like the wild west. Fear is a wonderful sales tactic. Its customer is usually a fool.
617to416 (Ontario Via Massachusetts)
This is an oddly American attitude—a belief that our society is going to disintegrate and we'll all need to be shooting each other. Quite frankly, from outside America, it looks a bit crazy. We'd recommend spending more time working to prevent disintegration and less time preparing to survive it.
EB (Earth)
In this day and age, anyone (other than police and military) carrying a gun is a coward. Indeed, Americans (of all colors) are quite simply the most frightened, utterly paranoid people on earth. The rest of us manage to get through our days using our brains/personalities/relationships to ensure our safety (insofar as anyone can ever ensure safety, understanding that freak events, e.g., mass shootings, societal armageddon, might happen--but almost certainly won't). Americans, on the other hand, are so scared all the time, they need killing machines for peace of mind (and even with their guns at their side, I am guessing they still don't have that peace of mind). Keep arming yourselves, America. Thank goodness you have large oceans on either side of you. When your civil war comes and you all start shooting each other, Canada and Mexico can build walls to keep you out, and the rest of us can just ignore you. We'll check in on you when it's over, see if anyone is left alive. Best of luck!
Anthony La Macchia (New York, NY)
Do you live in a country that benefits from the military protection of The United States of America (that you cannot afford or are unwilling to provide for political reasons) which preserves your people's liberty and safety?
Deborah (Ithaca, NY)
(REVISED) I wrote a book studying the divisive gun politics of the 1990s, and in the process interviewed a number of women, some who hunted deer or turkey or owned guns for self-defense, while others had been shot or had their sons wounded or killed by bullets. In the process, I read lots of Congressional testimonies and fund-raising speeches by Wayne LaPierre and his lieutenant, the ferocious Tanya Metaksa. It was LaPierre who coined the phrase “jack-booted government thugs” to describe BATF agents and, by extension, all agents of the federal government who sought to limit citizens’ access to enormous semi-automatic weapons with high-capacity magazines and unrecorded guns for sale to all buyers at gun shows. At one point, I was paging through an NRA magazine and saw an ad picturing an armed white homeowner, backed by his terrified family, kneeling bravely, pointing a gun at the front window where a black intruder was shown, trying to jimmy the lock. THIS is always the underlying racist, macho fantasy that empowers and guides the NRA. You want a gun? Go right ahead. You have the right to buy one. But please appreciate the simple fact that this weapon is more likely to harm children, friends, and family members than to scare off a rare intruder ... or Armageddon. And remember that the overwhelming majority (by percentage of population) of gunshot victims in the US are young black men in their late teens and 20s.
Kim Harris (NYC)
Philando Castile probably felt the same way. Unfortunately Black People with lawful guns, are rarely seen by the police or white people as “proud defenders of their second amendment rights”. What sounds good in theory, too often has tragic consequences for us.
B. (Brooklyn)
The outfits these gun-toting Blacks are wearing destroy the argument that they are ordinary citizens who have a gun for self-respect. I can see owning a gun. One. And keeping it to protect my home and loved ones if the cops can't get here fast enough. But dressing the part of a scowling hombre seems childish. And who needs guns in the hands of children? Bad enough that infantile homicidal whites have armories in their homes. And murder people. Bad enough that Black teenagers get guns and murder people. One thing I agree with: Trump's people are armed. Let's hope our National Guard, and not armed citizens, will take care of them when they start rioting after their leader's ousting.
Cousy (New England)
The author can afford to naval gaze on this topic: Massachusetts has the least gun violence per capita of any in the nation. And Boston has among the lowest rates of gun ownership if any major city. So she can wonder about guns, look at the history of gun use by Black people, and give credence to the lunatics behind “Black Guns Matter” without having to pay the price that Black people in Clarksdale Mississippi or Gary Indiana. For shame.
VB (New York City)
Who am I to argue with such a scholarly and well written story , but I must admit to feeling after reading it offers conflicting messages , agrees with the organization most responsible for the insecurity of Urban America , and sort of dances around the periphery of African Americans arming themselves for the self protection against the growth and hate of White Groups who prior to 1970 got away with bombing churches , destroying Black Neighborhoods , and lynching Black Males for sport . So, yes the shocking election of an unfit, sexual harasser and degrader of women , lying , spewer of hate, and spokesman for racists should be a cause for concern for Blacks , Hispanics , Asians, Muslims, and women of every race yet the idea that arming oneself with a gun cannot be the best way to defeat the threat of White Violence and White Supremacy . A more effective approach would be convincing the groups mentioned above to unite for they are all oppressed by White Men running everything and together form the majority who should work together with the Good White People to save America . Defeating the NRA instead of growing it would be a worthy first goal . Trying to arm oneself against those who have been armed , immoral , and willing to kill and slaughter innocents for hundreds of years seems like it would give them what they have been hoping for.
Tracy Rupp (Brookings, Oregon)
The dog eat dog world we live in begins with white collar crime and legal usurpation. The slap on the wrists for Manafort, compared what common criminals get is a perfect illustration of the inequality that pervade our country. And creates an atmosphere of suspicion and violence. The Churches of the Republican Way are no help as they all promote war, jailing, and general mass finger-pointing at everyone else.
David (New York)
The whole culture in America is just so much more violent than that in Europe. And this is because of gun ownership. In Ireland even the police are unarmed and we just don’t have guns in our society. It is better that way.
somsai (colorado)
A liberal supports expansive rights, that includes rights to firearms. Today's liberals are illiberal on guns. Coming from a county with firearm homicide rates like northern Europe, and just about everyone owns guns, I'm often vexed to understand the urban anti gun culture.
Xoxarle (Tampa)
You come from a STATE that has suffered mass shootings. Does Aurora ring any bells? Or is the safety of your county all that matters? Gun violence correlates with gun ownership at state and national level. More guns means more gun deaths, as true for rural red states as it is for more urban blue states.
stephen eisenman (highland park, illinois)
The essay might be part of a stealth strategy for achieving gun control. The best way to get Republicans (85% white, according to Gallup) to support gun control would be for a large percentage of Black and Latinx people to become armed.
adam (tucson, arizona)
This is a thought-provoking piece, but it contains a pro-gun provocation (not of the author's) that I always find disturbing: “Ask yourself this. It’s a zombie apocalypse. Tomorrow, you wake up, and you can’t find your children. You go out to search for them. Do you want a gun now?” Like most such statements, this reveals more about the questioner than the questioned. I don't want to kill anybody with a gun today. I've never wanted to kill anybody with a gun. Why would I ever suddenly develop that urge, unless I already had it? If my kids were missing (which they have been on several occasions, to my great distress) I sincerely believe my first impulse would be to find them, not to kill someone with a gun. But, of course, I don't already own a gun and I spend most of my time thinking about not killing people with guns, so perhaps I just don't get it.
Believing a gun will protect you goes against every scientific study out there - you endanger your family and yourself by having a gun. But, sadly, you are free to do. You are also still free to avoid vaccinating yourself and your children in many states - it doesn't make it a good idea.
Norwester (Seattle)
Rule 1 for the arms dealer. You only have to sell one side or the other. Once you have one, the other side needs to buy too.
PGH (New York)
I'm going out on a limb and say that, as a Harvard historian the author should already have known at least the basic facts that black gun owners exist, and that there have been multiple instances of gun laws aimed against them. And I say that as a left-wing foreigner who is very much against the excessive gun culture of the US.
African-Americans have as much right as anyone to own guns. In fact, they have more reasons to fear the other and feel they need to arm themselves than most other Americans. Until Congress agrees to address gun violence like almost every other developed country why should African-Americans disarm? The next Democrat President should call gun violence what it is - a national emergency - and take actions to impose sane gun control. And thanks to Trump for setting the precedent!
Michael Trobe (Palo Alto)
Amen! There are lots of emergencies out there that our next Democrat President should attend to; guns and climate top my list! Go Dems in 2020!
John Myles (Toronto)
Max Weber defined the modern state as one where it hd a monopoly over the "means of violence." The US government has always Benn a "failed state" in this respect. Hence, continued support for the NRA.
Richard MacIndoe (Pueblo CO)
Articles like this make me reread Richard Hofstadter's commentary "Paranoid Style in American Politics." I don't want to be too judgmental; as an old, white guy I live in bit different world than some of those people the author talks about. I often take my dogs out for walks in public spaces. We see lots of different people, and most of them want to give my husky a pet, and most of them look happy to be out with their friends and family. Occasionally I see someone with a pistol strapped to his belt (and it is almost always "his"). Those folks always look unhappy, if not downright dour, and they never want to pet the dog. I think that tells you something.
Richard G (Morgan Hill, CA)
Thank you for your comments. Richard Hofstadter's article in particular (available online), helps me to understand my far-right friends. Let's try to be careful that we, who look for truth on both sides, do not fall victim to fantasy!
EDH (Chapel Hill, NC)
Let me pose another analogy: "Suppose you are notified there has been a shooting at your child's school and 22 children were killed by a mentally unstable person with a semi-automatic rifle and multiple 50 bullet clips." Does your reaction to this horror and the nausea it causes make you anti-gun? I have no problem with any law-abiding citizen owning guns for whatever reason, but find it insane that the NRA and manufacturers will sell you any weapon or accessory that is only useful for slaughtering other humans. Nearly anyone can buy a weapon and criminals often have more powerful weapons than the police. There are common sense actions to keep weapons out of the hands of deranged people but any proposed restriction is attacked as an assault on the 2nd Amendment.
TBVII (Florida)
"The N.R.A., on the other hand, has long been a boogeyman for me. I see it as an organization that stands in the way of laws to get automatic rifles out of the hands of people who might kill school children, hardened — or unresponsive — to the destruction that rampant gun violence wreaks." I believe all people should be armed! That said, she shows how little she knows when she incudes 'automatic rifles' as part of the problem. Notice, there was no mention of gun-violence; only protection from aggressive/violent people (and government.)
James (Savannah)
It was painful to read of what Hayden went through. Deep wounds. But while it's arguable that privately-owned guns had a place for people of all color in times past, the same isn't true today. In the face of Sandy Hook and all of the country's other daily mass shootings - not to mention the daily shootings of innocent individuals - the N.R.A. emblem today is not "simpatico" with anything other than a cynical defiance of the demonstrable connection between easy availability and aggressive violence; a political stance, sold by the gun lobby and supported by the GOP's most venal instincts. A selfish sign of self-righteousness, desperately clung to over the well-being of our friends, families, neighbors, fellow-citizens. Guns is wack. Get rid of them, all of them, except those needed for obvious rural use. As a society, we've proven to be not responsible enough to own guns. Obviously.
L (Illinois)
I've always thought that the quickest way to get gun regulations passed would be to arm Black people. Case in point: In the late 1960s, the Black Panthers exercised their 2nd Amendment rights and began to (legally) carry loaded weapons to protect their neighborhoods - from the police. In 1967, the California State Legislature repealed the law that made it legal to carry loaded handguns in public. Ronald Reagan signed the act and said that it was "sensible" and that there was no reason people should be armed in public. (The fact that the Black Panthers showed up in Sacramento with their loaded guns to protest the act probably hastened its passage.) If gun safety laws are good enough for Ronald Reagan ...
D B (BK)
The tragedy of America is that every modern day citizen with any semblance of sanity, would wish we could be Gun free like Denmark, Switzerland or Sweden where people co exist peacefully. However, America is cursed by its bloody history and culture of division and violence. Our very identity, DNA is deeply rooted in warfare within and without. That for many Americans the gun itself becomes more of a fashion accessory like the latest iPhone (as the pictured purple pistol) is evident of our outrageous and insane cultural values. Fact: American citizens own 46% of guns throughout the world. That is over 393 million guns not counting the illegal or blueprinted ones in the hands of violent criminals.
Starvosk (NYC)
New York City is extremely bad about this. I spent a lot of time working in court and the gun and weapon laws are used as a bludgeon against the black community. NYC's gun laws are extremely racist and unequal. Law officers and the DA frequently pick on blacks that have knives that clearly are legal length, or live on the edges of the city and have weapons that are clearly legal in Yonkers, Long Island City, etc. I've seen cases where officers clearly planted evidence like knives or guns, or arrested and attempted to prosecute for fixed-blade and 3 inch knives which are clearly in the legal limit. These are otherwise upstanding citizens who are sent for five years or more just for owning things that are legal outside. And I've never seen a white citizen detained for possessing such weapons either. You get 5+ years for possessing a weapon in NYC, but Manafort gets 4 years for rigging the electoral system? It's unjust and immoral. At the very least, there needs to be equal enforcement.
Betsy (Oak Park)
The "well-armed militia" protected by the 2nd Amendment was a right fought for when our young ancestors fought for independence fom the Brits. It was intended to speak to a well-armed military army to protect the existence of the new nation, where every individual was looked upon to be a fighting member of the resistence. I believe in the modern right to individual gun ownership. But I do not believe that gives gun owners the right to make themselves more powerful than our actual armed forces who go to war for our country, nor the police who protect our homes and cities. Where are the supposedly "responsible" gun owners when it comes to the hotly charged subject of automatic weapons, like the AR 47's and similar, which have been purchased and used with impunity by the mentally ill, and the criminals who have famously used them in wholesale slaughter of our children in schools, against unarmed persons in public spaces, and against the police/army? Or the ridiculous concept of 3-D printed weapons to assemble from scratch in your home? It would have been helpful to this discussion had the author included such questions posed to black gun-owners and members of black gun-ownership organizations. The right to gun ownership does not mean you have a constitutional right to be better armed than the officers/soldiers who protect our nation from outlaws.
PGH (New York)
@Betsy The amendment says "well regulated", not "well armed". There is debate on what that actually means, but you still got the quote wrong.
Sophie (NC)
This was an interesting and historically informative opinion piece. I am not a gun owner (although I don't rule it out in the future) and have never even held a gun in my hand, but I certainly support the rights of citizens who have passed thorough background checks to have guns. I only take exception with one point that the author makes. She implies that black people should consider gun ownership for protection from white people, but statistically overall, blacks (and everyone else) are much more likely to be shot by another black person than by a white person. This is pretty significant considering that blacks make up only about 13% percent of the U.S. population. I am sure that the risk probably changes depending on where you live, though, with large cities being the most risky for black-on-black and black-on-white (etc.) shootings. And yes, there will always be the occasional horrific incident like that young white guy who shot and killed nine black people while they were worshiping in their church and the occasional white police officer who shoots and kills a black person without justification. Let's not pretend that this is the norm, though, because it is not. If we end up having the war within this country that the author mentions, it won't be a race war--it will be a war between the left and the right.
karen (bay area)
Most (all?) Mass shootings are done by white men. I for one do not distinguish the horror based on the victim's skin color.
Sophie (NC)
@Karen Yes, you are certainly correct that most mass shootings have been committed by white males, although not all of them. At least one school shooting that I recall was committed by a white female and then there are the mass shootings that have been committed by Muslim extremists. I also recall a black male committing a mass shooting at Quantico, I believe it was. But yes, the majority of mass shootings that I am aware of have been committed by white males. The colors of the victims nor the colors of the shooters are important to me, though--shooting/killing innocent people of any color is horrible. I just discussed black-on-black shootings and black-on-white shootings in my earlier post because these shootings occur with so much more frequency than either mass shootings by anyone of any color or white-on-black shootings. I am all in favor of people of any color to have guns to protect themselves if they have passed background checks. I just don't agree with making whites out to be the Big Boogeyman here. Despite the fact that most mass shooters are white males, by far most shootings overall are committed by blacks and that is just a fact.
Mike (Mason-Dixon Line)
Anybody who is legally in this country and legally in possession of a gun is a citizen, not a serf. It isn't a "gun right" its a civil right. And no, one is not required to be a member of a militia. See DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA v. HELLER (No. 07-290) 478 F. 3d 370, affirmed. Get used to it.
Marat K (Long Island, NY)
I am against guns. I am for gun control. Preferably, very strict one. But, imagine a national emergency, like, for instance, super-volcano (Yellowstone) eruption, large meteorite strike, limited nuclear exchange between Pakistan and India with minor nuclear winter afterwards, strong solar flare disrupting electric service for many months, etc. Those are real possibilities that cam cause chaos, though unlikely, but what you are going to do if the streets are run by mob and gangs, and police failed? Do you have a contingency plan to protect your family? In a country flooded with guns, even if you are against it, it is your responsibility to have them too, and store, not readily available, but available, just in case. You may regret one day that you didn't bother to have them.
PGH (New York)
@Marat K what is more likely between these scenarios: A• apocalypse where band of marauders will soon be roaming your suburban streets B• you, your children, spouse or friend, accidentally discharge one of your guns, killing or maiming someone C• someone with access to guns goes crazy a does a mass shooting, killing or maiming many victims Hint: B and C happen almost every day
Richard Brandshaft (Vancouver, WA)
Apocalyptic social breakdowns aside, every-day use of guns for self-defense is far more common than is generally believed. Sociologist Gary Kleck addresses the issue in his books "Point Blank" and "Targeting Guns". He presents evidence that guns prevent as many crimes as they are used to commit. If The Times is serious about presenting both sides of the gun issue, they might invite him to do an op-ed. In a frequent self-defense scenario, the gun isn't fired. The intended victim draws the gun, the attacker says some equivalent of "Oops", and leaves. Such incidents are frequently unreported, especially if the intended victim was carrying the gun illegally. When successful self-defense is reported, it as at most a back-page item in a local paper. Thus casual news readers get a distorted picture of the frequency of self-defense. Two practical points: Ms. Tonkins poses with her finger properly outside the trigger guard. I wonder if her long fingernail could snag if she has to hastily put her finger on the trigger. She might write to the editors of "Women & Guns" and ask. Self defense expert Massad Ayoob wrote of an attorney who carries a .45 with a purple slide. If he is every accused of brandishing his gun, he will tell the cops to ask the accuser what color the gun was. Of course, posing for pictures with a purple gun defeats that purpose.
Casey (Los Angeles)
The story of John Crawford III needs to to be mentioned anytime this issue is discussed. We have 30 minutes of video footage where he is standing idle not bothering anyone before his death. A swat team was called in to kill him with less than .3 seconds warning because he picked up a toy gun inside a store that sells real guns. On top of it this was an open carry state and to this day nobody has been held responsible for his death. I don't see how anyone can honestly look at this country and think the Second Amendment extends equally to people of color.
Bart (Los Angeles)
This article doesn’t present a more compelling case for gun ownership except for the anecdotes about people who feel they are at a higher risk of deadly attack. Drawing a parallel from 150+ years ago isn’t strong. Certainly some people are at higher risk than others, such as public figures or those who live in areas where gun homicide is rampant. I expected a more data-driven case here.
sleepyhead (Detroit)
@Bart The fact you say it isn't strong tells me everything about your experience of life and who you are. It compels me to consider more strongly acquiring and training to use guns, because you've told me I have no right to protect myself and looking for your alliance would be fruitless. There's the case for data, and there's just seeing what so.
Henry (Manasquan, NJ)
I'm a white male who carried a gun for 8 years while employed as a federal agent. I had been anti-gun since I left that job; however, I now believe that a war (not based on race) is quite possible in the USA. Therefore, I now believe all states should permit gun ownership in order for everyone to defend themselves.
mrfreeze6 (Seattle, WA)
Look up the Mulford Act (CA 1967): Gun Control was OK when the Black Panthers had the temerity to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights. Remember those days? A little snippet from wiki: Both Republicans and Democrats in California supported increased gun control. Governor Ronald Reagan, who was coincidentally present on the capitol lawn when the protesters arrived, later commented that he saw "no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons" and that guns were a "ridiculous way to solve problems that have to be solved among people of good will." In a later press conference, Reagan added that the Mulford Act "would work no hardship on the honest citizen." The 2nd Amendment should be completely rewritten to adapt to 21st Century sensibilities and standards.
PGH (New York)
@mrfreeze6 I am surprised that a professional historian, from Harvard even, had not much to say about these more recent historical events.
The misinterpretation of the "right to bear arms" refers to a Militia! WHY do individuals pretend it is the right of Me, myself and I? Read the 2nd Amendment. That said, Professor Miles's persuasive essay exhibits extraordinary scholarship and critical thinking which is sorely lacking among our elected politicians and electorate.
mike4vfr (weston, fl, I k)
@SGC... While you are handing out reading assignments, include the Militia Acts of 1791, (both of them). Among the first laws passed by Congress, those two statutes provide near perfect clarity with regard to the popular (mis)understanding of the 2nd Amendment. I can summarize if you prefer. The first Militia Act of 1791 provided that EVERY able-bodied male between the ages of 18 and 40 was obligated to serve in his local militia unit, with only Congressman, ferryboat operators, and a few other obscure occupational groups exempted. Each member was required to maintain a rifle or musket, in good repair and suitable for that purpose, in their home. The second Militia Act of 1791 placed appropriate restrictions on militia members. Specifically, minimum supplies of cast lead bullets, and gun powder, along with spare flints, a cartridge pouch and powder horn were required to be maintained as well. These minimums provided for 24 complete rounds, essentially the consensus required for a single day of battle in that era. Further "restrictions" required that all militia members make their arms, ammunition & required equipment available for inspection, at any time, by the sergeants & officers of their unit and that all equipment be maintained in proper working order. You get the idea? The "militia" reference in the 2nd Amendment basically requires that almost every male citizen possess a militarily useful rifle or musket & a full day's supply of ammunition. Google it. Let me know.
Alberto Abrizzi (San Francisco)
Congrats! I grew up in Boston and didn’t know about the Haydens. A shame. Our founding fathers made a big mistake not abolishing slavery. But they also understood the need to safeguard rights to protect ourselves against tyranny. I appreciate the writer’s ability and willingness to break out of the common anti-gun narrative. I, too, feel gun law needs common-sense reform. But, it must preserve the fundamental right to own a gun. I find it ironic that those most strongly opposed to guns are those equally opposed to Trump! They don’t get it! No, I don’t fear that our government is going to abuse its power over citizens that way. But history (as we see) and and today’s world remind us what can be. I don’t own a gun. But I’m not ready to give up that right, either.
i.worden (Seattle)
The main content of this article concerns folks protecting their home from unlawful invaders who may wish to harm or kidnap the occupants. This is a clear and tradition realm for the use of lethal firepower. Once the argument for private gun ownership departs from defense of the home it becomes more difficult to define. Some folks feel the homestead extends to the confines of their motor vehicles. Others believe in the right to not back down from a public confrontation or perceived threat. My belief is that bringing loaded firearms into public spaces is extraordinarily dangerous. I believe that folks who wish to exercise this privilege should be required to purchase and maintain liability insurance. Lastly, we cannot have a reasonable discussion of firearms without noting the danger of improper storage which can lead to unauthorized access and use. I pray we can recognize the immensity of these challenges and chose to act responsibly.
Jerry Farnsworth (Camden NY)
In David Blight's recent biography of celebrated black father of the abolitionist movement, activist oratorical genius and initially, pacifist, Frederick Douglass, the following is referenced: Douglass took part in a standoff to free escaped slaves from a white slave owner, his sons and their slave catchers, in which the slave owner was shot to death after one of his sons fired the first shot. Following rescue of the slaves, the slave owners pistol was presented to Douglass, who kept and past it down in his family as an especially prized possession.
Jean-Claude Arbaut (Besançon, France)
Seen from outside of the US, this question looks surreal. Given the number of deaths and no sign of slowing down. I understand some of the reasons, notably historical and cultural. I understand people need to feel safer or able to defend themselves and their family. But in the end of the day, all those guns do not make the US a safer place, by any standard. It baffles me how this isn't more obvious, but, as is said, "it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail". Thankfully, I have never owned or even touched a gun, and I don't feel unsafe, and I don't see either how I could ever feel any safer with a gun. Yes, the bad guys have weapons here too in Europe. But guess what, they don't shoot everyone usually. Maybe simply not the same culture. With regard to the "if civil society topples" argument, that's a long shot.
dpaqcluck (Cerritos, CA)
Note that the author said, " ... might not require the absolute prohibition of arms." The NRA opposes any limitations at all on gun ownership. Most proposals for gun restriction have nothing whatsoever to do with wholesale elimination of guns. And NO things like gun registration or limiting the size of magazines or firing rate of guns are not "just a step in the direction of eliminating all guns. Moreover, there is an awful lot of chatter here without any accumulation of statistics regarding how often carrying a gun was successful at warding off an attack in comparison to how many innocent people were accidentally or intentionally killed. I just wonder if people have thought through the confused pandemonium and needless killing that would arise in a crowded movie theater or crowded bar if a shooter was confronted assailed by gun toting citizens and then the police show up. Who is an aggressor? Who is a defender? Are the defenders well enough trained to avoid killing innocent people in the background? How about if we talk about sensible gun limitations with registration requirements, keeping guns out of the hands of the wrong people, and limiting guns that have no place anywhere but on a military battlefield. There are compromises to be had, not just two polarized extremes.
Peter fadt (Hannover Germany)
Living in Europe, the American love for weapons in citizens‘ hands looks like latent civil war. The reason there is no NRA in, say, Germany, is the fact that we have learnt to transfer the use of (armed) force to our democratically elected government. Courts and police cooperate in enforcing the law. Every conflict has to be brought before the courts to be settled in a way regulated by law. And it works. Just compare the number of people killed by firearms in Europe and the US.
Turgid (Minneapolis)
Any gun rights group that doesn't support serial numbers, background checks, training on how to safely use guns, and more importantly how to secure guns, is part of the problem. The NRA is part of the problem.
mike4vfr (weston, fl, I k)
The N.R.A., as it has evolved to become an out-spoken advocate for pretty much any policy or candidate serving the authoritarian right in American politics, has become an existential threat to freedom in the United States. Over time, I have hope that grass roots level recognition that militarily useful firearms, in the hands of responsible adults, are essential to preserving freedom, will reassert itself as THE single guiding principle within that organization. Like the "Bill of Rights" in general, rights must be exercised if they are to survive at all. There is no doubt that owning modern firearms is dangerous for civilians in today's society. The real problem lies in the historical reality that not owning effective firearms is even more dangerous. Spend a few minutes calculating the 20th century death toll suffered by civilians deprived of the right to defend themselves by authoritarian governments. While there is no consensus on repeatable statistical analysis, at a minimum the direct loss of life is well over 200 million. Some sources claim over 350 million civilians (excludes military casualties). Common sense arithmetic suggests something like 5000 to about 9000 deaths per day, everyday for all 100 years of the 20th century. The common sense interpretation clearly indicates that the only thing more dangerous than widespread gun ownership is the widespread prohibition of gun ownership.
Chuck Tulloh (Ventura)
The US is unique in its embrace of guns, attributable to its birth in armed rebellion, massive civil war to determine it soul, and conquest of its vast territory. Guns are integrated into our society and it is right to ask whether that ought to continue. I say yes. We benefit, unlike European and Asian nations that seem to whipsaw between forms of government ranging from horrible totalitarianism to fragile democracy. Their populations generally were powerless to resist the worst. Our embedded gun culture serves as a relatively quiet check and balance against misuse of governmental power and the military against the people. Add to that our ability to mount massive support for the defense of Europe and the world’s democracies in two World Wars by building on a core of defensemen from our rural areas. It is rumored that Adm. Yamamoto of Japan, who had studied in the US, said that invasion of the US would find a gun behind every blade of grass. A well-regulated gun culture acts as quiet but very real political check on abuse of force by the government, supports the right causes in the world, and defends our land. But, the once-effective local indoctrination of new gun owners by rural neighborly oversight is gone. I favor licensing gun owners, because it’s the owners where the misuse of otherwise inanimate objects lies. I have licenses to fly aircraft, drive cars and motorcycles and manage distressed financial institutions; why not license gun owners?
CommentÇa (Montreal)
@Chuck We don't have a gun culture in Canada (except maybe in US-loving Alberta) and we're doing just fine, thank you.
Xoxarle (Tampa)
Please explain how your guns stopped the NSA taking away your constitutional right to privacy. Modern first world nations that have strict gun control are all stable democracies, including the United Kingdom which hasn’t had a civil war or civilian uprising for 4 centuries, longer than the USA has existed. But sure, cling to your fantasy that the absence of weaponry is a destabilizing factor.
sherry (NY)
So Dr. Miles came to the conclusion that black people really are like white people. Great, let's move on and start to remove labels. In my view, "liberal" ideas that have been promulgated throughout history have done more harm to minorities in maintaining that divide. I am a NRA member and supporter of most, but not all, of their stance on issues. But their basic stance is that ALL people have the right to gun ownership. I do believe that there should be some limits on what the average citizen can own, but the core topic is who has the right to draw that line. Its a very steep slippery slope, which is why the NRA prefers to hold the line they do. Finally, the fact that there are more (or perceived to be more) white gun owners by percentage than black, is really a result of government policies to keep minorities in a box. I also think it is sad that it is the constant fear mongering that is perceived to be reason for a rise in black gun ownership. I'm not convinced that there really has been a rise, but rather more peopler are coming out of the (gun) closet. I'm not a huge fan of NYT opinion pieces, but I applaud Dr. Miles for her objective work.
KC (Idaho)
One would hope that societies evolve in a positive direction over time. After reading this, I've come to the conclusion that there is no hope for America. Everyone should buy as many guns as possible, train with people who look like you, and wait for the inevitable collapse of this country. I'm moving to Costa Rica.
Juvenal451 (USA)
A gun can be the difference between being a victim or not. And most times it's not even necessary to fire a shot. But beware "stand your ground" states. When two individuals are armed with guns but not necessarily all the information they might need, you have the elements of an Old West style gun fight.
EC (Colorado)
There is no conflict whatsoever between the Second Amendment and common sense gun control legislation such as universal background checks. Western Europe has strict gun control laws, but lots of people still own firearms there. And, lo and behold, the number of per-capita gun-fire deaths in those nations is an order of magnitude smaller than in the USA. Let me tell you something: the difference is not because Europeans are better people than Americans; it is because they have better gun control laws. The Second Amendment states "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." Common sense gun control laws are not directed against "a well regulated Militia" but rather against domestic terrorists and crazy, insane and violent individuals bent on mass-murdering innocent civilians. I am a supporter of both the Second Amendment and strict gun control laws.
No green checkmark (Bloom County)
This is all the Supreme Court's fault. Clearly the framers intended the Second Amendment to facilitate quick creation of militias in case of invasion. That is no longer relevant. But the Court has twisted the Second Amendment into a right to own guns. The framers would be horrified at the consequences.
Adrentlieutenant (UK)
As someone who lives in the UK, where it is difficult to get a permit to own a gun, I find it difficult to see the justification for allowing citizens to arm themselves even if it is their constitutional right; which is, as it happens, not too far from a similar right for UK citizens albeit interpreted rather differently. In the UK at present we have significant disagreement over the Brexit deal and I hear politicians speaking of their principles, the labour party being a particular example in this regard and using them to justify any position they desire to take. Perhaps it is time to some academic to add up all the deaths that have been caused by adhering to the second amendment as well as all the money made and then we can see the true cost of adhering to principles.
Drspock (New York)
I recommend Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz's book called "Loaded,A Disarming History of the Second Amendment." She points out that the overwhelming history of guns in America has been their use against people of color. She also notes that until 1970, the NRA was mainly associated with conservation and protection of wildlife preserves. It was the radical shift to the right brought on by Nixon's Southern strategy that turned the NRA into an arm of the conservative movement. While never explicitly racist, the NRA has drawn the support of every racist group in the country. Survivalist movements have characterized the government as threatening their freedom. And it is the same government that championed civil rights, school desegregation and policing reform. And it was the conservatives hold the Supreme Court that gave us a decision that after nearly 200 years, radically changed our interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. For this and other reasons I, as an African American see this new 'gun rights' movement in our community as fools gold. While the emotional reasons for gun ownership are understandable, the facts tell a very different story. More children are killed every year from in home gun accidents than intruders trying to do harm. The design and single purpose of a 'handgun' is to kill another human being. And the numbers tell the tale, about 10,000 gun deaths last year in the US. In Germany, about 50. In Britain, about 40. I'd turn in a gun for those numbers any day.
Richard Pels (New York)
Perhaps if white nationalists realize some African Americans are just as willing (and just as lawfully entitled) to arm to the teeth as they are, there'll be more of a call for moderation. Or not. That's what was said about nuclear arms, and see how well that been working for us. Arming people fighting slavery can be seen as a necessary evil in the name of fighting a far greater evil -- like WWII was called "the Good War" because right and wrong were so easy to discern. Today the "heritage" of gun ownership leads to senseless school and drive-by shootings of innocent children. There's nothing remotely good about that. The issue may be complicated and emotional, but frankly, assault weapons don't belong in a peaceful society, and lax ownership laws contribute to a shockingly high rate of gun violence in this country. We are not a peaceful society, but we should be. As Steve Earle said to Waylon Jennings who had reservations about recording a song that featured senseless gun violence, "It doesn't matter. This country is too far gone to ever give up its guns." If a considerate, intelligent liberal historian like Ms. Miles can warm up to the mystique of guns so easily, Earle is probably right.
Sam McFarland (Bowling Green, KY)
So how would this work? Let's pass laws in each state that requires all gun owners to sign and record a statement for each firearm that says, "I willingly accept all criminal and civil liabilities for all harms cause by my firearm (gun type and number), whether caused by myself or another." There are so many cases. for example, in which a juvenile finds a parent's gun, kills another, and the parents are not held responsible. It seems to me that such a law would make gun owners much more conscientious in guarding and using their firearms. And every conscientious gun owner should be willing to sign such a pledge. Let's try it.
randomxyz (Syrinx)
Not an entirely bad idea, but would you support such a law for other items, such as vehicles?
Aristotle Gluteus Maximus (Louisiana)
@Sam McFarland You neglect to take note of the words "shall not be infringed".
Jasoturner (Boston)
Extremely well written and thoughtful column, whether you agree or disagree. I can see why Dr. Miles is at Harvard.
saxonsax (ny)
First, a gun and the NRA are two different things. A gun is a machine, the NRA is a powerful right wing organization dedicated to the repression of minorities and free thought, and the gain of extraordinary wealth for a few people, which uses gun rights as a hot button to manipulate people to support its agenda. Second, guns are useful in a war, but they're not so helpful as tools of emotionality, like arguments or revenge, and they inhibit free expression more than any other tool. Third, "zombie apocalypse" is a fantasy and can't be treated as a material argument about something reality-based.
randomxyz (Syrinx)
I think the shop owners in LA during the Rodney King riots might disagree with your last point. I’ll bet there are many people in Venezuela who wished they had a gun right now.
Michael Kittle (Vaison la Romaine, France)
The gun laws in America along with attitudes toward abortion, gay rights, national health insurance and many other distinctly American values drove me out of the country. No country is perfect but the least I could do was move to a country that endorsed my values. By the way, the treaty between France and America requires that I pay all my income tax to the United States. This is just as it should be since I benefitted most of my life from American educational services and police protection and I’m more than willing to pay for this generations education and protection!
Coffee Bean (Java)
While supporting the 2nd Amendment, open/concealed carry laws will an undue fear on the general public as well as LEOs. Even more so because of racial stereotyping. The unintended consequences outweigh the open/concealed carry laws. This is especially true in the younger black/brown male community no matter what part of an urban area/rural setting; even in their own backyard. LEO responding to a call and/or simply pulling over a driver for a traffic violation can escalate quickly because of biases.
Hmmm (Seattle)
How is there any debate on this anymore?? All statistics and studies show a gun in the home is FAR MORE LIKELY to be used in a domestic violence situation than the shooting burglars fantasy. The fear and the fantasies persist thanks to the NRA and the gun lobby.
randomxyz (Syrinx)
I suspect most of the African-Americans referenced in this article are not primarily worried about burglars...
Jack from Saint Loo (Upstate NY)
As long as the "well-regulated" is kept and emphasized in the second amendment, this non gun owner has no problem with it. And by well regulated, that means extensive back ground checks, a license and insurance for firearms, liability for the gun going with the owner (so if your kid steals your rifle and shoots up a school, YOU are the responsible party) and respecting businesses with "no carry" signs, all reasonable measures the NRA opposes.
SFR (California)
This is an extraordinary article that openly discusses violence, racial conflict, and the fact that blacks and whites here in most of America (some areas of the rural South are not like this, or weren't in the 1990s when I last went "home" again) are really no different at all, in their lives, their work, their desires, their fears, their pride, their community. Thanks!
Jo Williams (Keizer)
Thanks for a thoughtful opinion piece. So many issues, sides. But as to the initial event that produced this review of gun ownership, what was the final outcome with the NRA sticker? Was it replaced with a NAAGA sticker? A picture of those muskets? Either would seem more appropriate.
I "get" the article, but remain of two minds. Yes, the best defense is a good offense, hopefully one you never have to use. I understand that in these times of trumpist-fueled hatred, non-whites, and maybe a lot of whites as well, feel better standing behind firearms. But how much is enough? I see the good people illustrated in this article with weapons of heavy warfare and wonder why civilians need that much firepower. Could it possibly be that our society indeed has too many guns? One more thought: while I'm sure that there are good people still affiliated with the NRA, I see their stickers or other signs of support, often in tandem with other right-wing signifiers. As well, I consider the harsh rhetoric of that organization, generally antithetical to all I believe in. I'm sorry to say that my instinct is that these people are not my friends and from experience I have learned to trust my instincts.
El Gato (US)
Gun ownership as a social phenomenon has gone well beyond the utility of hunting, self-defense needs and shooting sports. It has become the embodiment of the growing fear and ignorance that many people now desperately cling to for comfort and solace, however meritless. Responsible gun ownership makes sense for many people. But it absolutely doesn’t for those who are simply cloaking themselves in a false and very risky sense of security.
JBR (West Coast)
There are many different shooting sports, all great fun and all requiring such mindful focus that they are a form of meditation. A visitor to a shooting range will find herself welcomed by a large variety of people eager to help newcomers and share their knowledge and love of the sport. She may not choose to take up a shooting sport, but she will find herself with a more generous and sympathetic understanding of those who do.
B. (Brooklyn)
I prefer shooting expeditions along the lines of English country scenes, with men and women in tweed and using beautifully made rifles capable of firing only a limited number of bullets before reloading. Besides, gentlemen and gentlewomen do not wear the moronic scowls so often seen on today's gun owners. Are we to congratulate black people for joining such an unpleasant crowd?
Chris V (Arizona)
The issue here is that violence is a human problem with human causes and solutions. It is never the cause of the weapon used. If we try to solve the violence problem by ignoring the human reality we will always fail. Which is what gun controls do, they always ignore how and why and take actions having no effect upon people seeking to harm others. Gun laws are obeyed and followed only by people who are no threat to anyone.
Once From Rome (Pittsburgh)
Without guns there would not be a United States of America. Only about 50% of homicides in America are due to a gun. Guns do not pull their triggers themselves, a human is always behind the trigger. The 2nd Amendment does not discriminate as to color, gender, national origin. We debate gun laws far too much. Instead we should be debating everything else about violence in America.
Maureen Steffek (Memphis, TN)
The ideas of having a gun in the house for protection, especially in a rural area is reasonable. However, this article wandered into the movie plot areas of race war and armageddon. I doubt that Mr. Hayden would have been comfortable with the slave hunters with AK47s. Just as the world is aware of the danger of nuclear proliferation, we need to realize that our country has gone to far down the road to mass armament that will continue to result in horrors like Sandy Hook, Las Vegas and Parkland.
Carl Adams (Philadelphia)
What a great read. At a period in our society, when there is no “thought” other than my opinion is right and only my opinion is right, you left open the door for exploration of those with a different view; well done. How much could be accomplished if we all took time to listen to those with a different view.
Svirchev (Route 66)
The USA simply lacks the level of civil society (civilazation) found in many countries of the world. And it has no mechanism to get there. Canada and every European country severely restrict the ability of ordinary citizens to carry firearms in public: they are used for licensed recreational purposes only. Many countries do not arm their police, the UK and the island of Fiji are two examples. Carrying weapons is forbidden in the Peoples Republic of China. The USA is different because of its contending political forces and history of internal violence, including police and citizen firearm violence against Black people.. But there was never been a concentrated social movement against the 'right to carry' and in the present political mood, there cannot be such a social movement.
AmyR (Pasadena)
If the NRA were about gun safety, common-sense licensing and background checks, and training requirements for gun owners I'd be all for it. But instead it seems dedicated to the idea that anyone should be able to get a gun at any time, no questions asked. It seems wholly uninterested in reducing the appalling number of deaths by gun violence, for example the 39,773 people who were fatally shot in 2017 That's why I'm against the NRA.
Ronald Betts (Vail Colorado)
I believe that there a great many people like myself who do not own guns and live in hope that there will soon be legislation to begin the process of safe gun management. But how long can we wait before the sheer number of guns forces us to own one as well? It's a very sorry situation.
Tess (NY)
Life is different now (in the sense that America is not that big wild country, a country still expanding with not many social rules or laws in which people are left alone with just a gun and a bible for their protection) In the America of today guns should be forbidden and only given after checking thoroughly in special circumstances.
Mostly Rational (New Paltz)
Thoughtful and well-reasoned. Lucid. In my growing up I always felt, with comfort and occasional discomfort that our nation was walking the road toward justice. This is a marker on a one-way road toward apocalypse.
Ellen French (San Francisco)
The Supreme Court has ruled that Americans have a right to have a gun in their home for self protection. And i agree a healthy debate is important about how to make our neighborhoods and cities safer from gun violence so that we all don't feel the need to exercise that right necessarily. But over half of America's gun deaths occur from suicide. And many of the heartbreaking mass shootings occur at the hands of men who in the process of exercising their 2nd Amendment right, carryout in anger and personal crisis some unspeakable act. Would be a much better use of our civic dialog to discuss how we set about to fix the ills that make Americans feel the need to self defend in the home or carry in public to defend (unsuccessfully) against the acting out by the emotionally distressed.
AACNY (New York)
@Ellen French US gun statistics are very different after adjusting for suicide. (Suicides have always skewed gun death statistics.) According to NYT reporting several years back, access to a gun increases the likelihood that a suicide will occur more impulsively and with greater lethality. The question is whether the problem is suicide or guns. Removing guns from non-suicidal legal gun owners is one solution, but not one that will ever survive a legal challenge. It's only now that the question of mental health has been permitted to enter the gun control debate. It's a start.
Vizitei (Missouri)
As an immigrant (45 years ago), the American love with guns was always curious to me. I do see it as the outgrowth of pathology which also was at the root of original westward expansion, slavery, and civil war. The unintended consequences are such that the sheer number of guns in people's hands today (over 300 million) causes one to reconsider ownership simply out of the fact that they are everywhere. So I am a legal gun owner, although I wish I didn't feel like I had to be. It's not a thing to be proud of. It's similar to taking pills for blood pressure - you feel like you have to take them for self defense, but you would really rather not. We are all infected by this pathology. This article simply strains to justify based on Autheor's ideological narrative, what all Americans live with.
A. Jubatus (New York City)
Ho-hum. We're the only country in the industrialized world that is still having this discussion. The rest of the world has locked up their guns and moved on while looking over their shoulders at us with bemusement. And I am not an anti-gun absolutist. Why are we still having this conversation? God bless America.
Bill (Native New Yorker)
When I was a boy in the mid 1960's New Jersey, the local NRA gun club was where kids over twelve could learn to shoot, and more importantly, learn about gun safety. The two old gentlemen who ran the club were WWI veterans who taught discipline and tolerated no silliness as they instructed a dozen or so kids with their single shot, bolt action .22s. A far cry from the image of the NRA today. I think there are four constitutionally legal steps that could be taken tomorrow to address our national gun fiasco: 1. Require the buyer to have a background check and certificate of eligibility from local law enforcement that would indemnify the seller from liability if the weapon was used in a crime; no certificate, no indemnification. 2. To be insurable, all firearms must be locked in a secure case (there are plenty on the market today with combination locks that enable the owner near-immediate access). 3. The top ten percent of Federally Licensed Firearm Dealers who's guns are found to be used in crimes automatically lose their license. 4. No magazines beyond 10 rounds. With rights come responsibilities. I believe all living organisms have a right to defend themselves. I also believe our country is stronger with a citizenry that is knowledgeable about firearms. But I also believe our society has a responsibility to keep guns out of the hands of those who are either irresponsible or criminal, and limit the damage they can do when they get them.
tim k (nj)
It pleases me that historian Tiya Miles has woke to the virtue and purpose embodied in the Second Amendment. She couches that revelation by noting that “black gun ownership has surged” and implies that the surge was in response to the “election of Donald Trump” and “rates of racially motivated hate crimes on the rise, organized white supremacist rallies and open advocacy of white power ideology becoming more common”. White supremacist “assaults” like the one conducted Jussie Smollet aside, a much more plausible explanation is that black gun purchasers have concluded that ALL Americans have a right to their own self defense. It matters not whether that defense is from real violence perpetrated by gangs roving the streets of South Chicago or the fear perpetrated by phony claims of an assault made by an actor. Ironically, Ms. Miles ignores that President Trump has been appointing judges that are determined to uphold the Second Amendment, explicitly affirming the right of citizens to bear arms. She also ignores that president Trump's black predecessor did just the opposite that gun purchases soared during his presidency. I don't recall the racial breakdown of the purchasers but I’m confident that many of the were black.
Todd Howell (Orlando)
Common sense gun control should have a tiered license system, where beginners can only purchase the least deadly weapon (ie a bolt action .22 rifle with 5 shot mag). As experience and education builds, higher grades of weapons can be purchased. A top tier license with a clean 20 year track record and periodic criminal/mental/medical reviews can purchase anything.
James K. Lowden (Camden, Maine)
There are three kinds of gun owners. Hunters, who abide by restrictions on ammunition, and when and where the gun is used. The mistaken, who think the gun makes them safer. The kooks, who are prepared to fight a tyrannical government. As though any amount of weaponry could fend off a tank. The authors reference to a zombie apocalypse puts him near category #3. What evidence does he offer that 2020 looks like 1820? The Trump administration? Does he think citizens will be under attack by the federal government, or does he not realize police protection isn’t a federal responsibility? It’s easy to decide something is necessary because you want to do it. Owning a gun in that way is no different from owning a pickup truck. It’s harder to examine the surrounding external reality dispassionately and decide what that context demands, or doesn’t demand. There’s no rational basis to fear the zombie apocalypse. But as a projection of one’s fear and angst, the possibility is real enough. A gun doubtless offers a mistaken, but nevertheless real, sense of security against a delusional but seemingly real threat.
poppop (NYC)
@James K. Lowden the author is a woman. You'll have to explain to the tens or hundreds of thousands of Americans who use guns in self defense every year how their guns don't make them safer.
Tamanini (Harrisburg, PA)
Nice essay, professor. Lots of food for thought from an historian. Thanks.
Scott S (Brooklyn)
America's long economic history of institutionalized avarice has spawned a proliferation of social injustices and the firearms to support them. Since we can't go back in time to correct our nation's flawed framework, we must encourage responsible gun ownership while we work to solve the problems that result in the need for it.
Remarque (Cambridge)
I wonder if Lewis Hayden would've approved of citizens owning modern military-style weapons, modifications that multiply their lethality, and the ability to acquire seemingly endless arsenals of ammunition. And this not only in a world where he's not in danger of being kidnapped and forced into slavery, but also in Boston circa 2019 where the main causes of death are overdosing on kombucha and overdosing on VC biotech funding. What a senseless discussion. The argument has never been about rural Americans not being able to defend themselves with a handgun or even owning a rifle to hunt for sport. It has always been around the ability of citizens [especially unfit citizens] to militarize and procure a martial armory of weapons and ammo. The 2nd amendment was written before the US had electricity, indoor plumbing or a standing army to protect against invasion.
steven iler (Stephentown, NY)
I think it odd that at a moment in our history when civil war is again on the horizon a large strata of our society has disarmed itself.
meloop (NYC)
in the 60's, I learned to shoot a rifle . people I knew had guns from the Civil War and from WWII. Guns, in America were a common household accouterment and, in the 2 decades after the War, almost all adult males had been soldiers and had learned to fire, fix, and carry both automatic arms and semi automatic rifles. Soldiers were not prevented from keeping "found" arms of enemy soldiers or buying/trading them and sending them home to the US in the very easy system for mailing such material then extant. I earned a few minor badges or medals shooting a .22 cal. rifle, from the NRA which, in the early 60's was still a non partisan group attempting to maintain the skills of riflery use among Americans who were increasingly living in cities and buying food rather then killing their own. Pistols were not part of the NRA purview-it was about the basic skill of loading, aiming and firing mass produced guns-often old .30 caliber clip fed semi automatic carbine (M-1), a gun familiar to millions of US soldiers and Sailors from WWII. Then, I never considered the NRA anything but a group of mild mannered educators who wanted citizens to have basic skills of self defense. Not a house full of guns ready for a revolution. We were not rich enough in 1960 to own so many guns and buy their bullets! Thats why there were so many 2nd hand sellers in gun magazines. NRA today and decades past is a different beast from the target collector and medal issuer the NRA seemed back in 1960.
hd (Colorado)
I am a far left liberal. I own a small gun collection of which the more recent non-automatic civilian models of military automatic weapons have never been fired. My collection goes back to the seventeen hundreds. They are all locked away except for the one gun I now have for home protection. I live in the country where the one time I called the police because of poachers on my property I waited 45 minutes for their arrival. Soon afterwards I added a gun for home protection, a pump action shotgun. I did not want to find out what bad things could have happened during my 45 minute wait. My state allows open carry and I shudder when I see young men or women in stores carrying, but I believe that is their right. When my liberal friends found out about my gun collection they thought the worst and vilified me for simply owning guns. I am still liberal on just about every issue but I think my liberal neighbors (few out in the country) and city colleagues are wrong on gun ownership.
Paco (Santa Barbara)
Gun ownership policies should be based on geography.
B. (Brooklyn)
Out in the country, yes to reasonable gun ownership for hunting and protection. With background checks. Here in the city, where crazies roam our subways screaming foul, often racist rants (of all stripes), drug dealers shoot one another and children in the middle, and insane women wield mace on the streets, the fewer guns around, the better.
Charlie (NJ)
I can't help think about these definitions of liberal and conservative and the general notion that to be one or the other requires (demands?) allegiance to some broad set of policies. I think it's great Professor Miles found her historical justification for being supportive of gun ownership. I support that as well. What I find myself left thinking about as I leave this opinion is why the separate National African American Gun Association and what other implications are there of that? Why one more reason to build separation of an activity based on race? If I'm black and in the NRA is that now a bad thing? If I'm white with black friends can I not join their chapter of the National African American Gun Association? Are there really a lot of people out there like Ms. Ross who when thinking about her reasons says "If there is some kind of race war - or whatever.."? So now we have a Black NRA and one that I suppose may become increasingly the White NRA. Is this really a good thing?
Cane (Nevada)
Great red pill essay. While I agree that the NRA might be problematic given the GOP’s closeness to them, as a conservative American I fully endorse the black gun movement and may even make some donations now. No matter your race or politics, our Second Amendment rights belong to and should be cherished and exercised by everyone. And self determination, self reliance, individuality and fiercely protected liberty are cultural hallmarks of this great nation. That large numbers of black people - who’ve always been quite culturally conservative as far as I can tell - should embrace this is a wonderful thing and should be endorsed by conservatives everywhere. The only downside I see is for the professional left. Once more black people become red pilled on the gun issue, they might start thinking like former representative Barbara Jordan, and they might start questioning unrestricted illegal immigration. Or like an increasing number of black and Hispanic men, they might even start becoming Trump-curious. So if I were a white progressive woman or anti-gun zealot, I would advise getting in front of this stat. Are there any creative arguments that can be made here? Maybe a quote or anecdote from the life of MLK that can be shared? Hurry! You’re losing the narrative!
David Kannas (Seattle, WA)
The cute, purple semi-automatic handgun in the picture says a lot. It says that guns can be cute, safe, not the instruments of carnage that they are. Our culture is enamored with guns. Carrying one makes big men of little ones. As a gun owner who keeps his guns locked up and never carries one (I carried one in my twenty-plus career as a police officer and one tour in Vietnam where I carried a rifle evey day.) I know what they are for, and that is not to be cute.
Don Juan (Washington)
@David Kannas -- a gun is never cute. Not even in the color purple. It is a deadly weapon. Showing it off as the person does speaks volumes.
Chris (10013)
Despite the cowardice of Congress and kowtowing to the NRA, gun violence research still exists. There is ample evidence (reference Daniel Webster Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) that 1) policies designed to keep firearms from high risks individuals works - yes this will restrict criminals, the mentally ill and domestic violence offenders from having guns . 2) implementation of background checks and elimination of the gun show loophole works 3) None of this restricts law abiding citizens from owning and using guns Finally, were the NRA actually sincere in reducing violence, then they would not oppose the above nor would they fight against mandatory min sentences for crimes committed with a gun. If the Democrats were sincere, they would similarly not oppose required min sentences for crimes committed with a gun.
Chip (Burnsville NC)
Thank you for this outstanding essay, Ms. Miles. However, I believe it is important to clarify this issue of MLK's gun ownership. While he did briefly own a gun in Montgomery, he got rid of it for reasons of conscience. In his own words, ". . . How could I serve as one of the leaders of a nonviolent movement and at the same time use weapons of violence for my personal protection? Coretta and I talked the matter over for several days and finally agreed that arms were no solution. We decided then to get rid of the one weapon we owned. We tried to satisfy our friends by having floodlights mounted around the house, and hiring unarmed watchmen around the clock. I also promised that I would not travel around the city alone. I was much more afraid in Montgomery when I had a gun in my house. When I decided that I couldn't keep a gun, I came face-to-face with the question of death and I dealt with it. From that point on, I no longer needed a gun nor have I been afraid. Had we become distracted by the question of my safety we would have lost the moral offensive and sunk to the level of our oppressors."
Mark Andrew (Folsom)
And how appropriate that, even if he had been carrying that day, it was no protection for the rifle bullet that ended his non-violent life. We really learn nothing from history in this country, even when it is repeated over (Kennedy’s, Reagan, Scalise...) and over again (Virginia Tech, Columbine...) It’s not the economy, it’s not racism, its not bad people, it’s not the constitution - it’s just the guns. Remove that killing tool and we might find better ways to advance our nation into the 21st century.
Errol (Medford OR)
Early in the article the author repeats the lie that gun control advocates often use: "I see it (NRA) as an organization that stands in the way of laws to get automatic rifles out of the hands of people who might kill school children" Of course, the truth is that automatic weapons have been outlawed for many decades and are almost never never used in any crime (other than the rarely encountered home-made automatic weapons). But the rest of the article is really just a long and example laden proof that guns are not a threat....rather, it is some of the people who have them that are the threat. Those people are usually the element of the population commonly called "criminal". But as we see again and again, there are also cops who are among those bad people using guns to unjustly kill (they would be "criminals", too, if the government didn't have a double standard for cops making them effectively above the law). I am an ardent proponent of the Constitution's Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment. We have seen those rights supposedly guaranteed us in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, 9th, and 14th chipped away for decades. Enemies of individual liberty, whether they be fellow citizens or the the government itself, want to further erode those rights. The right of self defense is a fundamental human right as well as a Constitutional right. Guns enable a person who is physically weaker than an assailant to defend himself from the assailant.
Oliver (New York, NY)
The article makes a lot of good points. But there is a very scary side to this: if a cop happens upon a scene of a black person with a gun, that person (whether he be a licensed gun owner, security guard, or even a policeman), according to recent news reports, has a slim chance of coming out alive.
M (CA)
This was my thought, too. A white guy with a gun—Heh, no problem, buddy, you got a license for that thing, etc. A black guy with a cell phone, or a toy gun, or nothing, can be a dead guy.
MRD (Washington, DC)
This is all about choices. When someone commits a great harm and they choose to repair it, the first step is acknowledging that harm. If they cannot or will not acknowledge it, the harmed party becomes a threat. Now there's another choice: they can neutralize the threat by bringing the harmed party into their fold, or they have to crush it. I've noticed use of the word "inclusive" is an effective way to neutralize a threat. I think Ms. Miles' first gut reaction, that the NRA sticker is an affront, was the correct one. And I'm certain survival relies on heeding gut instinct.
PaulB67 (Charlotte NC)
It is a tragedy that keeps on giving that so many Americans have accepted the bizarre interpretation of the 2nd Amendment as insuring the citizens' right to own guns. From the nation's founding all the way to 1978, no one, including the NRA, believed that such a right existed or was intended by Madison, who drafted the amendment. But in a 5-4 Supreme Court decision (Heller) crafted by Antonin Scalia, the Court somehow concluded that there was inherent in the Constitution a "right" to keep and bear arms. Former Chief Justice Warren Burger decried the ruling as fraudulent, and as several researchers have uncovered, the rationale for this right was cooked up by teams of lawyers hired by the NRA to claim that the right existed. The NRA wanted the ruling so that its funders -- the gun manufacturers -- could market guns. The rest, as they say, is history. This clearly passionate writer raises interesting and provocative questions about guns and wonders whether former slaves would have been gun owners themselves, for protection from mob rule. That musing, however, would not likely have surfaced or prompted a discussion pre-Holder. No one in Congress, the White House or the Supreme Court for 200 years assumed, believed or advocated for universal gun ownership rights. It just wasn't thought of as an issue -- even by the NRA. Thus, the framework for this commentary by Professor Miles -- good as it is -- is erroneous and misguided.
Susan (Houston)
How could Warren Burger object to the Heller ruling (2008) when it occurred 13 years after his death? You're right that the case created a "right" that had previously not existed, but get your facts straight.
Issy (USA)
Most people would label me a liberal but I wouldn’t. Although I lean Democrat in my voting, I have also support the 2 Amendment. I get into arguments with my liberal leaning friends over this issue all the time. The constitution gives Americans the right to bear arms and there should be no disputing that. Just as the constitution grants the right to privacy which abortion rights falls under and there should be no disputing that. Yet we have people with an agenda on both sides trying to take our rights away. It’s not so much the government we need to fear. It’s religious institutions who use their power to oppress societies particularly women, and corporations who hold all our the wealth, and manufacturing of everything from medicine to food production. If the people don’t have ownership of their own bodies, to reproduce when we want, to grow food for our communities on small scales, to access health care and medicines to maintain our lives, in time we will all be living in a feudal system as serfs. Our government needs to protect us, the people from these entities, not turn these entities into the most “powerful people” influencing policy and chipping away at our safety nets and stealing our wealth from our homes, to our farms,to our retirements savings, to our health care....yet we see conservative government fail time and time again the we the people need to protect themselves at some point. How will we do that without fire arms?
Snarky (Maryland)
Moderate on most issues however never saw a reason to own a weapon. My old man had a bad experience in Vietnam and he prefers peace refusing to even touch a weapon since leaving the military. However the night of the Republican convention I filled out my permit application. Submitted on the night of the election. I noticed a terrible trend during the last presidential cycle emerging and decided it best to be armed just in case. Sad we live in these times...
Jay (Florida)
Blacks have the right to self-defense. They have the right to defend themselves, their families, neighborhoods, residences and businesses. Racism is real and thriving in America. White supremacy is no longer a hushed, subtle threat. It is now a publicly spoken reality that exists and clearly threatens the lives and safety of African Americans, non-Christians and a host of minorities including immigrants, latinos, Jews, as well as homosexuals, transgenders, queers and lesbians. The marching and chanting through the streets of Ferguson Missouri is ample example of the vile hatred that exists, openly in American society. I am not a gun nut but I am a gun owner. I learned how to use a .22 rifle in the Boy Scouts in 1958. In 1962 I joined our high school rifle teams and earned a varsity letter. The army provided me with additional training and expertise in in 1966. Now and then I would shoot tin cans and paper targets with my son just as my dad and grandfather did with me. Many, many of our friends and neighbors owned shotguns, rifles and now and then a trophy rifle or pistol trophy from WWII or Korea was seen in homes. A .22 or .30-30 caliber rifle was probably the most ubiquitous. Not to forget a good 12 gauge pump shotgun. Kids in schools paint Nazi swastikas. Neo Nazis chant "The Jews will not replace us" and "Blood and soil", two Nazi slogans. Minorities have the right of self-defense. Blacks have nothing to apologize for or any need to explain gun ownership.
areader (us)
"Every other day on the internet we’re hit with another racist attack, and another, and another. This is America in 2018. You’d think that this is 1818, the way this is going down.” If only Jussie Smollett had a gun.
J c (Ma)
I think guns a useful and interesting mechanical tools. I like to rread about them, take them apart, and fire them (incredibly in frequently). That said, I judge an activity by the company I see doing it, and in the case of guns, that is a bunch of mostly white men (like myslef) who are cowards (uh, hopefully not me). If you think you need a gun to walk out the door in America today, you are probably a coward. There are exceptions, but I think it’s a good rule of thumb.
poppop (NYC)
You have a natural right to armed self defense. If you are a head of household you have a duty to be your own and your family's first defender.
Sh (Brooklyn)
Should you re-think your anti-gun stance??? Yes, yes you should.
michele surdi (rome,italy)
never read through dred scott?
Mary S (Lansdale, PA)
I view the pictures of black people holding guns in this article with a measure of satisfaction. Maybe the only way to get gun loving white racists to rethink their position on guns is to remind them that blacks have as much right to guns as they do.
truth (West)
You want gun control? Get every African American and Muslim in the US to join the NRA. Those white supremacists will shut down gun ownership so fast you won't believe it.
kim (nyc)
As long as Ms Miles knows that a law abiding professional black person with a gun is asking to be killed, most probably by a scared LEO. Also, congrats on finding a unicorn. All the black people I know, myself included, are hoplophobics.
Melvin (SF)
Stop with the pearl clutching already. Black people have the right to protect themselves. And sadly a greater need than most of us. Criminals don’t obey gun control laws.
Richard (Palm City)
Putting a NRA sticker on your window is an invitation to be robbed, because obviously you are a gun owner. Being a black with a gun is also an invitation to be shot. Witness the recent trial in West Palm of a cop who killed a black with a concealed carry permit. Or the cop in NYC who was chasing a mugger and was shot by fellow cops. The only good I have ever seen was in Condi Rice’s bio where she told how her father and neighbors kept the KKK off their street in Birmingham with a shotgun.
Dadof2 (NJ)
Unlike many of my fellow White folks, I am not disturbed by the rise in Black ownership of guns, propelled by responsible organizations like BGM and NAAGA. Rather I am comforted by it. Because these are not the racially-stereotyped "gang-bangers" but are EXACTLY what the NRA pretends it is: Responsible solid citizens concerned with their own, their families, and their communities, and the safety of them. Solid citizens legally obtaining firearms, learning how to use them and store them safely and effectively. There is NOTHING scary about that! What's scary is angry, frightened, ignorant Red Hats whipped up into a frenzy by blatant lies about People of Color, People of non-Christian faiths, and immigrants (non-White of course) from the President, the NRA President, Wayne LaPierre, the NRA Spokeswoman, Dana Loesch, and litany of White Supremacists featured at CPAC. Is it any wonder that gun-owning organizations that either deviate from, or totally oppose the NRA are growing in membership? It's not just BGM and NAAGA. There is the LGC (Liberal Gun Club), several Liberal Prepper groups, Jewish gun owner organizations, and a growing number and membership in LGBTQ+ gun owning and training groups. The lesson of Lewis Hayden, and MLK, is that if you make the violent attackers, from the slave hunters, to the KKK gunning for Dr. King, aware that THEY are coming up against armed resistance and themselves may die, THEY BACK OFF!! Remember: We saw this in Charlottesville.
Dadof2 (NJ)
What scares me are people like Michael Martin Barnhill, who, in Carrol County, Mississippi, is the perfect example of what can go terribly wrong. Barnhill was drunk at a small B'day party for his wife. She and their friends took his keys. So he went to his truck, go a gun, and killed his wife and the other couple before fleeing. 1) a) Unattended b)loaded gun in a c) vehicle. 2) a) Drunk b) angry c) grabs gun 3) a) Kills wife for trying to keep him and other motorists safe. b) Kills friends for same. 4) a) Flees scene b) returns to house, c) lies to police, d) flees again e) is captured and charged. Barnhill is precisely the person who should be DENIED gun ownership. In NJ he would have gotten years in prison even if he never fired the gun. He is EXACTLY whom EFFECTIVE background checks could stop before he killed 3 people.
Paul Lewis (Newton MA)
“Ask yourself this. It’s a zombie apocalypse. Tomorrow, you wake up, and you can’t find your children. You go out to search for them. Do you want a gun now?” The problem with this seemingly rhetorical question is that it conflates depictions of the zombie apocalypse in popular culture with scenarios of social and political disorder. In a world overrun by zombies, the few humans who survive would do so by becoming mindlessly violent themselves, killing to avoid being killed moment to moment. To avoid this outcome, we need to hold on to our flawed civilization and shared humanity as if and because our “lives and sacred honor” depend on it. The best way to survive after zombies take over is by becoming a zombie. To avoid this, we need to recommit not to mere survival but to the preservation of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” through brotherhood. So, ask yourself this: you’re on a boat carrying people of all races, classes, religions, and nationalities, and a storm is coming. Only by working together can the boat make it through the storm. What would you rather have: a gun or an oar? Paul Lewis Newton MA --------------- The writer is the author of "A Is for Asteroids, Z Is for Zombies: A Bedtime Book about the Coming Apocalypse":
alyosha (wv)
Liberals believe in the Disney Theory of dangerous animals: if you don't threaten them, they'll be friendly. And, Liberals believe in the Daddy Theory for dangerous people: there is an all wise, loving Daddy state up there to protect us. Don't take the law (self-protection) into your own hands! I love animals. I don't hunt, an unusual West Virginian. Until I was 13, I followed the Disney Theory. In Glacier NP ("our leaders know what they're doing, letting me come here"), I had a terrifying and very dangerous encounter with a Grizzly. I will not go into bear country without a weapon, a big one. Professor Miles echoes my experience, but with dangerous people--- slave owners and slave hunters, modern racists--- in place of dangerous animals. She doesn't say that she wiil go into "bear country" only with a weapon. Not yet, that is. She's thinking about it. ************* Two other people come to mind. Malcolm X: "The Ballot or the Bullet", and "By any means necessary". Both referred to Black self-defense. Maria Butina: Who sought to build a Russian NRA, for self-defense. But she was hounded for months by the FBI and newspaper front pages, as part of the Russian Plot against America. It turns out she wasn't a spy, or slut, or a Putin Robot, but actually a real live gun advocate. To save face, the Feds busted her for conspiracy, a law for convicting even a ham sandwich (to steal a line). See the New Republic, March 2019. So much for all-wise Daddy.
common sense advocate (CT)
In this op-ed - Professor Miles irresponsibly and tantalizingly leaves out the facts on the deadly danger of gun ownership - and proves that the NRA and the manufacturers it sells guns for have achieved their goal - a fully paranoiac society that believes guns are necessary to battle "other" for survival. The facts are: Higher gun ownership puts both men and women at a higher risk for homicide, particularly gun homicide (Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Injury Control Research Center, 2009). The risk of homicide is three times higher in homes with firearms (Kellermann, 1993, p. 1084). States with the highest levels of gun ownership have 114 percent higher firearm homicide rates and 60 percent higher homicide rates than states with the lowest gun ownership (Miller, Hemenway, and Azrael, 2007, pp. 659, 660). Stop, don't encourage, gun madness!
Independent (the South)
The subject is one thing in theory, another thing in practice. I have more fear of a "good guy with a gun" than a bad guy with a gun. I am more apt to run into a "good guy with a gun" with road rage than be in a bad neighborhood. And how many black good guys with guns have been shot by police. The NRA doesn't care. They just want to sell more guns. So whether black or white, lets have common sense gun laws. Let's not have people walking around armed. Let's have the same training and licensing for owning a gun that is made to kill that we have for driving a car. And do people really need assault rifles with high capacity magazines?
NFC (Cambridge MA)
Owning guns against the possibility of a future lawless, shooting-happy world strikes me as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Anna (NY)
The last situation you'd like to be in when in a situation of gun violence, is with a gun in your hand when police arrives. That's one of the first things I learned in an "active shooter" training. How will police know who's the good guy (or gall) and who's the bad one(s)? They shoot first, ask later...
C. Spearman (Memphis)
A few years ago there was a murder next door. When I heard the gun shots I ran with my dog to the hallway in the middle of my small house, scared to death, not knowing when or if it would stop. After the silence took over I crept out and called 911. The victim was a black man, the shooter was a black man. There were two toddlers and two girlfriends present. For hours it rained every manner of law enforcement. I am fairly certain neither had a permit nor were the guns "legal". The shooter was let off because they both had guns. An anecdote to be sure, but one that plays out daily all over the city of Memphis. Protecting oneself from the "other" or tyranny is still at this point is a side issue.
Bocheball (New York City)
The article never addresses how difficult it is to get a gun license. I don't know Mass. laws, but I suspect they are strict. In NYC its virtually impossible for a civilian to to be approved to carry one. However, I can certainly understand and sympathize with a black person's need to feel protected. When the police shoot black citizens first then ask question later, and often falsify evidence, self protection becomes vital.
JSK (Crozet)
A wonderful history lesson, but possibly flawed justification in the world of today. I am not anti-second amendment: guns in the house for self defense are legal even if the subject of controversy. But looking at the deep-seated public health problems, I do not want one in my home (I gave it up years ago): "Private Guns, Public Health, New Ed.," by David Hemenway, Univ. Michigan Press ( ). Here is one quote from Chapter 1: "On an average day during the 1990s in the United States, firearms were used to kill more than ninety people and to wound about three hundred more. Each day guns were also used in the commission of about three thousand crimes. The U.S. rates of death and injury due to firearms and the rate of crimes committed with firearms are far higher than those of any other industrialized country, yet our rates of crime and nonlethal violence are not exceptional. For example, the U.S. rates of rape, robbery, nonlethal assault, burglary, and larceny resemble those of other high-income countries ..." I hope society does not "topple and 2020 feels like 1820." But that does not seem like adequate justification for what we see in this country today. We need better gun control.
Allan Langland (Tucson)
The United States is one of the only countries in the world that allows private citizens to own firearms for self defense. Given the history of racism in the United States, why is it surprising that a person of color might want to avail themselves of this right? The brutal murder of Emmett Till happened only 64 years ago. If I had been living in the western United States only 77 years ago, I would have been rounded up and placed in a detention camp because of my Japanese blood. The election of Donald Trump seems to have emboldened racists; U.S. history demonstrates that oppression of minorities is a recurring theme, especially in times of war or economic turmoil.
lhc (silver lode)
I anticipate with trepidation the day an African-American shoots and kills a white person in Florida and, when placed on trial, asserts his "stand your ground" defense. I use Florida only as a pertinent example. The defendant states that he was in fear of his life and did not need to withdraw or retreat. And he shows a reasonable fear for his personal safety as many black Floridians do. What is the jury going to do? What will the Florida Court of Appeals or Supreme Court hold when called upon to review the case?
Orion Clemens (Florida, MO)
If there were any time that African Americans and other citizens of color should be arming themselves, it is now. We have a deranged man in the White House, becoming more unhinged daily, as Mr. Mueller tightens the noose. Trump has already said that he won't find the 2020 election legitimate if he loses. And he has every incentive to remain in office under any circumstances, to avoid certain criminal prosecution. So what does this have to do with gun ownership? Any of us citizens who are not white will be nothing but literal targets of Trump supporters, when he says the word for them to begin exercising their "Second Amendment solutions". I'm a person of Middle Eastern heritage (Assyrian Christian) and a native-born American citizen now in my 60's. While I have sometimes felt marginalized in this country, I never once felt afraid until Trump took office. Luckily all I've had to endure are slurs and insults. But they've increased, like a steady and insistent drum beat since November 2016. My family and I will be ready for the time when Trump supporters become violent, all at the urging of their dear leader. My ancestors are survivors of the Armenian Genocide, and had to flee northwest Iran. No more running from those who would undertake ethnic cleansing with glee. Trump supporters need to understand that many of us will defend ourselves. I was born in this country, my child was born in this country, and we WILL stand our ground.
NYCgg (New York, NY)
stop reading internet “news” and start living in the real world
Joshua Schwartz (Ramat-Gan, Israel)
There are many reasons why an African-American might want or not want a gun. That Lewis Hayden might have used one in the 19th century for legitimate purposes is totally and absolutely irrelevant to today and for anybody. Does Prof. Miles really think that civil society might topple and 2020 will feel like 1820? If that should happen, the proverbial or non-proverbial powder keg beneath the floorboards will help very little.
When you spend time with people who believe thoroughly that American Society is in danger of collapse it's not difficult to come away and write this:" But where would I want to be if civil society topples and 2020 feels like 1820? In a home like the Haydens’, in a neighborhood like the North Slope of 19th-century Beacon Hill, in a community fortified by love in action and maybe a powder keg beneath the floorboards. " While I think there are some interesting thoughts expressed, largely this editorial seems to me to be more scare mongering, just what the NRA does but from a different point of view. I support common sense gun controls-the example of many other countries show that these are perfectly compatible with responsible gun ownership.
Mark (CT)
Everyone has the right to feel secure, be it on the street or in the home. Others may feel they don't want a gun in their home and that is also their right. That said, remember there are a very small number of first responders in any city and in the event of a real emergency, in a matter of days, thugs will come out of their holes and that gun may be the only thing that can offer protection to you and your family.
Steven Ling (Canal Fulton, Oh)
There is no reason that one can’t support responsible gun ownership while still keeping guns away from those who are trying to cause harm. I own quite a few guns myself but also think that people who have criminal backgrounds shouldn’t be able to go to the local gun show and stock up on a load of AK47s.
JBR (West Coast)
@Steven Ling People with criminal backgrounds are universally prohibited from owning or buying a gun.
J. Waddell (Columbus, OH)
As Frederick Douglas said in 1867: "A man's rights rest in three boxes. The ballot box, the jury box and the cartridge box." That's a lesson for all of us, black or white.
Susan Anderson (Boston)
Guns are specifically designed to maim or kill at a distance. They are machines for hurting. How can you know that somebody is not going to lose their temper and remember they have a gun and use it. How many children do you know who, if told not to do something, will do just that. Escalation is not the answer. We have a lot of unnecessary deaths in the US because we won't follow the example of countries that have strict gun laws. We have a lot of fear and hatred, and providing the means to harm makes that worse. These nice people are providing a cosmetic facade which does not represent everyone. Meanwhile, the "militias" are arming themselves at speed, and our cowardly bully in chief is encouraging them to get ready to use "second amendment solutions" if the majority prevails against him and his corrupt enablers and dupes.
Jp (Michigan)
One evening I wanted to place a phone call from our house on the near east side of Detroit. The line was dead. I went outside to check if there were any lines down and had a firearm that was visible. As I walked between the houses a would be perp took off running. The phone line had been cut. The person who cut the line was black. My family is white. Would I rate a stoic picture in the NYT holding a firearm that probably saved my family from harm? How would all the firebrands who post here treat that story? You don't have to answer that.
Joe (Raleigh, NC)
Odd. Most of my African American friends would prefer there were fewer guns in their neighborhoods. Of course, they don't get to live in the same neighborhoods as Harvard professors.
B. (Brooklyn)
Thank you.
Jack Craypo (Boston)
I have worked as an educator for many years with under-served populations in Boston. I have been on the African American American Heritage tour more than a dozen times. The Shaw Memorial, where it starts, is less than a five minute walk from my classroom. What I can tell you is that guns have not been friends to the people I serve. They have not protected them. They have not made anyone safer. They have not solved a single problem. What guns have done is taken the lives of some of my students and taken the lives of people they love. Guns are a scourge, a blight, and a tragedy. And the last thing anyone should think of a gun as is a solution. When you are done having tea with the NRA, come and talk to my students. Look at the badges with faces of lost loved ones pinned to their hats and backpacks, talk to the boy in the wheelchair, and think about how all those holes were made in all those bodies. And then tell us again how guns are going to make anything better.
D Priest (Canada)
I knew I was no longer an American when I came to see the free access to firearms, along with its concealed and open carry manifestations as being a crude expression of how in America freedom is inexorably linked to violence in general and gun violence in particular. When you have lived outside “the homeland” you see people cherishing their weapons as being pathetic. It is an admission that your laws and institutions can not, and will not protect you. It is a bug in your system that you have come to believe is a feature.
Serrated Thoughts (The Cave)
What an adult column. Too often we have opinion pieces written by the convinced, for the convinced, and the only belief changed by the end is that the belief that their intellectual adversaries are even crazier than they thought before. I don’t mind guns, I’ve shot them and they are fun. But I’ve come to the conclusion that America is too immature to have guns. Normal societies, even those with high rates of gun ownership, don’t have our problems with gun murders. I thought for a long time that the best way to get decent gun control laws in America was to ensure that every black American who wanted a gun could have one, legally. As the Black Panthers’ exercise of their Second Amendment rights scared people into more restrictive gun laws in California, I hoped that it could happen nationwide. However, that ship has sailed. For all that we still have racism in America, it’s not the 60’s anymore and most whites just don’t see blacks as that existentially terrifying anymore. So instead, I’m wondering what would happen if we started to legally arm all Muslims...
Citizen Of The World (London)
I find it very interesting that Americans think that they can protect themselves from their government/fellow citizens by owning guns. The American police have military grade weapons. Can an individual, even with semi-automatic weapons, confront the state? What happens when citizens start arming themselves? Won’t the police buy more guns as they expect ‘greater resistance’? Can a liberal person of colour confront a white supremacist militia with a gun? Nope. This is all a myth propagated by the NRA that individuals need to protect themselves by arming themselves to the teeth. The real answer is to fight for a representative, just government that protects its people (all of them). And to make sure that the state confronts hate groups. More arms in the hands of people is madness.
Greg (North Carolina)
I would prefer that we repeal and replace the second amendment with something sensible, allowing for hunting, etc. but otherwise abolishing private gun ownership. But back to reality, in the meantime it seems to me one of the best ways to get to my end goal is for African-Americans to "carry," either concealed or open. I believe much of the gun lobby is exceedingly racist, and that they're happy to see guns in the hands of white people like me. But put that shoe on the other foot and have widespread gun ownership by African Americans, and the narrative might change.
Paco (Santa Barbara)
You could say that the physically weak or numerically in the minority need guns to even the score. I think it would be good if an African-American gun group was organized, locked and loaded, at the university of Texas where guns are allowed on campus. Maybe that would get a discussion going about where guns belong. And another discussion about how African-Americans need protection from a potentially dissolving society.
Paul (Brooklyn)
Yes Ms. Miles you should rethink your anti-gun stance but not an anti abuse of America's cultural gun abuse sickness which inner city minorities including blacks comprise 50% of the problem. The other 50% are whites who abuse the gun. The gun is not the problem. Abuse of it is. If Madison and the founding fathers saw how we have abused the 2nd amendment with 100k+ Americans getting killed and killing each other and/or seriously wounding each other every yr. they would turn over in their graves. It is exactly the opposite of what they envisioned. Only a policy of legality, regulation, responsibility and non promotion of the gun is the answer. We aced this policy with cig. smoking and drunk driving but are a miserable failure with our gun abuse sickness since we did not employ it.
StuJay (Brescia)
for better or worse it is a right, spelled out in the constitution. Should not be abused or made it such a big deal.
WhiskeyJack (Helena, MT)
I am anti-NRA extremism, not anti-gun ownership. I believe background checks for those who by guns should be in place as much as is practical. It will not solve the problem of ownership by people bent on violence all together but will help. Indeed, it seems that any system we humans can devise can be circumvented by other humans but that does not mean we should not try. If you look into the history of the second amendment and Supreme Court rulings you will see that there has never been an unmitigated right to bear arms. The court, for example, has ruled against you having a sawed off shotgun. So let us have a more nuanced discussion of our right to bear arms.
Bob (Smithtown)
First, this was an interesting and thoughtful article. And the writer clearly gained some understanding during his journey. Second, as for gun control, I am speaking as a former career prosecutor who handled narcotics & gun cases. Because of our political culture, we have millions of illegal handguns (and even more long guns) in circulation. If a bad guy wants one, he can get one. Most of the laws proposed only restrict the LEGAL purchase of weapons but cannot stop the black market in illegal weapons. The only method for the latter is stop & frisk on the street and overall aggressive policing that culminates in search warrants. For an objective view of the law, JAMA has continued some fine research in this area. The overall conclusion: the one legislative element that seems to impact overall fatality rates is background checks (presumably criminal and hopefully include mental health as well). So I suggest that we all check our emotions - on both sides of your feelings about gun ownership - and support something that is objectively reasonable and seems to work. Background checks.
Uysses (washington)
Good article. Ultimately, the Second Amendment right to own and use firearms is crucial to maintaining liberty in our society. Ms. Miles recognizes this. She herself doesn't want to own any arms, which is certainly her prerogative. But she's awfully glad that some of her fellow African-Americans do own them, and are willing, if necessary, to use them to defend themselves, their families and their liberty.
Are we so over the tragedy of school shootings and other mass shooting events? Those are such old news that they don’t even merit a thought? Instead, the concern is that some groups....don’t own enough guns? Are lagging in their NRA membership numbers? Perhaps, if a simple sticker provoked so much thought for the author, he should consider this...the ubiquity of guns has made no one safer, only increased feelings of paranoia and danger. And the result - further escalation of household-level arms race.
areader (us)
"The N.R.A., on the other hand, has long been a boogeyman for me. I see it as an organization that stands in the way of laws to get automatic rifles out of the hands of people who might kill school children" Unfortunately this quote discredits the author's good intentions in writing the article. An honest writer wouldn't use the scary words "automatic rifles", since besides a minuscule number of old automatic weapons bought by collectors, a civilian person cannot legally buy such a rifle. Please don't tell untruths for the sake of your narrative.
MB (Minneapolis)
Most likely she is referring to semi-automatic rifles, which were banned but are no longer. Many mass shootings have involved semi-automatic rifles or assault rifles. I don't see how this mischaracterization, which is clearly unintentional, somehow discredits the author.
areader (us)
@MB, I'm so grateful when commenters explain what an author really meant. Of course it's clearly unintentional, because you said so.
Longue Carabine (Spokane)
On the constitutional issues, one should also be mindful of State constitutions. Article 1, sec. 21 of the constitution of my state, Washington, provides: "The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired." Very direct and unambiguous. Adopted in 1889. Drafted by a usual Western bunch of sober-sided farmers and ranchers, lumbermen, lawyers and such, many of them Civil War veterans. In other words, not crazies, by a long shot.
RCS (Stamford,CT)
Tiya, welcome to the real world. It is a dangerous place. Many live in a bubble that does not recognize how quickly things can go very bad. Glad you had a chance to talk with a lot of different people with different thoughts and were open minded enough to listen and consider their point of view. Good for you. Firearms are much like insurance. You hope and pray that everything will continue to be good and safe and "normal". The insurance is there only in case something goes wrong, not according to plan.
NYCgg (New York, NY)
I disagree. The real world is not a movie. In the real world people get up, go to work, run errands, take kids to school, etc. I’m sorry that’s boring and that you don’t need firearms to get through the day. But that’s the real world.
McGloin (Brooklyn)
@RCS I prepare for violence by training my body. When the real emergency happens, your gun is not likely to be in your hand. If it is not locked up with the bullets taken out, then it is just as likely that is will be used against you as by you. If someone mugs you on the street and your gun is in a pocket or holster, they probably will not stand around waiting for you to take it out. If someone is in your house and you take out your gun, try not to shoot your spouse, children, pets, or helpful neighbors. Guns are offensive weapons, not defensive weapons.
me (US)
Comments have been open on this column for about 10 hours, and not one person has explained how smaller, weaker, older, or disabled citizens are supposed to defend their own life against much younger, much larger, and more aggressive criminals without a gun. I am waiting for that explanation.
AACNY (New York)
@me Most of the "fear" is not for others but their own.
McGloin (Brooklyn)
@me They should be taking Tai Chi. It will keep them healthy into old age. does not require strength to be effective. is quite deadly, and doesn't rely on having a gun in your hand, which most people do not walk around with, even when they own one. Guns are offensive weapons, not defensive weapons, and by the way cops keep shooting good guys with guns, because they can't tell the difference. They just know they are coming to a shooting and see you with a gun. Even off duty police get shot by other police.
Dan Woodard MD (Vero beach)
The critical issue is not gun ownership; the NRA did nothing to support the Black Pathers' right to assemble a well regulated armed black militia for the defense of their community. The critical issue is not gun ownership but universal registration of firearms, which is essential to prevent guns from being readily accessible to criminals and the mentally ill. The NRA opposes any record of gun ownership based on the belief of many of its members that the "armed citizens" of the NRA will decide (on what criteria?) that the elected leader of our nation is a tyrant, and rise up with their guns, which the government would impound if they were registered, and bring down our government in a river of blood and install their own choice of leaders. This is the myth we must confront.
McGloin (Brooklyn)
@Dan Woodard MD Exactly. most of the NRA membership is against black people owning guns. They are all for their right to have guns, and they are also for the right of police to shoot any black person they see with a gun, even a 12 year old with a toy gun in an open carry state, who they gave no warning to. From the Atlantic, 'The NRA’s Catch-22 for Black Men Shot by Police:' But the NRA’s conspicuous lack of outrage after the shootings of Philando Castile, Jason Washington, and Alton Sterling, all black men killed by police while in possession of a firearm, suggests an impossible double standard. When armed black men are shot by the police, the NRA says nothing about the rights of gun owners; when unarmed black men are shot, its spokesperson says they should have been armed. To this day, Loesch defends Castile’s shooting as justified—despite the fact that Castile informed the officer he was carrying a firearm. In Washington’s case, Loesch said she was “never going to keyboard quarterback what police are doing.... The group has long urged citizens to arm themselves against the possibility of government tyranny, only to come down on the side of the state when it kills innocent people who are black. An additional irony is that, historically, the only American population to be forcibly deprived of its weapons was black Americans at the end of Reconstruction, disarmed by racist paramilitary groups."
John Q (N.Y., N.Y.)
All guns should be banned from civilian ownership in the U.S., and steps should be taken to encourage people to turn them in. Historical references have nothing to do with it, and Professor Miles should know that.
MB (Minneapolis)
? Yes go ahead and try to perpetuate the fallacy that "the left" wants to take away all guns.
Jude Ryan (Safety Harbor Florida)
If the most persuasive argument for gun ownership is a zombie apocalypse, it is self evident that the argument is desperately flawed. Confusing gun rights with the NRA is also fallacious. The NRA is a political organization whose mission is to restrict and damage democracy. It spreads hate and harm wherever it goes and hides behind a false interpretation of the right to bear arms. NRA propoganda works. This article is proof of that.
AACNY (New York)
The NRA is a boogeyman for many anti-gun activists. It was never more obvious than after that heartbreaking school shooting in Parkland. Activists blamed the NRA, all the while giving the sheriffs, social workers and even the FBI, which had not followed up on a report that the individual wanted to be a "school shooter", a pass. A case has always existed for gun ownership. Activists just don't want to hear it.
Longestaffe (Pickering)
We need to weigh the probability that civil society will break down against the probability that we or someone close to us will be killed by the misuse of a gun kept in the home, or by the proliferation of guns around us that will follow if apocalyptic visions run rampant. About the only realistic hope that preppers will be able carry into a social apocalypse is the hope of dying with their boots on.
Cathy (Hopewell Jct NY)
The problem that lies at the heart of this piece is the false dichotomy. All of our political arguments are false dichotomies. You can support the right of of gun ownership, but still support the necessity for regulation. The NRA doesn't allow any divergence from the dichotomy - you support their agenda or you are out to take people's guns. The reality - that one can own guns, but regulate sales, register guns, put the equivalent of VINs on them, and register resales, insure owners, do background checks and limit the rights of ownership for people who have demonstrated that ownership is dangerous - is outside the scope of the NRA. The NRA supports all actions that *sell* more guns. As long as the black market remains robust, with guns being legally sold to support an illegal future sale, then we will continue to make it easy to have innocent people, mostly young, shot in the cross fire of violence. And we will continue to have policemen shoot unarmed suspects because they are afraid the young man is armed; a cellphone, a wallet will look like a gun when officers are expecting a gun. So can you rethink you stance on guns? Sure. But should you rethink your stance on the NRA - whose polices directly lead to 30,000 deaths annually? No. Never.
Peak Oiler (Richmond, VA)
Why this Left-wing angst? Growing up in the South, I found that most gun owners, black or white, considered them tools for hunting or self-defense. It's only in recent years that they've been a fashion item to be carried at all times (that purple polymer gun in the photo illustrates my point). Above all, they distinguished our warring political camps. That should not be. Nor should the nuts on one of my gun forums, who carry except when asleep, even in their homes. I've a Leftist and hunter with a conceal-carry permit I've occasionally used. I've trained with a gun for years, including paid "tactical" training, such as fending off an assailant at close quarters and using deadly force with a gun, if I must. I shoot my handgun a couple of times a month, and it's a terrible responsibility. Before anti-gun folk ask for data about self-defense, I'll point just up the road: a mother shot a burglar twice in the neck, as he broke into her home, with a crowbar and duct-tape. The criminal come from New Zealand to kidnap an older daughter he'd been stalking online. I've other true stories of armed self-defense by properly trained civilians. I don't buy the NRA's propaganda slogan about good guys with guns, but yes, a properly trained person (of either gender) willing to use a gun can hold the line against evil, when 911 is not fast enough.
Reader (Canada)
Most American gun owners aren't hunters, ranchers, or military. Their guns aren't tools; they're lifestyle accessories. They truly don't know the death-dealing power they hold in their hands. They've never taken game with one. Never had to cull livestock with one. Never had to kill or be killed in war. For any decent person, once they have, their relationship with the gun changes forever. They become totems of death that demand fear and respect. The photos of the people in this article tell me they fall into the blissfully naive category of gun owner. To them I would say: own guns for self defense if you feel you need to, but don't flippantly display and glorify them. Help defuse the American gun craze -- don't add more fuel to it. Guns aren't cool, they're killing machines.
AACNY (New York)
@Reader You have learned nothing about gun ownership or gun owners in the US. Responsible legal gun owners are the rare ones who actually understand the lethality of their guns.
Reader (Canada)
@AACNY I lived in the U.S. Owned guns there. Shot with people there. Plenty are responsible and legal. That doesn't change the fact that most of them have never actually seen firsthand what a gun can do to a living thing. It bestows a sobering respect for the gun that most of them, honestly, just don't have. Hence why they flaunt their guns and vote against gun control measures rather than for.
Brian Harvey (Berkeley)
This would all be more persuasive if the leaders it quotes weren't NRA members (or "linked to" it). The NRA isn't about protecting people from the apocalypse; it's about opposing /any/ restriction on weapons, no matter how sensible, no matter how many children are killed by gun nuts (that is, nuts with guns, not saying everyone with a gun is a nut) who should have been caught in the background checks that were never done. Maybe it might be okay to outlaw concealed carry of machine guns, without threatening the Second Amendment? After all, we First Amendment fans are happy to outlaw the classic case of shouting "fire!" in a crowded theater when there isn't one, and we draw fine lines about how you may criticize someone without libeling them, lines drawn differently depending on the extent to which the person criticized is a public figure.
kathryn (boston)
Liberal are not anti-gun. But the Giers' support of the NRA is shameful. The NRA is not protecting gun owners from having their guns seized. They are blocking any laws to limit guns to responsible citizens. The Giers are also deluding themselves about guns increasing their safety. Too bad the author didn't ask them what event in their past would have turned out differently if they had a gun. Even policemen, some in uniform, are shot by police when they are black. Guns increase risk of injury and death and more people should make their choices on the facts, not their fears.
true patriot (earth)
this apology for guns is so misinformed on so many levels every murder with a gun is a death that didn't have to happen -- drug murders, women murdered by men, robberies, all of it guns are machineries of death.
DC Reade (Virginia)
It's possible to own firearms for self-protection and to advocate for that Constitutional right without feeling an obligation to join the National Rifle Association. The NRA is an organization that was politicized over 30 years ago by people like Wayne LaPierre. They long ago mutated from a lobby principally concerned with 2nd Amendment issues into a functional appendage of the right wing of the Republican Party, seeking to nurture the worst and most paranoid tendencies in gun owners with dire scaremongering narratives, accusations of creeping totalitarianism hurled at proponents of even the mildest and most reasonable regulatory initiatives, and other boilerplate right-wing propaganda. The current head of the NRA is Oliver North. Yes, that Oliver North. Many, many gun owners and 2nd Amendment supporters do not share the rigid and extreme positions held by the NRA. There are a number of groups who are involved in advocating for 2nd Amendment rights, as well as providing classes in gun safety and responsible ownership. Learn their positions before deciding to support or fund them.
SV (Sacramento Valley, California)
African-Americans who favor gun-ownership should nevertheless beware of supporting the NRA, an organization that has recently worked actively to support politicians from the most extreme rightwing elements of our political system, those opposed to voting rights etc. These are the politicians who exploit and promote the fear of minorities to gain votes, and have formed a symbiotic relationship with the NRA, with each feeding off the other. For minorities to support such an organization is akin to shooting yourself in the foot, or worse.
Ronn (Minneapolis)
I just wonder where those guns will be in 20, 30 or 50 years. Whose hands will they be in? Guns don't go away, they are sold, stolen, given away and last for years with little maintenance. Like land mines buried in the ground, they can do damage for many years to come. No mater how much folks feel they need these things for protection now, they are putting a curse on future generation.
The Critic (Earth)
Bigotry, Racism, Discrimination, Ignorance, Hate and Fear unfortunately comes in all shades and forms! If you don't believe me, just read the comments about guns and the NRA! What people don't understand is the fact that our "Rights & Freedoms" like the 2nd Amendment, come with responsibilities. People also fail to understand is that the other Amendments come with responsibilities as well! The unfortunate reality of our society is that our 'other' Amendments are under attack, not just the 2nd Amendment. For example, a Conservative cannot have a discussion on the Berkeley campus without being assaulted. That is just one example - many more examples could be mentioned. As mentioned above, all of our "Rights & Freedoms" come with responsibilities. Not just the ones we happen to like or agree with. People who don't understand this, don't deserve any of our Rights & Freedoms! Yes, Bigotry, Racism, Discrimination, Ignorance, Hate and Fear unfortunately comes in all shades and forms - If you want to see the modern day examples of this... just mention guns and the NRA and watch what happens by those who do not understand that all of our Rights & Freedoms come with responsibilities - which includes defending the Amendments we might not agree with. Our 'Freedoms and Rights' come with responsibilities...
Paul (Charleston)
@The Critic What I just inferred from your comment was that we should feel bad for white men with guns because they too suffer from bigotry and oppression. As a middle-aged white man of privilege I say you need to get some perspective and stop twisting this issue into "Oh the poor NRA is being attacked."
Jack McCullough (Montpelier, Vermont)
Zombie apocalypse? The best argument Maj Toure can conjure is a farcical trope from Hollywood? He might do better to consider the actual mayhem found in the annual death toll of homicides, suicides, and negligent deaths brought about by the near ubiquity of firearms in our homes.
Brian (Copenhagen)
If civil society breaks down, I would rather most people did not have firearms, it will be a massacre. On another note, the easy access to firearms has surely devestated the African American community in places like Chicago. Is the answer more guns? As the article points out, the white community is swimming in firearms, so I understand why African Americans would feel safer with some firearms of their own. It’s just sad that this is where we are. What made sense in the 1800’s should not apply in our supposedly enlightened present.
Mike (New York, NY)
As a white man and law enforcement officer, I have no problems with any law abiding citizen, regardless of color, to posses firearms for self defense. I believe that restrictive gun laws are inherently racist because they were initially designed to prevent minorities from owning guns. Additionally, in cities like Chicago where murders are out of control, restrictive gun laws put law abiding citizens at the mercy of criminal elements in their communities. Law abiding people, of all colors, creeds, sexual orientation, etc., should be able to protect themselves from society's predators.
RD (Baltimore)
@Mike All true, but the the catcher here is the definition of "restrictive", which now seems to extend to any and all gun regulation, any study of gun violence, efforts to track weapons, or screening on who is able to obtain a weapon. Then there's the state of contemporary "gun culture", which has gone off the rails over the course of my lifetime. It used to be that the guy obsessed with collecting (or stockpiling) weapons was considered a gun nut to avoid. Now he's a Second Amendment hero, whose needs define the baseline for gun ownership. In the face of increasingly deadly mass shootings (and the slow motion mass shooting playing out in the nation's streets and homes), the main priority in our response seems to be to not do anything that might possibly inconvenience the next shooter. We've succumbed to a dark vision in which we must all now carry guns to protect ourselves against others who have done the same. Because the club of gun ownership is non-exclusive. Lack of restriction serves the unlawful as well as it does the proverbial "lawful gun owner". Until they aren't...
Beth (Chicago)
@Mike I live in the Village of Oak Park, right next to Chicago. The rights of the citizen's of Oak Park, specifically the right to NOT have guns here, have been trampled. For years Oak Park did not allow firearms, and that choice of its citizens was overruled by the Supreme Court. In 2016, a local referendum to overturn the second amendment passed with 65% of the vote, a more than solid majority. What about our rights?
TBVII (Florida)
@Beth Government (i. e., legislators and/or voters) can not remove or invalidate a natural right. You have a right NOT to possess a weapon; that doesn't give you the power and authority to prohibit your neighbor from such possession.
John (New York)
Thank you for this opinion piece. Many non-Americans may look with bemusement, but the right to self-defense has a close relationship with asserting individual rights and freedom. In the most extreme case: While nobody likes to talk about it, the black militant movement (extremely flawed) still had a large hand in accelerating the civil rights movement. Simply seeing dissatisfied individuals, assembled and armed; while (barely) staying at the right side of the law was enough to demonstrate a sense of urgency. For the average individual, there's also the simple fact that law enforcement can never be everywhere. As survivor advice goes, "you" are ultimately responsible for your own survival and it requires taking action.
Objectivist (Mass.)
The Constitution recognizes the right to life. And the Bill of Rights recognizes the right to keep and bear arms, precisely because, one must be able to act in defense of their own life. An "anti-gun" stance must be considered in that light, i.e. you may have an anti-gun stance, but the Constitution and Bill of Rights outweigh such an opinion. The Supreme Court has (again, recently) confirmed that in this country, the police have no obligation to protect innocent people from violence. They are a forensic function, there to apprehend criminals after the fact. Police response times are tracked and well documented, nationwide. The most important statistic is that in 99.995% of responses related to violence, they arrive long after the violence has ended. Carrying a gun for self defense purposes is precisely what the founders would expect citizens to do. And (see Federalist 29) they would expect that ownership of weapons such as an AR-15 would be widespread, precisely because they wanted the citizenry to be able to successfully resist a large but oppressive standing army commanded by an authoritarian government. In their day, literally every house had guns. Children were trained to use them from an early age. The lack of training and familiarity we see today is the result of left wing anti-gun fear-mongering, not common sense. There would be fewer accidents, with greater familiarity. Gun crime ? Largely an issue of child rearing.
Marcus (Tampa)
I'm African-American, a liberal and a gun owner and yet I detest the Second Amendment. My only reason for owning a gun is because so many other people have guns because the laws and this country allows them to. I wish we had strict gun laws like in Brittain or Japan. I would be the first in line to turn in my gun.
Tsk (Tsk)
@Marcus Cultural differences are the reason for higher crime in the US, not gun laws (think Japan after Fukushima vs. Houston after a hurricane). There was zero difference in gun crimes in nations that imposed strict gun laws. In the US, gun ownership is up 50% since the early 90s, a period which saw a 50% decline in gun murders. guns are used for self-defense more than for crimes. don't disarm the vulnerable.
Cass (Missoula)
@Marcus Even if we passed the most restrictive gun laws on the planet, it would likely be decades before those laws trickled down to those who would abuse them. Better hold on to your gun for awhile.
Carlos R. Rivera (Coronado CA)
@Marcus Japan gained strict gun laws in the 1600s. The anti-governtment forces USED firearms to help overthrow the government, and after taking power banned firearms in order to have the same thing NOT happen to them.
Mark Thomason (Clawson, MI)
In 1975, I bought an old gun from an estate sale. I showed it to some friends, very pleased. A black friend got very upset. He was so upset he left me a note explaining why, too upset to discuss it directly. Basically, he did not feel free to do what I had just done. The law said he could, as much as I could. But he felt he was not really free to do it, in 1975. He would be bringing down trouble. It would be foolish. And it made him angry that I could and he couldn't. He was a smart guy. If he said it was so, he had good reason. I don't know if today he'd want a gun or not. I do know I'd want him to feel free to buy one if he wants one. These groups show black people feeling free to do so. That's good. That's a big improvement over 1975.
Dani F. (Oakland)
@Mark Thomason Unfortunately, Philando Castile and other wrongly-slain black American citizens also provide evidence that even today, your friend, and others like him, have good reason to feel that way. Your sample size is way too small to determine that matters in this area have improved.
Ernest Montague (Oakland, CA)
@Mark Thomason Interesting. I have owned guns for fifty five years, and know black folks who have as well. Perception and reality are odd creatures.
Jim Brokaw (California)
One problem I see with 'black guns' is that we already have a problem with our police seeing black people differently than white people. For some reason, our brave police officers often find themselves "in fear for our lives" when confronting black people, particularly black men... our brave police officers are often so fearful for their lives that they have a sad record of shooting unarmed black men in confrontations. Even when video of these incidents shows that the confrontation was all from the police side. What happens when these brave, fear-filled police officers encounter a legally-armed black person? Will that legally-armed person get the chance to tell and prove that their gun is legal, and rightfully owned by them? Or will the fear-filled brave police shoot first - "in fear for our life"? The 2nd Amendment doesn't do much good when that happens...
John (Ft Meade)
@Jim Brokaw this is my biggest issue with black gun ownership. As I looked at many of the images in this piece featuring black gun owners, I thought to myself, "how would a white policy officer react to seeing someone like this?" I think the answer is clear, fear. This is the problem and this is one reason I am opposed to the NRA as it exists today. The political ideology of the NRA is pro-white supremacy and decidedly anti-black, anti-women, and anti-immigrant.
Neil (Boston Metro)
@Jim Brokaw If you are holding an assault rifle... all bets are off. STILL, police restraint and prejudice training are equally important to arms training and much improvement is needed. Excellent article.
John (New York)
@Jim Brokaw Perhaps this is a self-feeding scenario? When officers can see and vouch-for Black Americans as being responsible gun owners by-and-large, then the issue of trigger-happy/panicked white officers will go away. But for that to happen, an honest and truthful discourse such as this article must take place. There's also the troubling issue of low-income Americans, regardless of color, being the target of wary/panicked/trigger-happy police officers. I don't know if this will ever be resolved, as this seems to be deeply ingrained in our psyches.
Todd (Key West,fl)
As a Jewish American who is a gun owner and a life member of the NRA which bucks the views of the majority of people who share my background I applaud African Americans who have reached the same conclusions about the second amendment and the value of gun ownership. I also credit them for standing up to the constant negative judgment that I know from experience they receive from their peers.
M Taylor (Madison, WI)
@Todd Guns kill people far more often than they protect people. Negative judgment from other people is the least of your problems, Todd. The real problem you have is thinking a gun will protect you from what you really fear –– the chaos of a society that is incapable of making value judgments based on reason rather than fear. The NRA is a munitions manufacturers lobbying organization, Todd, and your constitutional rights are not what the organization is dedicated to protecting.
Kayaker (West Coast)
@Todd Given our history, I am always astonished by the number of Jews who hate firearms, especially in today's climate of rising Antisemitism from the right and now the left. Never Again!
JBR (West Coast)
@Todd I am forever puzzled by Jews who do not support gun ownership. We of all people know what it means to be helpless, and we should be at the forefront in protecting our right to self defense. Would armed Jews have prevented the Holocaust? Probably not, but we are proud of the fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto who did not go meekly to the gas chambers, and the Israelis who refuse to be slaughtered. At a time when Antisemitism is rising on the right and now the left, American Jews cannot afford to be helpless, either. Never Again!
Conrad (New Jersey)
First of all, does anyone deny the clear fact that private ownership of firearms is not making us safer as a nation? Where are the truly safe places when children must prepare for mass shootings in schools, worshippers fear being shot in houses of worship and employees are fearful of being shot in their places of employment? What we have here in the U.S. in 2019 is an armed camp where citizens fear their fellow citizens, civilians fear police and police fear those they are charged with protecting. Is it any wonder then that armed individuals fire before clearly assessing the need to do so? After every mass shooting gun ownership actually increases. We thus have the highest rate of gun ownership among the developed countries of the world but our rate of gun related deaths and suicides continues to outpace that of the combined rate of the other developed countries by far.
Tsk (Tsk)
@Conrad I deny it. Defensive gun usage far outnumbers offensive gun use. The laws you want had no effect on gun crimes in other countries. (Gun crime in the UK was 1/10th of US gun crimes when our laws were the same.)
Jeremy (Arkansas)
@Conrad England is now considering a ban on knives due to an increase in fatal stabbings. That's how they manage human nature, by trying to bubble wrap everything. The facts concerning guns, despite the 24 hour news cycle, is that there are hundreds of thousands of defensive uses of firearms annually, and that gun violence has been decreasing every year despite the number of firearms increasing. These school shootings could be prevented if majority white, middle class schools would do what majority black schools did in the 90s...Those schools installed metal detectors and resource officers, and to date, no majority black school in the country has had a mass shooting. Not a single one. There are no mass shootings at gun shows. States with a higher percentage of concealed carry rates have less mass shootings. It's only in victim rich locations where firearms are prohibited or restricted that these horrific events occur.
ARNP (Des Moines, IA)
@Tsk You keep saying this, but can you cite research that supports your claim?
HN (Philadelphia, PA)
The hubris of gun owners scares me. Do they really think that they are such a great shot, that they are so cool under pressure, that they can immediately divine right from wrong and shoot the bad guy and not a good guy with a gun? We need saner gun ownership policies. Much like your driver license can be revoked due to physical or legal limitations, your gun ownership should be revokable. Gun owners should be licensed through a test of their knowledge and abilities, and they must carry gun insurance. All guns should have the equivalent of a VIN, so that they can be traced back to the owner for liability purposes. Finally, there is no need for people to own guns that are essentially weapons of mass destruction
sam (brooklyn)
@HN When Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot in Arizona back in 2011, the hero who eventually subdued the shooter was almost shot himself by a "good guy with a gun" in the crowd. This guy in the crowd was armed and by his own admission he saw the shooter being held down by this other guy, and couldn't tell who was who, and came about one second away from shooting the unarmed man who actually STOPPED the mass shooter, before he realized and stopped himself. That guy had better instincts and self control than most people, and he still came within a hair's breadth of killing an unarmed person who was ACTUALLY helping to stop the crime in progress.
CN (New York)
@HN our permits ARE revocable. I DO have extra insurance (through the NRA), I do have training, do go to the range, and it took over a year to get my full carry permit. As to how I’d react under pressure or duress? If it involves a reason to draw my weapon to defend myself, my family/friends or domicile? I’ll be FAR more confident that I have it & it gives us a chance. If YOU were in a public place, near me at, say, a mall and someone began killing, would you rather I just cower and cry & pray for the best next to you? Or draw my gun & fight back? And, at that moment, would you be questioning my aim? No...if YOU don’t want a gun, don’t buy one. But don’t worry about the legal carrying gun owners. We’ll take care of ourselves
AACNY (New York)
@HN Hubris? This is a misinterpretation of gun owners' skills and thinking. Please don't project your own anxiety and fear of guns onto law abiding gun owners.
Mark (Philadelphia)
The thing is you can still be liberal on gun issues and own a gun. Being liberal about gun control means supporting sensible policies like background checks, requiring one support stolen guns, limiting gun purchases to one a month, and other gun safety measures. All of these are logical and actually supported by most voters. And if you truly care about urban crime and black lives, you would support them. That’s being liberal.
Longue Carabine (Spokane)
@Mark About 15 years ago, I joined the Single Action Shooting Society. Before that, I'd owned 2 or 3 shotguns and one deer rifle. (I'm now 71.) SASS sponsors the sport of Cowboy Action Shooting. These are nice social shooting competions, using the guns of the Old West-- single action revolvers like the 1873 Colt Peacemaker, and lever-action rifles like the Winchester 1873 and the Marlin 1895; old historic guns, many working replicas of which are now made in Italy. You need two revolvers, one lever-action rifle, and one old-style shotgun to compete. I went out and bought them and shot in matches. I bought them all at once. I reject the idea that I should have been able to buy only 'one per month', telling me that's how it will be.
Mark (Philadelphia)
@Longue Carabine You are certainly entitled to your opinion and it seems you are a responsible gun owner, like most. However you also are from Spokane, Washington where things are quite different than where I am from. In Philadelphia, someone with a clean criminal record buys 50 guns for felons and they turn up at murder scenes. Is it so much for you to spread your purchases over a couple of months to save others’ lives? That’s a moral question with which you may grapple.
Longue Carabine (Spokane)
@Mark If that's what they want to do in Pennsylvania, more power to them. There are huge variances in gun laws around the country. So be it.
Dan (All Over The U.S.)
We live in a rural area. We had a break-in late one night, when our daughter and two grandsons were visiting. It took the sheriff's deputy one hour to arrive.Our lesson: We are on our own for protection. There have always been and always will be bad people. We who obey laws will always have to contend with those who don't, including the 1%+ who are psychopathic. A Gallup survey in 2018 found that 28% of Americans want to ban handguns altogether. When Democrats try to pass what they think are reasonable gun control laws, these laws are seen, reasonably, by many, as being just the "first step" toward what this 28% wants--a total ban. So, these laws are resisted. And this resistance is reasonable. People see a creeping liberalism on many issues, and don't want it to be like that for guns. In rural areas Democrats and Republicans have about equal gun ownership. The NRA is not the problem with guns. Gallup also revealed that 43% of households have a gun, and 31% of people own guns. And while a huge majority favor improved background checks, a large majority also believes we would all be safer if more people carried guns. Something Democrats don't understand: There are a lot of liberals, like us, who want their guns. This isn't a liberal-conservative issue as is, say, abortion or racism. And a lot of liberals don't believe that a strong case has been made that laws that are just feel good ones (e.g., better background checks) will be very effective.
bill zorn (beijing)
@Dan, sometimes seatbelts cause or worsen injury. as e.r. doc, i was given this as a reason not to use them. science lets us see the larger picture there, and with guns (in spite of efforts to silence the science by conservatives). it consistently shows increased injury with poor regulation of the 'militia'; for instance, the injury and death rate is higher for gun owners; for their families; for the states that choose to regulate weakly. more children under 5 died from guns than people killed during all burglaries, including home invasion and businesses. your gallup poll also shows 61% of americans favor tighter regulation. do you have data on how many gun owning households hold legacy guns, non-working guns, guns that the owners would happily disable or dispose of if required?
Anna (NY)
@Dan: The Gallup survey indicates that the percentage who want to ban handguns decreased from nearly 60% in the late 1950s to about 25-28% in recent years. And it's not "ban handguns"-period, but the question was: "Do you think there should or should not be a law that would ban the possession of handguns, except by the police and other authorized persons?". So people with a permit can still own a handgun. That would apply to people in rural areas with law enforcement unable to respond in a timely manner to break-ins, who need a gun for self defense.
Dan (All Over The U.S.)
@Anna "authorized" does not mean people with permits. The sentence reads that it is law enforcement, and that is the context for the term "authorized."
Toadhollow (Upstate)
The photos accompanying this article do nothing more than glamorize guns. Frankly, I don't care the race of anyone who thinks they need to own automatic weapons that were designed for military combat. These weapons were not in existence at the time the 2nd Amendment was written nor the abolitionist movement. It's preposterous to think that a well regulated militia was intended to mean automatic weapons that can kill hundreds of people in seconds. We need common sense background checks.
canis scot (Lex)
@Toadhollow In point of fact, the ownership of automatic weapons by a well regulated militia [using the 1790 definition of well regulated, that being every citizen who desires to be trained and equipped] is exactly what the 2d Amendment is designed to support. For the record, with background checks are unconstitutional, they are predicated on the premise that a citizen must prove that he or she is authorized to exercise their rights.
Austin (Boston)
@Toadhollow automatic weapons are illegal, and have been since 1986. Every time a liberal attempts to enter this argument from a position of ignorance, it reinforces the perception that gun control is primarily an us-versus-them, viscerally motivated attack, instead of an informed and reasoned attempt to solve real problems. Educate yourself on the meaning of these terms: semi-automatic, assault weapon, caliber, magazine, suppressor. Even if you find it distasteful, you cannot engage in informed debate when you are painfully uninformed.
Tournachonadar (Illiana)
I also live in a National Historic Registry property but our house was built by Al Capone to be a bulletproof office where he did his collections from the imbibers and bordello patrons of this once-booming Indiana city. And working in Federal law enforcement, reporting to another officer of color, we frequently discuss the aspect of gun violence. Most of our work involves the seizure and disposition of guns used in criminal activities in the crime-infested environs of Chicago. I remind my boss frequently, if not daily, that it was the freed slaves who enlisted in the Union army and turned the tide of the Civil War with their military prowess. Since the USA is drifting ineluctably toward another civil war, on the basis of class and race, who in their right mind would think about throwing their weapons away?
Robert Dole (Chicoutimi Québec)
This very interesting opinion article vividly describes a nation that has already descended into a state of anarchy. When Americans feel the need to carry firearms in order to protect themselves from others carrying firearms they reveal that their country has become so dangerous that it is impossible to envisage having a normal, peaceful life there. I recommend to all young Americans, especially those who want to have children, to consider moving to a safer country.
canis scot (Lex)
@Robert Dole You do know that the United States has a lower per capita violence rate than Canada?
Frank (Baltimore)
@Robert Dole I think the article makes clear that this has always been the rule rather than the exception.
Midwest (Reader)
Thank you for the wonderful article. Like the jury room and, ideally, the ballot box, a gun is an equalizer across racial and social economic lines. Bullets don’t discriminate based upon your last name or your skin color. At the same time, I still long for a society where guns rather than the right to self-determination are on display at museums.
kenneth (new york)
I think that if you look at the statistics that are constantly being collected, gun ownership is ALWAYS more likely to cause injury and problems. People who own guns think they make them safer, but in the big picture they ALWAYS create more problems and violence. Gun ownership goes up, more people are wounded.
poppop (NYC)
@kenneth citation? I thought that the number of guns owned skyrocketed while murders (and crime in general) fell sharply over the past 30 years.
Mark Haimann (Michigan)
Yes, and it’s true about cars as well...the more cars on the road, the more people are killed in auto related events.
canis scot (Lex)
@kenneth Absolutely WRONG. The stats you cite rely on suicide to reach that conclusion. Eliminate suicide from the data and the number of injuries decrease significantly.
Paul (Bronx)
The NRA doesn’t stand in the way of banning automatic weapons. They were banned by the Firearms Protection Act of 1986.
Joe (Naples, NY)
Let's stop confusing issues. Having a gun in your home is a right. No one is trying to take that right away. Having military style weapons or carrying guns in public are completely different issues. People need to read the majority opinion by Justice Scalia in the Heller v DC case. No one can accuse him of being a "liberal" Even this most ultraconservative justice recognized that the government has in interest is who can have a gun and the type of weapons available to the public. He specifically pointed out that the government had a right (maybe responsibility) to control military style weapons. It is not an issue of "taking away " guns. It is an issue of where they are appropriate and what type should be available.
The Critic (Earth)
@Joe A muzzleloader is a military style weapon. A lever-action is a military style weapon. A 45-70 is a military style weapon.
poppop (NYC)
@Joe there's a difference between military weapons and military style weapons.
LCA (Westborough, MA)
Shouldn't the goal be to move forward, not backwards? It is my hope- and expectation- that 2020 and beyond will take us towards a more enlightened country where we don't have to consider shooting one another to establish our self worth and personal safety. The NRA and gun makers are capitalizing on our populace buying into this idea that the necessities of the past apply to today and the future. Even though I disagree with the conclusion that the solution to our problem is further arming America, I am most impressed with the author's willingness to do the hard work to bridge this ideological gap.
Anthony (Western Kansas)
I appreciate the attempt of Professor Miles to add nuance to the overall gun debate, but the NRA is not a self-defense group. It is an anti-evidence group that uses the facade of self-defense as a way to increase profits for gun companies, push conspiracy theories, and generally separate America into different camps. Furthermore, it has allowed Russian money to invade our electoral process. The NRA is a stain on America. These other groups you discuss might be ok, but please do not include the NRA in that group.
David (Albuquerque)
Get a gun if you must. The NRA does not need to be involved. The politics of that right-wing organization influence far more than just gun legislation. Don't help them survive!
canis scot (Lex)
@David. I think you are confused the NRA is a voluntary organization of citizens dedicated to the defense of the Constitution in general and the 2d Amendment specifically. It is the oldest continually operating civil rights group in the US. Anarchy is right wing, not civil rights.
Gentlewomanfarmer (Hubbardston, Massachusetts)
The clean defensive argument of Mr. Hayden and other abolitionist activists 150 years ago does not square with the paranoid rant of the NRA today. Times change; what was once necessary and sensible may be no longer and vice versa. The exponential Increase in both availability and firepower begs for common sense controls, welcomed by a majority of Americans but not their representatives, financially beholden to an organization infiltrated by our foreign adversary. So while interesting as a historical piece, this article does not change the mind of this rural resident, who views the Second Amendment as equal to the First in terms of its susceptibility to reasonable restrictions.
me (US)
@Gentlewomanfarmer Explain, please exactly smaller, older or disabled people are supposed to defend their lives, house or car against much younger and physically stronger criminals without a gun. I dare you. Or is it that liberals just don't care about smaller, older, or disabled people?
John Stroughair (PA)
In a well armed society any member of a minority group that might be the target of persecution probably needs a weapon to protect life and family. Of course the other side of the coin is that a well armed society is not a happy or safe society, the better solution is to work towards disarming society.
Brett Dillingham (Alaska)
In Switzerland, they have a citizen militia and have for hundreds of years. I find them very polite. It’s not the firearm, but the culture, that makes them different. And of course there are many polite people in the U.S. as well.
canis scot (Lex)
@John Stroughair historical truism “A well armed society is a polite and just society.” Conversely the historical truth reveals that a disarmed society is a subjugated society.
mike (mi)
Americans love guns. I believe it part of our obsession with individualism and all our myths of "rugged individualism", "self determination", etc. Guns are the ultimate expression of individualism, my life is more important than yours and my gun proves it. If we were really a nation of "Us" we would not be so enamored of having a gun to prove I'm "Me". It is one thing to enjoy guns for hunting and target shooting, it is another to see a gun as the ultimate expression of oneself. We need reasonable gun laws even as we need reasonable laws to regulate anything that can cause death or injury. We exclude guns from reasonable regulation because of how we feel about each other.
poppop (NYC)
@mike Self determination is a myth?
Jimd (Planet Earth)
@mike it is true my life and my wife’s life is far more valued when some rotten scociopath is attempting to break into our house, I have no problem with that belief
KBronson (Louisiana)
“...pried ajar a little door in my mind.” A wonderful and too rare experience in current civic affairs. But the expression is it too passive and too modest. It is not something does to one but an active choice to allow the facts of experience to work on the ideological armor against the complexity of reality. She is to be commended for choosing freedom.
DocMark (Grand Junction, CO)
I am white and have never lived in a situation where I felt endangered by societal violence. (Maybe I'm naive) However, I have always believed that a gun in my house is more likely to HARM someone I love or myself than PROTECT someone I love. It is a simple matter of probabilities, be it through accidental discharge, self-infliction or temporary out-of-control violence.
Tom Maguire (Darien CT)
I concur with a caveat. I haven't checked the cime stats for Grand Junction CO but my chosen suburb has not had a homicide in thirty years. That changes my probabilities for domestic accident versus external threat. Until all living environments are comparably safe I am very uncomfortable telling other people that their fears of external violence are overblown. Ardent gun controllers feel differently about imposing that choice on everyone, obviously.
AACNY (New York)
@DocMark Most gun owners are trained and take responsible gun safety measures. They don't fear a gun. Many have been raised to handle a gun responsibly. It is a mistake for those uncomfortable with guns to project their own discomfort onto responsible gun owners. It's like people who are afraid to drive thinking drivers won't handle a car safely. Of course, they will.
canis scot (Lex)
@DocMark In point of fact the data proves the inverse to be true. A firearm can’t harm your or aa family member and that the weapon of choice in accidental injury, suicide, or ‘out-of-control’ emotions is the common kitchen knife.
TDurk (Rochester NY)
The last weapon I fired was an M16 nearly 50 years ago in an undeclared war. Haven't owned a gun of any kind since then. I know what they can do to people. I haven't had a need or interest in one since. I'm not a big fan of the NRA. Actually, I loathe their jingoism and am contemptuous of the politicians the NRA keeps on a leash. But I understand Ms Miles opinion on the matter. More to the point, I understand why folks like Mr Toure, Mr Gilmore, Ms Ross and the others own their guns. Born differently, to different life experiences, I might be a charter member of one of their gun clubs. Perhaps the most important message communicated to us this morning by Ms Miles is that surface impressions about anyone or anything should not be all that we consider when confronting topics or people with whom we don't agree. Thank you for your insights.
BC (New England)
I live in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston. While I understand that the Constitution provides my neighbors, the Giers (whom I do not know) the right to keep guns in their home, I do not have to like it, and I don’t. My hopes are that (a) they keep those guns locked up very securely so that they do not fall into the wrong hands, and that (b) they never have to use them.
Ralph Petrillo (Nyc)
Unfortunately there are always subjective view points defending gun ownership. In comparison to Europe which has strict gun control laws the rate of murders and injuries from shootings are substantially higher in the US. In Mexico and most of Latin America guns are purchased in the US and then travel south to support the drug trade, kidnappings, random murder , and support gang activity. In China murder rates are very low, and gun sales are illegal. It is as if a few individuals that support the NRA should be understood is the wrong analysis.
canis scot (Lex)
@Ralph Petrillo actually your data is false. The murder rate in the EU is higher than the US. The weapons of choice in the drug trade come from Asia. Very few guns are purchased in the US and travel south. Despite Mr. Obama’s illegal activities to prove otherwise. The PRC has a significantly high murder rate.
Nan Socolow (West Palm Beach, FL)
Dr. Miles, a brilliant account and explanation of how you've come to believe that the N.A.A.G.A. and Black Guns Matter and Harriet Tubman holding a rifle in 1869 are the necessary wave of our American gun-owning future. Your visit to the home of African-American slave and abolitionist, Lewis Hayden, on Beacon Hill in Boston, and your subsequent Op-Ed today ("The Black Gun Owner Next Door") are seminal writings in today's anxious and frightening divided and racist world. The many photos accompanying your piece are riveting. In our Quaker School, founded in 1786 in the heart of Manhattan, there was a dark tunnel of the Underground Railway beneath the old brick building from 1860. The tunnel was adjacent to the Girls' Locker Room in the basement. It was dark and disturbing to look at. We women graduates of the school remember the Underground Railroad tunnel. The Underground Railroad and the beliefs that led to the Civil War (still called "The War Between the States" in the South) were a safe haven for slaves seeking freedom and liberty for all.
David (Binghamton, NY)
Before her mind was "pried ajar," as she puts it, Professor Miles seems to have allowed the gun fanatics to frame the terms of the debate in absolutes: either one supports tyranny, with any and all right of self-defense taken away from the citizens, or one supports an absolute right to stockpile as much lethal firepower as one can. Few if any opponents of the NRA oppose the principle of gun ownership. They just think that guns should be regulated, like almost everything else that has the potential to cause harm. And that is the problem with the NRA: it opposes virtually any commonsense regulation of guns and ammunition: regulations that could easily save thousands of innocent American lives every year while not infringing in any meaningful way on the fundamental right to own a weapon for legitimate purposes. It's not either-or, as Miles once seems to have believed and as the NRA claims. The NRA's position on weapons is analogous to a position on the automobile that holds that there should be no speed limits, no traffic lights, no rules of the road, no annual safety inspections and no proscriptions against driving while drunk. And its disingenuous tactic has been analogous to frightening Americans into thinking that any laws or regulations that attempt to balance the right to drive against the right to be run down is really a plot "to take away our cars." The NRA doesn't represent freedom. It simply represents a different sort tyranny: the tyranny of the gun lobby.
David (Binghamton, NY)
@David Correction: "against the right not to be run down" (which should be obvious from the context).
M. (NYC)
@David Very well put -- this is the same fear mongering that Trump so effectively utilized to scare his supporters into backing him, and backing policies that are blatantly detrimental to their own interests. The "little door pried ajar" in Ms. Miles mind shows how easily fear "Trumps" any sense of social responsibility, how frighteningly easy it is to side with tyranny.
Wm Conelly (Warwick, England)
Red, Purple or Blue, rural or city, everyday experience with automobiles indicates that educated, licensed, insured, conservatively policed drivers are WAY less likely to endanger themselves or others than unprepared, unlicensed, uninsured scoff-laws suddenly off on a murderous ‘lark’. States should license and regulate firearms AT LEAST to the extent they regulate motor vehicles. They should stop playing the Russian Roulette Game of Open-Sales-Open-Carry-Anywhere and improve the chances their neighbourhoods benefit. Consider one benefit: if YOU injure ME with an insured automobile, an insurance company pays the hospital bills, not me. Why should I -- let alone government emergency services -- pay for injuries inflicted by some perverse shooter's firearms? Let the perverse one’s insurance company take the beating and, thereby, bring some 'free market forces' to bear. Market forces: remember those? Nobody in this context is saying "Do without cars or trucks." Nobody (in my household at least) is saying "Do without guns". Just get real. The NRA's open-armed approach to gun violence is not working. It will not work in times of zombie apocalypse either. It is time to get real, America. Education, Innovation and Cooperation are the way forward, not civil war. It is time to get real.
canis scot (Lex)
@Wm Conelly Nice effort but you can drive a car on any private road without insurance, plates, or permit. You are only required to conform to the law when driving on the public highway. Conversely you demand that persons submit to violation of their civil rights just to purchase a firearm and keep it at home. Statistics prove that “Constituional Carry” states have a lower rate of injury or death by firearm than tightly regulated states. More importantly those same state have a significantly lower overall rate of violent crime. Most significantly if you eliminate the states with the most oppressive gun laws the rate of violent crime in the US drops to the bottom of all industrial nation on the planet.
David Honig (Indianapolis)
The NRA of yore, which taught gun safety and lobbied to support the 2nd Amendment, as written, had validity. The NRA of today, which uses fear to sell guns and ammunition for the companies that fund it, and which has aligned itself with one political party, has none.
Petersburgh (Pittsburgh)
@David Honig Exactly right. That's why I quit the NRA 30 years ago.
mkb (New Mexico)
@David Honig I wonder what the internal structure of the NRA is and if it could be easily reformed from within if enough reasonable people joined?
Abigail Maxwell (Northamptonshire)
In the UK, our gun control is so tight that several murders have been traced to one illegal gun- see the documentary "Gun no.6". This reduces our number of homicides overall, less than a thousand for a country of 64m people. The murderer has to hang on to the evidence, and hide it, because he cannot easily get a gun from elsewhere. People kill people, but guns make it much much easier- by accident, by momentary impulse to suicide, and by violent assault.
Peak Oiler (Richmond, VA)
@Abigail Maxwell I'd rather live here, as much as I love the UK. Without a right to armed self defense, I see no reason to trust my fellow humans. And you certainly have lots of knife attacks, according to BBC stories, there. There's also the notion--uniquely American, perhaps--that our 2nd Amendment protects us from tyrants. In what became my home state, it all started with George III and his seizure of gunpowder in Williamsburg. So, not, we'll never disarm. That does not mean we will not gradually change, to require mandatory training and harsh consequences if guns are improperly stored, then stolen, or sold informally without a background check. That's probably the best you can hope for across the Pond.
sam (brooklyn)
@Peak Oiler No where in the Second Amendment does it mention self defense. The Second Amendment is about protecting the COUNTRY from foreign invasion, because it was written at a time when the US military was weak, and without civilian militias would be immediately crushed in any confrontation with a foreign power. That's why the Amendment says "For the security of a FREE STATE", not "For the security of my house and family". The "right of armed self-defense" is a fallacy that exists only in the minds of people who don't understand the Constitution. Also, I'd rather be stabbed and survive, than shot and killed, wouldn't you? The number of knife attacks in the UK dosn't even come close to comparing to the number of gun murders in the US each year.
Peak Oiler (Richmond, VA)
@sam I disagree. Now how can we find common ground between universal confiscation or AR-15s for everyone? The question is not academic.
S.Einstein (Jerusalem)
"the issue [ of owning a gun] was more complicated than I had allowed..." Indeed. It always has been. An either/or weltanschauung is a toxic, self-feeding binary-banality trap. Reality's dimensions range in dynamic, multidimensional continua. Perceived as well as many hidden facets. Known, unknown at a given time because of gaps in needed relevant information and technology as well as being, perhaps, unknowable. Not the built-in myth, and constraints, of this or that. The pros and cons of the NRA, as a valenced group, + - -/+, and as a metaphor, rarely, if ever, distinguish between experienced, created, Identity with its values, norms, ethics of its diverse individuals, and their Behaviors; considered, planned, implemented, assessed and learned from. Or not. The same operates for the diverse non-NRA people of this divided America. The outcome(s) of availability of, and accessibility to a gun, in our empowered WE-THEY culture, which enables, and even promotes, violating created, selected and targeted "the other(s)," daily,, on average, unpredictable. Embedded in layers of uncertainties, contextual randomness and lack of total control over unexpected events and outcomes. The article notes that self-protection is the given raison d'etre for having, bearing and being willing to use arms. In a responsible, personally accountable manner. What is currently available and accessible to help oneself not to violate, by word and deed another fellow BEING? Kin? Friend? Stranger?
Federalist (California)
The preppers have a point. A solar storm is possible even likely and a repeat of the 1859 solar storm would have severe consequences now, that did not ever happen before we became dependent on electricity. We never much took note of these solar storms happening before we used electricity. The immediate effects would be devastating as the grid and all modern electronics suddenly die. "The loss of electricity would ripple across the social infrastructure with water distribution affected within several hours; perishable foods and medications lost in 12-24 hours; loss of heating/air conditioning, sewage disposal, phone service, fuel re-supply" We would also lose air, rail and road transport, causing inability to move stored food, due to the destruction of their electronic controls. Then there would be global societal breakdown due to the rapid onset of famine and epidemic disease. We really are silly not to invest in a small electricity surcharge to be used to harden and protect the grid and stockpile critical components to permit timely recovery.
Peak Oiler (Richmond, VA)
@Federalist forming a community that is resilient is best of all. I keep a month's food and I reload my own ammo. I have a generator. But am I a Prepper? No. I'm a likely target in a social collapse. But I know my rural neighbors. They preserve their own food, hunt, can make or repair things. We help each other out. If awful things happen, we'd stick together. Folks from outside? They'd not fare too well unless we had a lot to spare. But community? That's the best prepping.
sam (brooklyn)
@Federalist Did you read about the Carrington Event in 2012? Apparently it was huge, and it passed through the Earth's orbit when Earth was actually in a different spot, so it didn't hit us, but if it had it would have literally wiped clean every piece of electronics on the face of the planet. It was so intense that NASA didn't even tell anyone about it until 2014 because they were so freaked out.
Zeek (Ct)
Black antique gun collections matter. To think how many of these firearms disappeared from their historical owners and were lost or forgotten. The gun societies offer professionalism that is always a really good idea for people getting into gun ownership, and those maintaining responsible gun ownership.
B. (Brooklyn)
Antique guns, surely. Military-style rifles -- please. One uses those to inflict damage on a foreign enemy. Or here, in the United States, to blow away church groups and concert-goers.
Donald (NJ)
Professor, it is nice to see that you approached this topic not as a liberal but as an American attempting to understand how people of all colors think regarding gun ownership. You will probably be criticized by some of your fellow professors but I for one applaud you. I suggest you go to a gun range with a responsible gun owner and try target practice. I believe you will truly enjoy it will probably want to return.
Ed (Orlando)
@Donald I married an anti-gun woman from Massachusetts.....who now enjoys shooting and respects gun ownership.
M (Dallas)
Just remember this- the person most likely to be killed by a gun is yourself or a member of your family. Statistically, owning a gun is one of the most dangerous things you can do to your family. It escalates threat assessment, it provides a spur-of-the-moment aid to suicide and homicide, people accidentally shoot family members in the night, children get into them. In an abusive situation, one of the giant red flags that the abused partner is at risk of being murdered is if there is a gun in the household, no matter who the nominal owner of the gun(s) is. If civil society collapses, I want to be part of a group of people who understand that preppers will quickly die alone, but communities might survive. Would the group need some guns to defend itself? Probably, and I'm not knocking that, but honestly the guns run out of ammo pretty quick and then you need people willing to do the backbreaking labor of farmwork, cooking, child-rearing, sewing, weaving, house-building, and so forth as part of a community. You need people with herbal lore, you need people to build stockades/walls, you want to find a blacksmith and a bowyer would be gravy. The collapse of society won't be survived by having a gun. It'll be survived by bands of people working together to rebuild it.
Greenie (Vermont)
You’re speaking of long-term rebuilding of community and society. In the short term though, in the event of societal collapse, only those with the will and means to defend themselves and their homes will have a chance of surviving to engage in the longer term process of rebuilding. Ignore this at your peril. Wishing it wasn’t so won’t make it go away.
Earthling (Pacific Northwest)
@M True. In a household where there is a gun, the chance of death buy firearm of a member of the family or household is 21 times greater than for a house without firearms.
John Smythe (Southland)
@M Soldiers go to war with the bullets in their guns and a few spare mags. By contrast true 'gun nuts' have armouries with thousands of rounds of ammo and multiple guns. Most are also not isolationists so won't die alone, or quickly. By contrast communities which have only a handful of guns and little ammunition will be prey for the lawless and thus die quickly or be enslaved. Guns aren't the only thing that will allow you to survive the collapse of society - knowledge will matter too, but guns will be a powerful tool in your arsenal.
WorldPeace2017 (US Expat in SE Asia)
I would love to see a strong democratic world peace keeper who would not tolerate much of the atrocities that plague the world. Barring that, I do not want to be the one left without a gun. I treasured Dr King, but I am more in the camp of Malcolm X. US society, if it is to last, must go a long way from the present where a preferred few can wreak havoc on others and get away with it with practically no check. Society must check itself before it rains down retribution, or more correctly, continued retribution, upon me and my people. At the same time, I am a big pusher for self-motivation, self/group improvement, mutual respect and ever more education.
Brooke (Connecticut)
FYI: I have a license to carry a weapon - although I choose not to - and acquiring it was an extensive process that included a mandatory training and testing period, followed by a four month FBI background check, and then a four week state police background check. I am a registered Democrat - surprise! To my point: One of the most frustrating issues for gun owners and, therefore, an impedement to progress in gun control discussions, is the lack of education and research on the part of those advocating for gun control. If you’re going to stand against something, it raises fewer hackles if you aren’t throwing critical terms around ignorantly. This article, as well as many other newspaper articles and news networks refer to the guns to be controlled or eliminated as automatic weapons. Or, the statement is made that “ALL semiautomatic weapons should be banned.” First, NO civilian is ever allowed to legally purchase, own, or possess an automatic weapon. And, second, there is a huge difference between an automatic and a semiautomatic. Practically EVERY GUN used today by a civilian is a semiautomatic. (On an automatic, when you hold down the trigger the bullets rapid fire. With a semiautomatic, it’s ONE bullet each time you pull the trigger.) If people want to be heard and taken seriously in the debate over gun control, it would be more efficacious with proper knowledge of important terms; the misuse of key terminology is not conducive to an amenable outcome.
M (Dallas)
@Brooke That's state specific. I could go to a local gun store or gun range tomorrow in Texas and buy a gun; no training, a cursory background check. If I wanted a CCL, there would be more, but just to own one? Or two? Or a dozen? So long as I had the cash, they'd be mine. It'd be even faster and easier, and not require a background check, if I went to a gun show and bought a gun from a private owner. And no matter how big my arsenal, I could buy thousands of rounds of ammunition with no background check and without raising any red flags. So yeah, we need better gun control. It should not be that easy for me to buy deadly weapons. The fact that you had to go through an actual process is great, but ... well, you really didn't have to. You chose to.
Allan Langland (Tucson)
@Brooke I agree with your point about misuse of key terminology but would also like to note that it is not correct to say that civilians cannot legally own an automatic weapon. Civilians can own an automatic weapon if they live in a state that allows such weapons and if they complete the BATFE paperwork to obtain a Class C license to own a registered automatic weapon manufactured before 1986. There are currently about 175,000 pre-1986 fully automatic weapons owned by civilians with a Class C license although it should be noted that this is a hobby for rich persons as the prices for such weapons are in the $10,000 to $20,000 range since the number of such weapons will never increase under the current law.
Longue Carabine (Spokane)
@M I wish people who talk gun control so much knew more about firearms and their use. Consider this: a single Cowboy Action Shooting match uses about 100 rounds per person. If you are avid in the sport (and there are numerous types of shooting sports), you do a couple of matches per month and a lot of practice. So that's several hundred rounds of ammunition per month. Having a few months worth of ammunition, or 'thousands of rounds' is totally commonplace. Guns need ammunition. So buying ammunition does not raise 'red flags'. I look out for ammo sales when I'm in sporting goods stores for any purpose, and may buy some if the price is good. I don't know how many rounds I have on hand, but it wouldn't be less than a thousand; probably about that. I was at a shooting range a few days back for an hour and shot a couple hundred rounds at targets, easy. So what?
Tom (Pennsylvania)
Outstanding article and very eye-opening. We always hear how conservatives rush to the gun stores when a Democrat is elected president. It's only logical that minority groups (and maybe more and more liberals) will do the same when Republicans are elected. Maybe there should be a liberal equivalent to the NRA. If the MAD theory works for nuclear weapons why not small arms?
9aclock (pittsburgh)
@Tom I have often thought that what we need is a liberal equivalent to the NRA. If we could put together an organization with very minimal annual cost ($5/year membership, for example), I think we could have more members than the NRA and eventually beat them at their own game. Wish I knew the way forward on it...
John Smythe (Southland)
@Tom Perhaps minorities and the average liberal voter don't feel as threatened as Conservatives when the wrong party holds the presidency? When a fringe member of society shoots up a Black church or a couple of white guys try to lynch a black actor it's headline news. When an Antifa member assaults an elderly man wearing a MAGA cap or a teacher yet again violates a child's First Amendment rights the only ones who hear about it are those following conservative sites. The threats to liberals are aberrations abhorred by conservatives, the threats to conservatives appear to have the support of many liberals.
Kayaker (West Coast)
@Tom Check out the Liberal Gun Club
TrevorN (Sydney Australia)
We have very strict gun ownership laws here in Australia and they work just fine. We don't need to keep guns in our houses or pockets for self defence because nobody else has them either. Yes, there are illegal guns but not many. Those that do have legal guns have to prove they need a weapon and can lose them if they are not registered and kept in thief proof safes. As a result we have one of the safest societies in the world.
Greenie (Vermont)
Yes, but in the US the genie has long since been let out of the bottle. I don’t see any way to achieve a US society that lacks guns. Even if guns were banned and a call to turn them in was made law, only the law-abiding would do so. One can foresee where that would go.
Johnny (Louisville)
@Greenie Australia did it, we could too. Guns were also commonplace there until John Howard (Prime Minister, farmer, gun owner) led a relentless campaign to educate the public about the irrationality of unregulated gun proliferation. I pity those Americans who are shackled to their fantasies of societal breakdown and chaos.
John Smythe (Southland)
@TrevorN Except that's not entirely true. Yes Australia has fascist level gun laws, but they don't work all that well. There are periodic reports of criminal shootings, of folk being murdered, and even of attempts to illegally manufacture firearms! Folk tend to be law abiding but where crime occurs they're vulnerable. Consider a car jacking in Melbourne quite some time ago. The female driver only survived unscathed because she pulled a gun on the three weapon wielding men that approached her. Had it been anyone other than an armed policewoman in plainclothes the outcome would have been very different!!! Mass shootings might be uncommon but mass killings using other methods - arson, vehicular, blunt instrument, stabbings etc can be just as horrific. And if crime is far less common than in the US it should be remembered that the country has a vastly smaller population - it has only slightly more than half that of California yet this is spread across an area the size of the contiguous United States.
Stuck on a mountain (New England)
"But where would I want to be if civil society topples and 2020 feels like 1820? In a home like the Haydens’..." Kudos to Professor Miles for writing about this reality. If you believe social collapse is a risk (say in the 1% probability range, not dissimilar to many risks we face daily), what risk management techniques do you choose? The usual response to risks -- buy insurance (like you do in case your house burns down) -- doesn't work for mass civil disorder. There's a real chance neither you nor your designated beneficiaries will be around to collect the payout on your "US social collapse" policy. And even if you were, the insurance company would be gone. Hence the prepper movement and its variants. "Survivalists" seek to improve their chances of surviving civil collapse. Being well-armed is essential and a key part of the strategy. That's perfectly rational and reasonable. Thank you to the NYT for publishing an op-ed that, in its own way (and with plenty of cognitive dissonance along the journey!), recognizes rather than ridicules this reality.
J Johnson (SE PA)
@Stuck on a mountain Sorry, but the prepper movement is not “perfectly rational and reasonable.” It is crazy, and its adherents are part of the problem they are supposedly trying to prevent. Ever see the old Twilight Zone episode, “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street”? These folks are the ones most likely to make it happen.
Longue Carabine (Spokane)
I love to see the scales fall from somebody's eyes, and especially a person with a mind open to newly-discovered facts.
Kayaker (West Coast)
@Longue Carabine In other words, an old-fashioned liberal, the polar opposite of a modern progressive.
James (Hartford)
The thing is, the second amendment to the Constitution isn't there to account for the possible collapse of society! It's not some kind of emergency escape clause for when everything else vanishes and you're left wiping sand dramatically from your sweat-beaded brow in a Mad Max survival fantasy, growling "It's Second Amendment time!" to no one in particular. It's supposed to govern everyday life, when society is still functioning, and the Constitution is still in effect. In that case, we should all be concerned about that gunpowder piled by the door. As for me, I see nothing inconsistent about protecting the right to bear arms, and requiring that they be borne responsibly and secured appropriately at all times. The public shouldn't just be a less disciplined version of the military. There is no right to threaten to kill your neighbors, which is exactly what people are doing by brandishing, or even talking about, their enormous, totally unnecessary weapons casually in public. I mean if someone walks down the street carrying a bomb, you don't wait til it explodes to arrest him. The same thing goes for guns. They're both "arms." People have to be a little bit sane, or the law has no effect.
Paulie (Earth Unfortunately The USA Portion)
I too have no problem with gun ownership being a liberal is just scratching the surface with me. I do not or care to own a gun. My problem is with the idiots that have 15 of them mostly assault types. Living in Florida in a area that has 1.25 acres as the smallest lot, these fools legally fire away usually at dusk after a day of beer drinking. Today, a Saturday is usually the worse, it sounds like a war zone. About once every 3 months a innocent neighbor take a stray round. I believe the best thing that could happen is that every African American join the nra and take it over.
poppop (NYC)
@James rest assured, threatening to kill your neighbor is still illegal, as is brandishing a firearm. Even talking about? Yeah, no.
Colin (Ann Arbor)
This essay is a sad commentary on today's America, where so many groups are urging us to kill or be killed. It's perfectly clear that more guns means more shooting deaths, but the fear mongering continues, all in the interest of profits and political power.
Cal Bear (San Francisco)
@Colin we’ve seen record gun sales since the Clinton presidency and yet guns deaths are half the peak of the 90s. More guns = more deaths has been completed debunked.
poppop (NYC)
@Colin you say "it's perfectly clear that more guns means more shooting deaths." And yet the _facts_ do not support your assertion.
Rick Papin (Watertown, NY)
@Colin. There is a difference between kill or be killed and be prepared to defend yourself and your family. As a 69 year old gay man who grew up in the era when the work “homosexual” was whispered in polite society, I understand to an extent what the African-American family is up against. I am a strong advocate for sensible gun control, believing in national checks and the recognition that some people are inherently ill-advised to be allowed gun ownership.
Rahul (Philadelphia)
Having a gun is not the problem, most countries allow some form of gun ownership for personal protection or sport. The problem with US gun ownership is the insane gun laws. Nobody needs assault weapons in their homes. You don't need 15 guns for personal protection. Every single week in the US a child gets shot somewhere by a sibling. Every single year there is a mass shooting somewhere from the easy availability of guns. African-Americans owning guns is not the problem. The problem is that unregulated gun ownership adds to the toxic mix that exists in the cities where real jobs have disappeared and drug dealing, vice, robbery etc. are made more deadly by the presence of unregistered, unlicensed guns. It is good to study history but drawing unwarranted conclusions from bygone eras and applying them to unrelated situations just leads to bad policy. NRA is just a small group of entitled people who has held the whole nation hostage to their own narrow interests, that is the real problem.
Brian (california)
@Rahul I agree. The problem isn't guns. The problem, as I've opined on many times over, is education. Our society is incredibly under educated. The NRA fights completely reasonable gun control, which is supported by an ignorant and fearful minority of whites. The response? More and more people arming themselves. Who benefits? The NRA and the gun manufacturers. I'll be blunt, the problem isn't guns, it's stupid people. Please let's put more money into education - the voting suppression, the Mitch McConnell's, Donald Trumps and Fox News followers of our society will decrease in direct proportion to the level of education we can deliver to the masses. I don't blame African Americans for arming themselves, the racist whites currently running this country predictably cause this response. Divide and polarize, thus maintain control. Education, education, education....oh yeah, and let people vote for goodness sake, geez, how transparent can the Republicans be, Mitch not even allowing a senate vote on voter's rights? C'mon, even the idiots who blindly follow Fox propaganda have to see this guy as the total loser that he're not that ignorant, fearful yes, but ignorant, no, I won't give you that. This is willful ignornance.
Tom (Pennsylvania)
You may be correct but I suspect a not insignificant number of minority group members (African Americans, Latin Americans, Jewish Americans, LGBTQ Americans, etc.) as well as left-leaning Americans in trumpmerica may feel grateful for the 2nd amendment. Maybe it is sad our country has come to this but it could be a bit empowering for those groups too. After all, why should just one side have all the firepower? This doesn't mean a "race war" is inevitable. It just means one particular side better think twice before doing something stupid.
Phil (Eastford,CT)
Thank you Professor Miles. Though many are unwilling to admit it, there are two sides to the gun issue, as there are with most issues. You present some reasonable and thoughtful arguments for gun ownership. And a fascinating story. I had never heard most it. While the NRA is wrong about some things, they are right about many others. And let’s rmember that they are the gun folks; their job is to advocate for guns. If politicians were a bit more willing to work with them, we probably would have more reasonable gun regulations and less gun violence. Denigrating them hasn’t worked so far; it’s probably time to try something else.
profajm8m (Schenectady)
@Phil "If politicians were a bit more willing to work with them..." Do you mean the NRA, which has torpedoed any gun-control legislation, or even research on gun violence, no matter how reasonable or how broadly supported by the public? The NRA, since the 1970s, has evolved from a group of reasonable and responsible gun owners to a right wing advocacy group. How about this -- if the NRA was more willing to work with Congress to craft reasonable legislation, the discussion over gun control might be less polarized than they've made it.
Bob (Evanston, IL)
@Phil Work with the NRA? You've got to be kidding. To work with the NRA means only one thing -- everyone can have an automatic weapon
Tuvw Xyz (Evanston, Illinois)
As a graduate of Professor Miles's institution, I recommend her to adopt a view that firearms in the hands of citizens of good will and sound mind are the best deterrent of crime. Particularly so, when city police employ mercenary gunslingers, poorly trained in the use of arms and hand-to-hand combat, and self-control.
Hank Schiffman (New York City)
Nothing like the belief that possessing a firearm solves more problems than it creates. How many of these weapons get stollen, the owners become psychotic, bystanders get shot, confusion in the fog of a gunfight, children get into the lock box or unintended consequences arise to tragic ends? Examine the look of confidence in their faces. That is the look that one important problem has been solved. I beg to differ.
me (US)
@Hank Schiffman So how are smaller, or older, or disabled citizens supposed to protect their own lives, homes, and cars from young, strong criminals without a gun? Or do only young, strong criminals' lives matter?
PMN (New Haven, CT)
@Hank Schiffman: Yes indeed. How many of these weapons get stollen, the owners become psychotic, etc, etc? This is like asking how many auto drivers get maimed or killed every year (or how many people get injured walking down the stairs). Give us the statistics, as well as the denominator of gun owners. I'm no gun nut, and I despise the NRA, but the ability to handle a weapon responsibly, safely and effectively is a basic skill, like learning to drive, swimming or cycling. Israel and Singapore have compulsory military service for 2 years after the age of 18 for a reason: they have faced credible threats of armed violence from their neighbors (Singapore in the 1060s). The same threat has applied to Blacks - rural southern Blacks in the Jim Crow era kept shotguns around the house both for self-defense and for hunting food. RE: "the look of confidence in their faces"- Ms. Tubman doesn't look confident to me. Having a weapon in your hands doesn't make you Superman: it merely levels the odds somewhat when your assailant also has a weapon. I would guess from your last name that you're Ashkenazi Jewish. The safety that you take for granted in 21st century NYC was a luxury in East European shtetls/ghettoes. You're welcome to shun guns, but you shouldn't judge people who've been targets for violence for much of their lives - often from members of their own race, as in much inner-city crime - and are legitimately concerned about the rise of armed white supremacist groups.
Annie (Pittsburgh)
@PMN - Right, the Jews in the Eastern European ghettos could have stopped the German war machine, unlike the armies of Czechoslovakia or France, had they only had guns.
hen3ry (Westchester, NY)
Thank you for this well thought out opinion piece. My problem with the today's NRA is the attitudes it supports. What bothers me about the furor over guns today is that the Second Amendment seems to have become the only amendment in the Constitution. There doesn't appear to be a middle ground any longer: one which says that it's fine to own a gun as long as one is a responsible owner and that the firearm one owns is not able to be easily modified to be a weapon of war. I can understand hunters owning guns. I can understand former members of the military owning guns. I cannot understand why the NRA pushes some of the most ridiculous stances on guns I've ever heard: a good person with a gun can always shoot a bad person with a gun. True but if the good person misses that gives the bad person another chance. We are living in a society with many extremely angry people. I worry about the fact that there are so few outlets and answers for that anger and that guns have become, for some, THE ANSWER. Again, I have no problems with responsible gun owners. I have a problem with people who resort to vigilante justice under the guise of fear.
Tuvw Xyz (Evanston, Illinois)
@ hen3ry Westchester, NY If NRA and NSSF had read "Wilhelm Tell" in the original German, they would have chosen as their motto the words attributed to him by Schiller: "I want (lack) my arm, when I want (lack) my WEAPON". In the two translation into English, German Waffe = weapon was substituted with BOW. Neither organization is interested in archery. The Founding Fathers' incomplete wording in the 2nd Amendment should be replaced by the 34th or 35th, with the words "everywhere and always" inserted in the text.
skeptonomist (Tennessee)
@hen3ry Very few people are killed with "weapons of war". That would be fully automatic rifles, grenades, land mines, etc., most of which are banned now. The great majority of killings are done with hand guns. The obsession of both sides with pseudo-assault weapons is a red herring. The killing will not stop until hand guns are regulated.
poppop (NYC)
@hen3ry the NRA's position is not that a good person with a gun can _always_ shoot a bad person with a gun. It's that the _only_ thing that _can_ stop a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun.
John V (Oak Park, IL)
I am anti-gun but can easily see myself using one for defense of my family, community and ideals. I would be willing to store them in my home, just in case it becomes necessary to use them. The problem is that the issue has become the gun itself...the worship of the thing and the awesome destructive power that the gun bestows. I find the photos of individuals posturing and peacocking with their weapons disquieting and hardly reassuring of purely defensive intentions.
Pat Boice (Idaho Falls, ID)
@John V - Your reaction to those photos is exactly the same as mine. I can understand having a handgun (I guess that's what you call it) but those automatic rifles - no way.
J. Benedict (Bridgeport, Ct)
I read this well written and intriguing article twice and each time came away with the same stumbling block. It is the sentence that explains the reasons for the blatant support of today's NRA. one of the current owners. "Mrs. Gier thinks if he (Lewis Hayden, the African American former slave owner and abolitionist) were alive today, he would be a member of the NRA or the National African American Gun Association." How does Mrs. Gier get from the biography of Mr. Hayden which included parading off salve hunters in Boston 150 years ago to her conclusion that he would belong to today's NRA which actively lobbies against any and all reasonable firearm legislation and affiliates with white supremacist organizations among other fringe organizations. It would have been interesting to know more about the Giers' own position on the NRA, when they joined and how many arms, rifles and troubling away of 21st century munitions are registered to them and stored in the historic home. The NRA was founded in 1871 so Mr. Hayden, a well known business man and elected public official , could have joined it if there was a chapter in Boston and if it had no racial barriers. I have profound respect for the Hayden family's historic efforts to free themselves from slavery and help other do the same using arms of the time. The noticeable, modern NRA insignia on his family home which is part of a Black Heritage Tour of Boston and the rationalization for it really troubles me.
KBronson (Louisiana)
@J. Benedict One of the important historical court cases regarding gun rights was the Cruikshank decision that centered on the rights of freedman to not be violently disarmed. It was cited in Heller that finally explicitly established individual gun ownership as a second amendment right. Race has been at the center of the question from the beginning. As recognized by Franklin’s reference to the “well armed lamb” dealing with two wolves voting in dinner, it is inherently of greatest importance to a minority and not the decision of the majority.
WorldPeace2017 (US Expat in SE Asia)
@J. Benedict I ally with 99% of your comment. As a literate black man, I abhor the idea of there being a gun fight and all I have are stones. On the other hand, I abhor even more the need to have guns. I strongly endorse the old UK way of having Bobbies without guns and everybody felt safe. Drugs and the profit from selling guns have greatly changed that. I am NOT a hunter, though I am an (or was) expert marksman with firearms in the military. Because of racism, I had often carried weapons as a young man with a high intent of using the guns to the best of my skills should I be pushed into self-defense, be it from hoods or police. Every black man from the US has lived with the fear of some trigger happy white, especially police, seemed to be wanting to make their mark with our lives. Trump, white supremacists have brought the hate out into the open and I would rather die taking 50-1,000 with me than go without a fight. I am no "turn the other cheek fan, I want to take the head off my attacker and all with him, when my cheek gets slapped." This is what white hate has created. I don't like it but it is what it is. Give me great brotherhood and you will get it back 100%. Try to kill me and my family, I will try to kill all who care about you and make no apology for that. Yet I do love the thought of total world peace.
Annie (Pittsburgh)
@J. Benedict - Just want to note that the NRA was founded by officers who had served in the Civil War and were disturbed by the lack of marksmanship skills among soldiers. Their goal was to teach marksmanship and safe gun handling. For many years they supported legislation that promoted gun safety. Then about 100 years after its founding, the NRA was overtaken from within by a radical group of anti-government gun rights activists.
Tom (USA)
Reasonable gun control laws would make it hard for felons to get guns. The NRA resists control on number of guns purchased and private sale control.. because 8% of potential market has felonies. No one abandons 8% of any market
Vanman (down state ill)
@Tom I think validating that 8% felon ownership would be like validating 20M unauthorized, illegal immigrants. There's no paperwork on either! On that reality, law breakers will always find weapons available to own. How about strengthening the registration and background checking process. The NRA grouses over that issue for a reason I cannot understand. That being the main reason my support of them won't happen.
Ed (Orlando)
@Tom A small fraction of those legally prohibited from owning firearms are willing to risk possession, and a smaller fraction yet are building collections. All of those people should expect to fail a background check from a dealer. Person to person sales are never retail sales, so they aren’t driving industry profits. I’m not saying that I’m against background checks for person to person sales, but I reject your cynical premise about the NRA championing felon gun ownership on behalf of the firearms industry.
Annie (Pittsburgh)
@Ed - But you're ignoring the fact that private gun sales don't come from magically created guns produced in some fairy tale factory. The guns are made and sold originally by the arms industry. There are people who buy guns legally and who are then more than happy to resell them to others who cannot obtain the guns legally themselves. You can not ignore the fact that ALL guns are in the beginning sold legally with the original purchase from manufacturer. The next purchase, from store to individual, is also likely to be legal. But after that?
Robert David South (Watertown NY)
Good. This is the purpose of the 2nd Amendment. Irregulars are not for fighting regulars, they're for fighting other irregulars (or detente with them). But the imbalance is stark. The potential irregulars on the right are tooled. The danger is that under adverse conditions a bad regime might not be able to use the military directly as a tool of criminality and oppression (much), but would instead sideline it (or send it out of the country) and send in the sympathetic "paramilitaries" to do the dirty work, as often happened in the Balkans. The people in the article seem to have their guns for the intended purpose.
sam (brooklyn)
@Robert David South Is it? Can you quote the part of the Second Amendment that mentions personal self defense, or protection of your home? The Second Amendment isn't about giving you the right to overthrow the government or collect an arsenal in your home. It is about protecting the NATION from a foreign invasion. That is why it says "for the security of a FREE STATE" and not "for the security of my house and my family". The Second Amendment was written when the American military was incapable of repelling a foreign invasion (the Founders always knew the British would be back, and were proven right in 1812) without the assistance of civilian militias. And since Congress was too poor to arm those Militias at the time, they wanted the militias to provide their own weapons when conscripted. Therefore citizens needed the right to keep and bear arms, so that they could rise to the defense of their country when called upon, and so that they could put down any potential slave rebellions that occurred.
Jim Brokaw (California)
@Robert David South -- We see 'popular militias' that carry out the dirty work of the regimes in many other countries aroud the world, hard at work, today. Duterte's extra-judicial hit squads attacking 'drug criminals' in the Philippines. Militias in Syria, fighting on all sides. Militias in many countries, and governments that 'look the other way' at their excesses... that could very well happen here.
See also