‘Gun Appreciation Day’ and the racialized double standards of gun ownership
January 19 has been declared “Gun Appreciation Day” by a coalition of right-wing groups who adore the second amendment (and apparently loathe all the others). The group’s press release calls on America’s gun lovers to “show their support for gun ownership by turning out en masse at gun stores, ranges, and shows from coast to coast” to ”protest the Obama administration’s post Sandy Hook assault on gun rights.”
They even created a website devoted solely to “Gun Appreciation Day“. Each page is bursting with stars and stripes, a testament to how much these folks love America, freedom and guns, all of which are interchangeable if you ask them.
It’s no accident they chose January 19 to collectively mark their paranoid obsession with firearms. The purpose of the date, they say, is “to send a message to Washington two days before Obama’s second inauguration”. That sounds like a veiled threat to me, but what’s new? This distinctively hostile form of activism from the gun lobby and its supporters is so common that we don’t even think twice about it anymore.
But here’s a thought experiment: How would the nation respond if muslim Americans, black Americans or undocumented residents behaved in a similar manner? I have no doubt that these groups would immediately be targeted for surveillance, detained, deported and portrayed as violent savages in the media.
The pro-gun movement is tolerated because it’s overwhelmingly white (and male). Does anyone really believe that the NRA’s positions would be acceptable if they advocated arming nonwhite citizens? Do you really think the US government would let black, arab, or latino groups get away with forming armed militias? That’s what white extremist groups have done all around the country, a fact that rarely receives mention in the mainstream press. Even worse, these groups are not a high priority for federal law enforcement.
When the gun lobby declares that law-abiding citizens should be allowed to pack heat anywhere, at anytime and without government interference, they’re talking about people like George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn. Otherwise, they would have come out in full force after the murders of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, to demand that we arm young men of color for their protection. They would be calling for the release of John McNeil, a black man serving a life sentence for shooting a white trespasser who attacked him at his home in Georgia.
On that note, I want to end this post with a hilariously informative and relevant clip from Michael Moore’s documentary, Bowling for Columbine: