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The 2 Rules We Can Use to End Gun Violence Without Disarming the Working Class.
An attempt to bring nuance into the gun conversation.
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I’ve been writing independently for almost two years, and yet this is the first time I’m discussing guns. I’ve yet to address this topic due to its sensitive nature, as these discussions tend to follow the mass slaughter of children, ethnic or religious minorities, or other deeply troubling events. As my preferred policy doesn’t fit neatly into either of the mainstream positions (“ban all guns” from Democrats and “give everyone guns” from Republicans), I’ve tried to save it for a time when the public discourse will accept subtle nuances. I’m hoping this is that time.
Last week there was yet-another gun-related tragedy in my home, Denver, CO. On Wednesday, a 17-year-old student at Denver East High School shot two administrators and then took his own life. This came just weeks after 16-year-old Luis Garcia was shot and killed outside the same high school. On Friday, March 24th, the Denver community rallied in front of the Capitol building in support of stricter gun regulation to stop such tragedies, which have become a dreadful constant both in Colorado and around the country.
Guns are one of the dividing issues between Socialists and Liberals. While Liberals tend to view the American economic and political system as imperfect and in need of modification, Socialists view them as inherently flawed and illegitimate. For this reason, Socialist groups tend to be against the complete abolition of firearms, fearing it would disempower the working class and minority groups to defend themselves against the systems that oppress them.
As I am sympathetic to the underlying concerns of both Socialists and Liberals, I’ve thought through two rules that must be considered in every policy discussion about firearms. By holding a discussion within these two parameters, I believe we can find the optimal solution that eliminates America’s exorbitant gun deaths while giving marginalized communities the means to protect themselves against very-real state oppression. I’ll finish by sharing my “dream policy” for how I believe our society should control firearms, though this is by no means the only acceptable solution.
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The 2 Pillars For Effective Firearm Policy
#1. The United States has an extraordinarily high rate of gun violence, which most Americans want to stop.
When comparing U.S. gun deaths to comparable countries (defined as high-income with over 10 million citizens), our country is far and away the outlier.
That already-grim statistic grows grimmer when we see who is being killed by firearms. According to the CDC, firearms are the leading cause of death for American adolescents and children, having overtaken auto accidents in 2020.
And like most epidemics, firearms disproportionately harm the most marginalized. From 1990 to 2021, there were 1,110,421 firearm fatalities in the U.S. 25.8% of these victims were Black, over double the demographic makeup of African Americans (12.1%). Naturally, Black Americans are the most vocal advocates for change. According to Pew Research, 93% of Black Americans say gun violence is either “a very big problem” or “a moderately big problem,” compared to 72% of the country as a whole.
Clearly, there is both a dire need and a public want to enact stricter gun regulation to stop the cavalcade of gun deaths. But, as I’m sure many pro-gun Socialists who are currently reading this are saying, there is another concern that should always be considered when discussing how far we want the regulations to go.
#2. The US has a long history of state-sponsored terrorism against workers, minorities, and other disempowered groups. It is understandable why these groups want firearms to protect themselves.
On the morning of April 20th, 1914, the Colorado National Guard placed a pair of Maxim machine guns on a hill in Ludlow, Colorado. Not long after, they fired into the tent colony of striking mine workers, killing at least 19, including 12 children and 2 women.
Seven years later, a mob of angry Whites attacked the African-American neighborhood of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. While destroying one of America’s most prosperous Black communities (Greenwood was dubbed, “Black Wall Street”), the mob — which was deputized by the local government — killed up to 300 African-Americans and destroyed over $34.18 million in property, judging by today’s value.
These are just two examples of America’s favorite pastime; state-supported violence against minorities, workers, and other marginalized groups. In a democratic state, one that protected civil liberties, the dignity of workers, and the rights of minorities to live free, unhindered lives, such atrocities would have been stopped by the local, state, and federal governments. But as we know, America is everything but a fair place.
Instead, our story is one of a government captured by Capitalists, who purposefully use racism, sexism, xenophobia, and murder to turn the white working class against their minority brethren. And when stoking white supremacy isn’t an option, as was the case in Ludlow, the government employs uses its monopoly on violence to crush popular uprisings with unwavering brutality.
It is for this reason — the long-precedented oppression of the lower classes — that Socialists seek to preserve gun rights.
Were our governments decent, the Capitalists obsolete, and the people of the world harmonious, we could beat the Armalites into plowshares. Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in.
The Community Defense Plan
Now that we understand the two central issues of the firearms debate, we can discuss policies and regulations that solve the crisis established in point #1 while preserving the need for some groups to protect themselves as established in point #2.
What follows is my ideal plan gun reform plan, which I believe would achieve both. It consists of two steps.
1. Ban Handguns.
Though most of the national attention focuses on so-called “assault weapons,” the fact is that most gun deaths are caused by handguns. According to the FBI, 59% of gun murders are committed with a handgun, while only 3% are committed with rifles or “assault weapons.” As they drive the overwhelming majority of America’s gun-death crisis, it is clear handguns should be banned.
The other reason I am in favor of banning handguns is that they are relatively inefficient. For matters of personal protection, I find pepper spray or mace to be more effective, considering they don’t put the user or bystanders in fatal danger. And when communities need to protect themselves, long rifles are a much better option. First, they are more effective in battle-type scenarios like the Ludlow Massacre and the Tulsa Race Massacre. Second, they are difficult to hide. Handguns are concealable, making them effective for common crimes. Rifles, however, are typically strapped to the holder’s chest. This not only makes it more difficult to commit crimes unseen but serves a more important purpose — It shows would-be attackers, whether they be racist mobs or the National Guard, “This community is armed and willing to protect our rights.”
2. Workers and Minority Communities Should Have Access to Firearms through secure, group-controlled armories.
I see no way in which the status quo of American gun law, in which any individual can obtain a gun with relative ease, betters the lives of the working class. In fact, it actually is killing them, as gun deaths are correlated with poverty.
Though our country romanticizes individual, “minute-man-style” fighting, that is not a good way for communities to defend themselves. In the case of mob or state-sponsored violence, the first thing a group will need to do to protect themselves is to unify. So why not hold firearms in a centralized, stored location?
When Fascists attempted to overthrow Republican Spain, workers' unions were armed to challenge them. A unified, central organization for the purpose of defending Black neighborhoods against police assaults was the purpose of The Black Panthers., who were no strangers to firearms.
By holding firearms in some form of democratic, yet centralized control, whether it be unions, community defense groups, or even Synagogues and Mosques, we would be able to maintain the defense of marginalized communities while eliminating the overwhelming, genocide-level slaughter caused by firearms.
Of course, this is not the only policy that would curtail our gun problem. Waiting periods, background checks, yearly firearm reviews, and the requirements of safe, secure storage are all acceptable and readily available policies that would prevent future tragedies.
But we must remember the reality that we live in. Powerful people, both in and outside the American government, have always preserved their wealth and power through violence. Though I neither own nor want a gun, I recognize why others might want to. But at the same time, we cannot ignore the perpetual river of deaths caused by America’s relaxed gun laws.
Using these two pillars as our guide, we can advocate for policies that save lives while giving the working class the tools to protect their rights.
What do you think about my plan for gun regulation? Share your thoughts in the comments. (Please be civil, or I will have to lock them.)