The late President Ronald Reagan put it in a nutshell in 1964.
Never have his words been so clearly demonstrated in action as in this article in the Washington Post.
Gun violence is rooted in white supremacy. We can’t solve the first without understanding its connection to the second.
. . .
In Colonial America, gun ownership equaled power. More specifically, it meant the power to control the means of violence and use those means to suppress the voices of the disenfranchised. Throughout the 17th century, almost all the English colonies along the Eastern Seaboard passed legislation prohibiting women and slaves from owning guns and forbidding the sale of guns to native peoples. By the 18th century, gun ownership had become a defining feature of white masculinity in the English colonies and guns played an integral role in Colonial men’s public displays of that masculinity.
The public training exercises Colonial men participated in as part of their militia service were central to such displays and offered opportunities for them to participate in competitions to demonstrate their martial prowess. In many cases, guns were not only central to these demonstrations but were the prize for victory. The commander of the militia in Henrico County, Va., William Byrd, noted in his diary that he made a practice of awarding pistols to the men who won the competitions that took place on militia days. Such guns thus acted as material manifestations of a Colonial man’s physical domination of his peers, augmenting his reputation in terms of property ownership and bodily prowess.
But the main purpose of militias — North and South — during this period was to suppress slave rebellions, a constant fear of slaveholders throughout the institution’s existence. Militias’ sole responsibility in peacetime was to patrol local slave quarters for possible signs of subversion. When slave rebellions did occur, as in the 1739 Stono Rebellion in South Carolina, Colonial officials increased militia patrols for months and even years after the rebellions had been quelled.
They also usually expanded the caches of guns held in Colonial capitals. In Colonial minds, those guns were key to preventing any future slave rebellions. In fact, for many of the men who became leaders of the Colonial independence movement, the final straw that pushed them toward independence was the British military’s decision to confiscate Colonial militia stores and use them to arm refugee slaves who fled their rebel owners.
It was this culmination of their worst nightmares that the Founders had in mind when they wrote the Second Amendment. Their “right to bear arms” was the right of white men to exercise authority over black men and women by violent means if necessary, and their right to a “well regulated Militia” was the right to do so in large groups.
There’s (unfortunately) more at the link.
A few simple checks would have revealed the utter fallacy of the author’s argument.
- The main purpose of firearms in colonial America was twofold. One was to put meat on the table. The other was to defend one’s home and community against attacks by native Americans. The pages of this country’s history are filled with accounts of both activities. Colonial and local governments continually urged their people, and frequently required them under penalty of law, to maintain personal weapons and bring them with them if they had to mobilize to defend their homes, individually and collectively. The threat of slave risings became greater in the South as the number of slaves there increased, but that was a much later development, and was not a factor in the original thirteen colonies that formed the United States.
- The author makes the usual mistake of conflating “the militia” with the right to keep and bear arms. The Second Amendment’s text is clear and unambiguous. The first clause merely states that a well armed militia is necessary to the freedom, safety and security of the state – self-explanatory, in the light of the recent rebellion against Britain that had secured independence. The second clause is not dependent on the first, and recognizes a pre-existing right to keep and bear arms. That right is not conferred by the Constitution, but acknowledged as a natural right already in existence, just like the other rights recognized in the Bill of Rights. Therefore, it cannot be related to slavery or any other factor. As noted above, the Bill of Rights predates the massive expansion of slavery in the southern states – which, BTW, did not occur in northern states – and therefore cannot be argued to be a defense-against-rebellious-slaves conception.
I don’t know what the author was smoking, but it was certainly powerful stuff to produce such a load of inaccurate drivel!