While our country’s all-too-frequent mass shootings over the past few years have invigorated discussion about guns and self-defense, the perspective of those affirming Second Amendment rights has often been scrutinized. Some critique raced and classed fantasies about defending one’s home from specific kinds of invaders; others question what need those who dominate this discourse truly have to defend themselves against state oppression. The latter is particularly intriguing as it is of course those with the least societal power in this country—people of color, the poor—who are the most susceptible to violence, with more to fear from the state and from their fellow citizens. What does the right to arm oneself mean for a black man, so often stereotyped as a threat—like Jonathan Ferrell, shot dead by police after knocking on a woman’s door for help after a car crash, or Jordan Davis with his “loud music” and Trayvon Martin with his infamous hoodie and bag of skittles? And what does the freedom to buy a gun mean for a Muslim, the association of whom with destructive weaponry continues to this day, fueling hate crimes and the NYPD’s socially erosive mass surveillance of Muslim communities? Meanwhile, the same city’s stop-and-frisk program harasses and humiliates these very people while groping them for weapons (blacks and Latinos comprise 84% of stops although the NYPD’s own data reveals that whites have been twice as likely to carry drugs and guns).
But there’s more. Have you heard of Marissa Alexander?