I hereby issue an invitation to Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, a radical activist and author who has just published a book about guns: Loaded – A Disarming History of the 2nd Amendment – to attend my gun safety course that is required in my state – Massachusetts – before someone can apply for a license to own or carry a gun. The reason I want Ms. Dunbar-Ortiz to visit my gun class is I think she might gain some fundamental correctives about why some but not all Americans are so invested in the ownership and use of guns.
The author’s thesis is that today’s gun culture grows out of an amalgam of racist ideologies and practices which justified gun ownership as a necessary adjunct to the settlement and exploitation of the wilderness with the consequent destruction of Native American communities, followed by the subjugation of the few surviving indigenous peoples as well as African-American slaves. Since this process could only be accomplished by armed force, the 2nd Amendment was inserted into the Constitution to give legal sanction for the emergence of a nation state ruled by white men. I think that’s what she’s trying to say.
The reason I would like Ms. Dunbar-Ortiz to come to my class is because she will spend some time with some folks who may decide to purchase and own a gun after they finish my safety course, which means going to the local police department, getting photographed and fingerprinted and having their backgrounds checked. Is there the slightest possibility that a single person in this class gives one rat’s damn about how the Wampanoag Indians got chased out of the Bay Colony in 1676 by a bunch of white men who wanted more land? That may sound like a pretty heartless thing to say, but such thoughts are the furthest from anyone’s mind.
Ms. Dunbar-Ortiz would like us to believe that current-day gun ‘culture’ isn’t just a figment of the gun industry’s fertile imagination to create the idea that guns are necessary to protect us from real or imagined harm. In that respect she critiques the study by Pamela Haag (The Gunning of America) of how Winchester marketed its products noting that this work too narrowly construes the importance of the 2nd Amendment in justifying the conquest of Native American lands long before the Winchester Repeating Rifle helped ‘win’ the West. What Dunbar-Ortiz ignores is the fact that the tool which wiped out Native American society wasn’t the gun, it was the plow. Hence, the decision by Winchester to concoct a marketing scheme.
I am sure the students in my gun safety classes would respond politely to Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s attempt to make the 2nd Amendment the deus ex machina for everything and anything having to do with guns. I also suspect they wouldn’t really understand anything she says. Because the truth is that folks who decide they need a gun to defend themselves aren’t going to spend one second thinking about whether the gun they buy and the Constitutional statute which protects that purchase has any historical or cultural meaning at all. They are going to buy a gun because they believe in some fashion or another that having a gun will protect them from crime.
I support gun ownership but I don’t support the idea that anyone should walk around armed just because they think it’s the thing to do. They need lots of training and they need to meet a government-mandated proficiency standard before they can walk around carrying a gun. And none of those requirements in any way limit or threaten so-called 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’
I only wish that someone as experienced and knowledgeable as Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz had written about the 2nd Amendment in a manner that would make her book accurate and relevant when it comes to the issues of safe gun use that gun-control advocates deal with every day.
As for the final sentence of her book about ‘you’ll never have justice on stolen land.’ How profound.