Posts tagged Gun control

Yes, please.

I was going to post this the other day, but I had to wait until after Monday, because the author really is perfectly serious about it. Alex Seiz-Wald, at Salon, has recently discovered the chatter in gun-enthusiast and gun-rights circles around the fear of back-door gun-control legislation — by means of restrictions or prohibitions on ammunition sales, if new controls on guns themselves prove not to be politically viable. And so he picks up on some anecdotal Data-less Trend Stories about panic buying of ammunition in response. So, we get this story, from a putatively liberal political commentator:

With gun nuts hoarding bullets, will cops be disarmed?

Gun owners terrified of nonexistent plans to restrict ammo are hoarding bullets. Now police are running out.

. . . And there are plenty of members of Congress making hyperbolic claims about gun control, and a right-wing media eager to heighten and repeat the warnings. Not to mention the NRA, the most powerful voice on guns in the country and the market leader on paranoid gun rhetoric for decades.

But what those rushing to stockpile guns and ammo seem to miss is that their actions have consequences on the people whose job it is to keep us safe.

— Alex Seitz Wald, in Salon (27 March 2013) (emphasis added)

Now I have no really strong convictions about what those rushing to stockpile guns and ammo think about or don’t think about. Maybe if you want to know that, rather than to speculate about the mind of the intra-cultural Other, you could ask some people who are doing that, instead of spending the entire article interviewing self-serving budget-hungry police chiefs. But I do know that many people would be much safer if police were unable to buy any bullets at all. Did police bullets keep Kimani Gray safe? Emma Hernandez? Angel Alvarez and Luis Soto? Alonzo Heyward? Sean Bell? Amadou Diallo? Who seriously believes that keep[ing] us safe is what heavily-armed police do? Who is the us that they have in mind when they think that?

In all seriousness, this is really nothing more than another Data-less Trend Story but if it were true, it would be the best thing I’d heard all year about NRA fans. I don’t even own any guns, and don’t have any plans to get into them, but if the story is true that just makes me wish I had the money to run out and buy up boxes of ammunition right now. Because I have no use for it, but the cops do. And that’s precisely the problem with the cops.

Disarm your local police.

Also.

Reasonable Suspicion

From the West Coast to the East, here’s some news from occupied New York. After a great deal of stonewalling and under intense pressure from New York civil liberties groups, the NYPD has finally released reports on the results of its recent revival of random warrantless stop-and-frisk. Not surprisingly, the results demonstrate that not only is this police power fascist in principle, but also the application of the program is overwhelmingly racist in practice.

The NYPD last night released a report on its controversial stop-and-frisk procedure that breaks down by precinct — and by race — those who’ve been targeted.

The figures, all from 2011, show the precinct with the most stops by sheer numbers was Brooklyn’s 75th, which includes East New York and Cypress Hills.

More than 31,000 people were stopped, 97 percent of them either black or Hispanic.

Brooklyn’s 73rd Precinct, covering Brownsville, was the next highest, with 25,167 stops. About 98 percent involved minorities.

The 115th Precinct — which includes East Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights in Queens — ranked third, with 18,156 stops. Nearly 93 percent of those involved minorities, the figures show.

The 40th Precinct in The Bronx, which covers Mott Haven and Melrose, racked up the next highest number — 17,690 — with 98.5 percent involving minorities.

And at No. 5 was the 90th Precinct in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where there were 17,566 stops, with 88.6 percent involving minorities.

The New York Civil Liberties Union had fought for release of the stats last year.

After getting them, the civil-rights group said they show a pattern of racial profiling — a charge that the NYPD denies.

— Natasha Velez, NYPD releases stop-frisk data, New York Post (Feb 5, 2013)

The NYPD, like most police forces, routinely issues blanket denials of obvious empirical facts, and expects to be believed because the press conference is called in an alternate dimension, where 98+% of all stops just happen to be directed at harassing black or Latin@ victims because of some objective and racially neutral standard of Reasonable Suspicion. In the real world, of course, outside of political power-trip la-la land, Reasonable Suspicion is an entirely meaningless standard, which in practice means nothing more than a police officer’s unreflective and unsubstantiated gut feelings about whether or not someone looks like they are up to no good. And whatever the intentions of NYPD management may have been in designing the policy, or the criteria, the overwhelmingly obvious practical effect of this kind of massive discretionary police power is a campaign of in-effect discriminatory racial harassment by police, which is fueled by the subtle and not-so-subtle sorts of racialized anxiety, tension, and suspicion that set off police officers’ gut reactions. (This is of course why giving police the power to use force, detain, threaten and search people, based on nothing more than their inchoate suspicions is a fundamentally terrible and deeply dangerous idea.)

While it appears at first blush to be a slick, fact-filled response, nothing in the report can dispute the reality that stop and frisk NYPD-style is targeted overwhelmingly at people of color, so innocent of any criminal wrongdoing, that all but 12 percent walk away without so much as a ticket, NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement.

. . . A total of 685,724 people — 8.6 percent of the city’s population — were detained by cops for reasonable suspicion. [sic] … Of that number, 9 percent were white, and 4 percent Asian, the figures showed.

The No. 1 reason for stop-and-frisks that year was possible weapons possession, the report released yesterday said. . . .

— NYPD releases stop-frisk data…

You might be tempted to call racist harassment the occupational disease of police. If not for the fact that it is their occupation.

This is, incidentally, partly a story about how government policing, and police-state tactics like stop-and-frisk, are assaults on civil liberty in principle, and deeply structurally racist in applied practice. Also, though, — pay attention to the punchline at the end — I have to note that this is also a story about how the immediate practical effect of gun control laws in New York has been to provide the Number One legal pretext for a campaign of highly racialized police harassment. Like drug laws, and like any other law that serves to increase the legal power of police to threaten, coerce or arrest people for contraband possessions, gun control laws also are deeply structurally racist in their immediate practical effects.[1]

Also.

  1. [1] See also Anthony Gregory’s important Who Goes to Prison Due to Gun Control?

Saturday Lazy Linking

  • To-day in Anarchist history: The pacifist-Anarchist Gustav Landauer was martyred 90 years ago today, on 2 May 1919, when he was imprisoned and then stoned to death by soldiers sent on the orders of state socialist politician Gustav Noske, to crush the independent Bavarian worker’s councils and force the Bavarian Free State back under the political control of Germany.

    One can throw away a chair or destroy a pane of glass; but those are idle talkers and credulous idolators of words who regard the state as such a thing or a fetish that one can smash in order to destroy it. The state is a condition, a certain relationship among human beings, a mode of behavior between human beings; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently toward one another…. We are the state, and we shall continue to be the state until we have created institutions that form a real community and society of people.

    — Gustav Landauer, Schwache Stattsminner, Schwacheres Volk, in Der Sozialist (June, 1910).

  • To-day in Right to Keep and Bear Arms history: On May 2, 1967, 42 years ago today, the California State Assembly debated the Mulford Act, a bill to ban the open carrying of firearms. In response (since the bill was largely targeted at criminalizing their practice of openly carrying while on cop-watching patrols), the Black Panther Party staged a march to the state capital and walked onto the Assembly floor openly carrying rifles, shotguns, and holstered handguns. (The weapons were unloaded and were kept pointed either at the ceiling or at the floor.) Bobby Seale then read a declaration written by Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver, urging that The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense calls upon the American people in general and the black people in particular to take careful note of the racist California Legislature which is now considering legislation aimed at keeping the black people disarmed and powerless at the very same time that racist police agencies throughout the country are intensifying the terror, brutality, murder, and repression of black people. After they left the capitol building and began to head home, they were surrounded by a battalion of cops and arrested en masse for conspiracy to disrupt a legislative session.

    NRA-approved, anti-gun-control conservative politician-saint Ronald Wilson Reagan was governor of California at the time all of this went down. When the Panthers showed up, Reagan ran and hid inside the capitol building. Shortly thereafter, he showed his commitment to the right to keep and bear arms by signing the Mulford Act after the state legislature passed the bill.

  • On government-backed traditional marriage, women’s property rights, and conservative mythistory-as-justification: killjoy, wreckage found floating (2009-04-19): daily dose of stoopid

  • On bottom-line principles for a constructive secessionism: Carol Moore, Vermont Commons (2009-04-16): SECEDE & SURVIVE: Prepare to be Overwhelmed by Secession

  • On Leftist anti-statism and the class structure of the State: Chris Dillow, Stumbling and Mumbling (2009-04-17): Shrink the State: A Leftist Aim

  • On assumed audiences and gender politics in FLOSS and web development: Shelley Powers, Bb RealTech (2009-04-29): Open Arms

  • On the literacy monopolists and popular writing tools: BLDGBLOG (2009-04-22): How the Other Half Writes: In Defense of Twitter

  • On Enron, corporate privateers and deregulatory rhetoric: Jesse Walker, Hit & Run (2009-04-03): The Smartest Guys in the Tomb. Jesse mentions along the way:

    Leftists and liberals have a word for polluters who pose as careful environmental stewards: greenwashing. We need a similar word for times when the eager beneficiaries of the corporate state pose as free-market entrepreneurs. A word, that is, for propaganda like the Enron ad.

    Of course, I’ve promoted the use of the word privateering for something that’s roughly in the neighborhood, but privateering is really suited to a different purpose (it has to do with a critique of phony privatization, which is often bundled with, but not identical to, phony deregulation; and it focuses on the phenomenon, not the use of rhetoric around it). So, what’s your best suggestion for a left-libertarian counterpart to greenwashing, when state capitalist firms pose as free-market entrepreneurs?

    My own best effort, to date, is gold-plating. Thoughts? Comment away.

Condoleezza’s Right

Here’s something that you may have thought you’d never see in the pages of the Rad Geek People’s Daily: Condoleezza Rice is absolutely right.

Over at Stone Court (thanks again, Feminist Blogs!), Fred Vincy’s pointed out Condoleezza Rice’s stance on gun control, offered up by The Times (2004-11-21):

Violence was turning her hometown into Bombingham as Alabama’s governor George Wallace fought a federal court order to integrate the city’s schools. The Ku Klux Klan bombed the homes of blacks who were beginning to move into white neighbourhoods. Among the targets was the home of Arthur Shores, a veteran civil rights lawyer and friend of the Rices. Condi and her parents took food and clothes over to his family.

With the bombings came marauding groups of armed white vigilantes called nightriders who drove through black neighbourhoods shooting and starting fires. John Rice and his neighbours guarded the streets at night with shotguns.

The memory of her father out on patrol lies behind Rice’s opposition to gun control today. Had those guns been registered, she argues, Bull Connor would have had a legal right to take them away, thereby removing one of the black community’s only means of defence. I have a sort of pure second amendment view of the right to bear arms, she said in 2001.

— The Times 2004-11-21: Condi: The girl who cracked the ice

Condi’s experience wasn’t out of the ordinary. During the hardest fights of the civil rights movement in Mississippi and Alabama, ordinary Black families and civil rights activists defended themselves against the Klan terror by arming themselves. (Yes, organizers who were passionately committed to the principles nonviolent civil disobedience did too—nonviolent demonstrations don’t mean letting the night-riders burn or bomb your house. When they asked Fannie Lou Hamer why her house in Sunflower County never was dynamited, her answer was I keep a shotgun in every corner of my bedroom.)

And I think they were right to do so. So I can’t agree with Fred when he objects:

My initial, flip reaction, was — well, that’s not the lesson I would have drawn. Vigilantes make a practice of driving through your neighborhood shooting, and you conclude that making guns more available is a good thing?

Yes, it is—because the night riders wouldn’t have any trouble getting guns even with stringent gun control laws. Stricter gun control in Bombingham would have only meant fewer Black families able to defend themselves against the night riders. And what would they have done? Called the cops? Bull Connor’s cops? Condi is right to point out that what gun control means is that somebody in the government—usually the sheriff or the police commissioner—has the power to decide who can arm himself or herself and who can’t. It means that the government prohibits some substantial portion of the population from buying the weapons that they can use to defend themselves, in the expectation that they will depend on the Authorities for the protection of their lives. But for a Black woman in Bull Connor’s Birmingham, depending on the Authorities to defend your life was a sucker’s bet. Depending on Bull Connor to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous white supremacist terrorists was a sucker’s bet. And the fact is that, for all the progress we’ve made, it’s still far from clear that relying on the cops is a good bet for Black people—or for that matter, for women, for Muslims, for any number of people who have historically had the boots on their necks (see, for example, GT 2004-11-14, GT 2002-02-13, GT 2001-10-25, GT 2001-04-21, and GT 2001-04-04).

You might be inclined to say: look, Jim Crow is over; things got better, and they still can get better. (I think this is the take that Fred’s suggesting when he says for Rice, the deeper lesson of growing up in Birmingham in the early 60s was that government is fundamentally corrupt and untrustworthy.) Yes, gun control now wouldn’t be as bad as it would have been in Bull Connor’s day. But it will still be bad. The answer is not to throw the wankers out and find the right people to head up the gun control regime in their place. There’s a strong historical argument against that suggestion: the first gun control legislation in American history were laws to ban free blacks from owning guns in the South; later efforts were driven by fear-mongering against the alleged criminal (or revolutionary) tendencies of labor leaders, Slavic and Italian immigrants, and urban Blacks. And I can’t see any good reason to set the history of gun control aside when we consider what it means for real people in the present world.

Even setting the historical arguments, though, I still can’t find a good reason to trust the right people to manage a gun control regime. In fact, I’d argue that there aren’t any right people to find: the power to disarm a whole class of people is inevitably a corrosive power. There is no way to do it without creating a class of people who are completely dependent on the ruling class and their agents for the defense of their very lives and livelihoods: that’s what gun control means. As Leftists—opponents of unjust and arbitrary power—it should be very troubling to those of us on the Left when the powerful have all the weapons and the people over whom they have power have none to defend themselves. That’s absolute power, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. You see it today in the professional paramilitary police forces that occupy most major cities today; and it’s important to see how it’s a power that can’t help but corrupt any class that seizes it.

Écrasez l’infâme.

Further reading