Levi Strauss president and CEO Chip Bergh has been a vocal proponent of gun control for several years now. He’s teamed up with the gun control movement’s sugar daddy Michael Bloomberg to build a coalition of anti-gun CEO’s willing to use their corporate footprint to lobby for restrictive gun control laws, even telling the Washington Post in 2018 that “it’s inevitable that we’re going to alienate some consumers, but we can no longer sit on the sidelines and remain silent on this issue.”
As the saying goes, it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt. Unfortunately for Bergh, that’s exactly what he’s done in a new op/ed in which he claims that not only can racial inequality not be solved until we have more gun control, but that the Second Amendment itself is a tool of white supremacy.
According to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report, Kyle Rittenhouse, a white 17-year-old, traveled from Antioch, Ill., to Kenosha with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle to, in his words, protect local businesses and people. He reportedly received a warm welcome from local law enforcement: “We appreciate you guys,” one officer told him in a video, referring to Rittenhouse and other armed people he was with. After that, Rittenhouse shot three people, killing two of them, then walked away right past police and drove home.
He later turned himself in, but this incident highlights that the right to bear arms in this country was initially and still is intended largely for white people, while minorities can be killed if they’re suspected of even having a gun.
Though Bergh doesn’t realize it, he’s actually making a case for the racism of gun control laws, not the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment protects a right of “the people” to keep and bear arms. The laws that deprived black Americans from keeping and bearing arms (like the ones put in place across the south in the wake of the slave revolt led by Nat Turner in 1831, for example) weren’t examples of the Second Amendment in action. They’re examples of the Second Amendment rights of Americans being deprived because they weren’t considered part of “the people.”
Bergh’s remedy for this injustice isn’t to ensure that all law-abiding Americans have access to their Second Amendment rights. No, instead he wants to turn the right to keep and bear arms from a right of the people into a privilege of the few. His “cure” is worse than the disease, and ignores the long tradition of black-owned arms in America, including the role that armed self-defense played in civil rights struggles for more than a century.
Imagine the argument that many black Americans have often been deprived of their right to vote in the South, and even now face barriers to voting that many white Americans will never encounter, and so the answer is to deprive all Americans of their right to vote. Sounds pretty absurd, doesn’t it? So why does Bergh believe that the the right to bear arms should be denied to all, rather than ensuring equal access to that right?
At one point in his op/ed, Bergh comes close to seeing the light.
Black people are not only more likely to be killed by police for possibly carrying guns, they are also more likely to be convicted of gun-related felonies and receive harsher sentences. That’s partly why the number of Black people with felony convictions increased fivefold between 1980 and 2010, and why one-third of Black men now have felony records.
And what exactly does Bergh think will happen even even more gun control laws are put on the books?
If Bergh truly does think that the Second Amendment is still intended largely for white people, then it seems to me that the answer is to work to ensure that we live up to the promise that it’s actually a right of the people. The problem for Bergh and his gun control buddies is that would mean repealing restrictive gun licensing laws that prevent many lower-income Americans, including minorities, from legally acquiring a firearm. It means getting rid of “may-issue” concealed carry laws that allow for law enforcement to deny people their right to carry for any reason, or no reason at all.
It means building ranges in cities like Chicago and Washington, D.C. instead of passing zoning laws that make it impossible for people to have a safe place to train to be a responsible gun owner. In fact, it means re-establishing a culture of responsible gun ownership in American cities that have tried for fifty years or more to make owning a gun taboo.
Chip Bergh seems to believe otherwise. He wants more gun control laws that, according to his own ideology, are likely to lead to more young black men being sent to prison for non-violent, possessory gun offenses. Even worse, Bergh seems to believe he’s on the right side of history here, instead of recognizing that his efforts will perpetuate the problem of a right for all being recognized only for a chosen few.