When I see a journalist or an academic start talking about guns, I tend to dig in and get ready to be angry.
So few of either understand the issue, for one thing. Instead, each parrots talking points, advance their narrative and call it a day.
However, it seems that Patrick Blanchfield–a man described as both–seems to grasp at least that the issue is far more complex than partisan talking points.
Journalist and academic Patrick Blanchfield encouraged listeners to abandon partisan responses and called attention to U.S. gun violence and the reactions it prompts, which he presented as a phenomenon called “Gunpower,” also the name of his upcoming book.
In his presentation, in the Hawkins-Carlson room on Tuesday, Blanchfield described Gunpower as a way in which guns are distributed in some contexts and restricted in others. He called it a “uniquely American approach to managing disorder and social reproduction.”
“Gunpower is a system for assuring that, in net, certain kinds of people keep getting shot, and certain kinds of people don’t,” Blanchfield said.
Now, based on that, some of you are likely getting a little worked up. I don’t blame you. I was right there when I first read this.
After all, it sounds suspiciously like the argument that “Stand Your Ground” laws are really about allowing white people to murder black people and get away with it.
However, Blanchfield doesn’t seem to be making that argument [emphasis mine].
Blanchfield told the audience that the idea of gun control is actually more bipartisan than often perceived. Gun control, Blanchfield said, means more than just limiting the sale of guns. The term also applies to increasing firearms, prosecutions and sentencing. “We have a system of gun control that, more than any other thing, focuses on prosecuting and imprisoning […] minorities and the poor,” Blanchfield said. According to Blanchfield, “under Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions, the US Justice department has more aggressively pursued gun control than any other period in its history.”
In other words, it looks like Blanchfield is arguing that gun control laws disproportionately impact minority communities, causing more strife in those than in wealthier, and whiter, communities.
This is born out in an exchange a bit later.
In a Q&A after the talk, one attendee asked Blanchfield whether his idea of Gunpower was not in reality simply white supremacy. Blanchfield responded that he believes Gunpower and white supremacy to be fundamentally linked. “The use of guns as a tool for acquiring territory and performing [life or death politics] is […] part of how we define [who is] white,” Blanchfield said.
He added, “There was a period of time when it was absolutely transparent as the media evolved that George Zimmerman became white because he killed Trayvon Martin.”
Now, I’m not implying that Blanchfield is pro-gun by any stretch of the imagination. Based on what I’ve seen, he probably supports gun control at least to some degree.
But he’s also right in pointing out there’s racism involved in many of those laws and how they’re enforced. George Zimmerman had less white in him than President Obama, for example, yet our first black president was still black while Zimmerman shifted from Hispanic to White Hispanic to white in the public’s consciousness.
That’s because it’s far more palatable to make it a racial issue, to make it look like guns are for white people.
The truth is, many black communities are besieged by violence. The good and decent people in those neighborhoods–the majority–are powerless in many places due to gun control laws billed at keeping them safe but do nothing of the sort. Instead, they keep them disarmed while the criminals continue to do whatever they wish with relative impunity.
Blanchfield is not an ally of ours, but that doesn’t mean he’s not right about anything. There are a couple of points here that I think he was trying to use to hit his ideological opponents yet he ends up scoring for the pro-gun side anyway.
I’ll take it.