Al Jazeera Op-Ed Illustrates Complexity Of Gun Debate

I generally don’t read much published by Al Jazeera. After all, the publication is notoriously pro-jihadist with their coverage, an Islamic version of the Kremlin-backed Russia Today. I know their bias and have little reason to want to feed that beast.

Yet, from time to time, you can find a near gem in the dreck, something that makes some very good points even if it doesn’t mean to.

That’s what happened earlier today when I opened a link to an op-ed discussing guns. I expected to be blasted with anti-gun propaganda, especially as the story was titled “Racism and the black hole of gun control in the U.S.

Yeah, I was ready for the eye-rolling to begin. However, it’s a lot more thoughtful than it would seem.

I am not a fan of guns. Whether it is the memory of the Walther PPK, my preference for a good bow, or some fundamental aspect of my character, I see no reason why we need to have access to guns at all. My inclination is to support restrictive gun laws and possibly even remove guns entirely.

But the more I consider the subject of guns, the more I find that the entire topic is, itself, a black hole. The closer I get, the more distorted it becomes, and nowhere is that more obvious or dangerous than at the intersection of guns and race.

A house full of guns

I do not think it is an exaggeration to suggest that lax gun laws and easy access to firearms are a fundamental reason for the success of the civil rights movement. Charles E Cobb Jr notes this eloquently in his excellent treatise on the subject titled This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed.

“The tradition of armed self-defense in Afro-American history,” writes Cobb, “cannot be disconnected from the successes of what today is called the nonviolent civil rights movement.”

This is something many people either forget or never learn: Guns protected the black people who were marching for freedom. If not for the threat of gunfire, many more peaceful protests – and possibly the movement itself – would have been silenced by violence.

“Simply put,” Cobb continues, “because nonviolence worked so well as a tactic for effecting change and was demonstrably improving their lives, some black people chose to use weapons to defend the nonviolent Freedom Movement.”

Now, the op-ed isn’t perfect. There are a lot of points where I feel the author misses the point of what really happened, such as the shooting of Tamir Rice and chalking it up to gun control rather than understanding what it’s like to respond in a split second when you think a firearm is being pointed at you. You don’t have time to determine if it’s a toy.

Yet the quoted section is a valid point too.

The truth of the matter is that we live in a world where black Americans feel the police are out to get them. They fear, whether rightly or wrongly, that they’re likely to be gunned down by a cop over nothing.

We can debate whether that fear is justified or not. It doesn’t matter. That fear exists and we’re idiots if we fail to acknowledge it.

Yet my question is that if this fear exists, why would we want to further disempower those who feel such fear by taking away the only means they could have to defend their lives?

I, for one, wouldn’t.

For many of us, the gun debate is simple. The Second Amendment preserves our right to keep and bear arms and says it shall not be infringed and that’s all there is to it.

The debate, as a whole, is more complex for many people. We would do well to remember that.