Ahmaud Arbery Case Not About Guns

The Ahmaud Arbery case has lit up the news. It’s about the only story besides COVID-19 that seems to be getting any traction anywhere. That means we’re likely to see all kinds of insane stories trying to link the case to people’s pet issues. Of course, those who are primarily focused on race issues are making the case all about race. Those who look at crime are making it about crime–though, in fairness, these folks are absolutely right.

For anti-gunners, though, they have to make it about guns. They have to make it all about the evils of the Second Amendment.

That’s what one opinion writer tried to do, arguing that guns and racism are a deadly combination.

What caused this tragic event? The essential element is pure, old-fashioned racism. If that doesn’t seem right, consider the chances of the McMichaels arming and mounting up to pursue a white man jogging through their neighbourhood.

But consider also the agency of firearms in this incident. It’s not just that Arbery was killed by a shotgun. It’s equally difficult to imagine the McMichaels pursuing Arbery without firearms, and not just because they were afraid he might have been armed. Firearms embody violent power. But we also associate them with authority, significance, righteousness and order. They lend a sense of legitimacy and potency to their bearers that they might not otherwise possess.

Without his handgun, Dylann Roof was a pathetic, maladjusted youth beguiled by racist fantasies. With his handgun, he murdered nine black worshippers at a church in South Carolina in 2015. The handgun gave him not only the power to kill, but the gun itself contained the power to turn Roof into — as he saw it — a legitimate actor instead of a sad loser.

I wonder if in retrospect the McMichaels regret having hastily taken up weapons before taking up pursuit of a black man jogging through their neighbourhood. But, of course, without the false sense of authority supported by the weapons themselves, the McMichaels would have never taken up pursuit of anyone, especially a black man.

Nearly as much as the racism, the guns made them do it. Maybe guns actually do kill people, after all.

Now, there’s absolutely no argument that Dylann Roof was motivated by racism. I mean, he’s an avowed racist, for crying out loud, but that’s where the facts end.

First, for all their many sins, the McMichaels were law-abiding citizens, at least up until the point Ahmaud Arbery was killed. In the eyes of the law, they’re still law-abiding citizens because they haven’t been convicted of anything.

So, just what is the writer trying to say? Should the McMichaels have been barred from owning shotguns? Keep in mind that shotguns are one of the most popular styles of weapons for hunting out there and we’ve continually been told that no one wants our hunting weapon. Is the writer admitting that’s a lie?

Of course, he’s also assuming a lot of things about the McMichaels based on his own prejudices. While we have looked at the facts of the case and generally based our opinions on those facts, this guy is engaging in mindreading. The McMichaels carried guns because they carried authority? Who in the hell actually thinks like that?

No, they likely carried the guns because the feared their quarry might be armed. That’s the reason I carry a gun when I investigate a bump in the night outside. Why would they be any different? Just because I may disagree with what they did doesn’t mean their motivations had to be malicious.

At the end of the day, though, this op-ed wasn’t about sharing an opinion. It was about trying to shape them. In particular, they’re trying to use this tragedy to demonize guns while failing to suggest a single thing that would have averted this. I’m curious. Just what bit of gun control would have made this simply not happen?

My guess is the writer wants a total gun ban because then we’ll all be safe and have free lollipops for life.

Luckily, he doesn’t get what he wants. It can’t happen without a repeal of the Second Amendment and that’s not likely to happen in this lifetime. So what then? What does he think we should do?

You know what? I don’t care.

It’s one thing to believe the McMichaels were motivated by some sense of racism. It’s another to think that the fact that people who were law-abiding citizens up to that point could get guns is part of the problem is quite another.

There are hundreds of millions of guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens and guess what? The vast majority of them will do nothing wrong throughout the course of their lives. Stop pretending that the isolated incidents somehow warrant depriving others of their liberty.