Jacobin is the kind of thing I read when I want to learn the socialist hot take on the news of the day. They’re pretty unapologetically socialist, actually, and don’t mind if you know it. That’s always bothered me, but it is what it is.
Normally, I find it very difficult to find anything that doesn’t disgust me in their pages. Well, until now, anyway.
It seems they’re taking a pro-gun stance, or at least an anti-gun control position.
In July, the Black Attorneys of Legal Aid and nine public defenders’ offices in New York state filed an amicus brief with the US Supreme Court. It’s hardly remarkable for criminal defense attorneys to file such a brief advocating for a given rule, and when they do, it usually attracts little attention. But this wasn’t just any criminal procedure case. New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen is a Second Amendment challenge seeking to strike down a state gun licensing scheme. And the attorneys are taking the same side as a host of libertarian and conservative organizations — including twenty-four Republican senators led by Ted Cruz.
As expected, the brief attracted criticism from progressive commentators. While critics may be right that conservative justices will use the brief as cover against attacks from the Left, this criticism potentially obscures a key point: the brief shines much-needed light on the ways in which US gun control has contributed to mass incarceration and the hyper-policing of marginalized communities, particularly low-income black men. Approaches like New York’s licensing scheme help strengthen institutions of policing and criminal punishment.
The attorneys responsible for the brief spend their days advocating on behalf of some of the most powerless and maligned people in society: poor people charged with crimes. Their argument is a simple one, even if it doesn’t fit neatly into our polarized politics on gun control: laws that criminalize gun possession invite discriminatory enforcement.
Seriously, that’s exactly what gun control laws tend to do. The more burdens you place on people in order to purchase a firearm lawfully, the more you turn it into a privilege of the elite.
Meanwhile, people who want protection will go outside the law to get that protection. That means economically disadvantaged groups–and African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans are more likely to be poor than white or Asian-Americans–are going to have to break the law in order to protect themselves. After all, it’s better to be tried by 12 than carried by six, right?
Efforts to address violent crime through gun control aren’t going to hit the wealthy. They can pay the fees, attend the classes, and jump through all of the other hoops the state might require. It might annoy the hell out of them, but they can do it.
But what about the guy just scraping by? The guy who saved for months and months just to have the money to buy a gun, only to find out he needs to spend a similar amount just to get a license to buy a gun and attend some kind of mandatory training class. His choice is to leave his family unprotected or buy a gun from that guy down the street.
What do you really think he’s going to do?
For Jacobin to acknowledge that fact, though, is a little surprising. After all, I’ve seen plenty of anti-Second Amendment rhetoric from their pages over the years. I know they don’t actually value the right to keep and bear arms, yet here we are.
I’m pretty sure I won’t agree with them on much going forward, but here we can find common ground.
Not exactly the common ground I ever expected, but what can you do?