The desperate urge to make guns part of identity politics

The Second Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights, meaning they apply to everyone equally. It’s something that early gun control efforts failed to understand, intentionally denying those rights to people based on their skin.

We’ve made a lot of inroads in correcting that, thankfully.

However, what’s amusing is watching anti-gun activists try to link Second Amendment support to identity politics.

Republican Eric Greitens, a candidate for Missouri’s open U.S. Senate seat, shocked viewers with a new online political ad in June 2022 that encouraged his supporters to go “RINO hunting.”

Appearing with a shotgun and a smirk, Greitens leads the hunt for RINOs, shorthand for the derisive “Republicans In Name Only.” Along with armed soldiers, Greitens is storming a house under the cover of a smoke grenade.

“Join the MAGA crew,” Greitens says in the video. “Get a RINO hunting permit. There’s no bagging limit, no tagging limit and it doesn’t expire until we save our country.”

The ad comes from from a candidate who has repeatedly found himself in controversy, having resigned as Missouri’s governor amid accusations of sexual assault and allegations of improper campaign financing that sparked an 18-month investigation that eventually cleared him of any legal wrongdoing.

The political ad was also launched – and quickly removed – from Facebook and flagged by Twitter at a time when the nation is still coming to terms with the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and reeling from mass shootings in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Uvalde, Texas, Buffalo, New York and Highland Park, Illinois.

The ad continues to circulate on YouTube via various news sources. Greitens’s call to political arms is hardly new. In his 2016 gubernatorial ads, Greitens appeared firing a Gatling-style machine gun into the air and using an M4 rifle to create an explosion in a field to demonstrate his resistance to the Obama administration.

What Greitens’ ad represents, in our view, is the evolution of the use of guns in political ads as a coded appeal for white voters. While they might have been a bit more ambiguous in the past, candidates are increasingly making these appeals appear more militant in their culture war against ideas and politicians they oppose.

Really?

Because a lot of people on this side of the gun debate took issue with Grieten’s ad. Cam, for instance. The only reason I didn’t tear into him is that Cam got to the story first.

But that’s only part of their argument.

You see, much of the rest of their argument hinges on revisionist history regarding guns and the role they played on the early American frontier.

In her book “Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment,” historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz documents how America’s Founding Fathers originally conceived of the Second Amendment as protection for white frontier militias in their efforts to subdue and exterminate Indigenous people. The Second Amendment was also designed to safeguard Southern slave owners who feared revolts.

Except Indian attacks were actually a thing. Plus, when they happened, they could be brutal.

After all, when we talk about deadly school shootings, the 10th worst in history was a massacre carried out by Native Americans as part of Pontiac’s War.

Let’s not pretend there wasn’t actually a need for guns on the frontier.

Further, let’s also remember that a lot of the people who voted for the Second Amendment’s ratification were anti-slavery, so the slave revolt thing doesn’t hold water, either.

More importantly, what someone thought nearly two and a half centuries ago isn’t particularly relevant to modern-day messaging on guns.

Today, one of the largest growing segments we see in the gun community is among black gun owners. They’re generally welcomed to ranges and competitions much like anyone else, illustrating just how little the identity politics being pushed by these authors actually comes into play.

The two authors try to make a case, but they’re so mired in those same identity politics that they can’t imagine for a moment that the messaging they claim to understand means none of what they claim it does.

They basically claim that ads like Grietens’s are dog whistles to white racists.

The thing is, if you’re the only one hearing the dog whistle, maybe it’s because you’re the dog in question.

After all, Grietens lost his GOP primary in very pro-gun, very Republican, and very white Missouri.

It seems that for all the complaints of identity politics rallying white voters to oppose the progressive world order, particularly about things like guns, there’s not much “there” there.