Charles E. Cobb, Jr: Guns kept people in the black freedom movement alive

“I’m very much concerned with how the history of the southern freedom movement or civil rights movement is portrayed. And, I’m very conscious of the gaps in the history, and one important gap in the history, in the portrayal of the movement, is the role of guns in the movement. I worked in the South, I lived with families in the South. There was never a family I stayed with that didn’t have a gun. I know from personal experience and the experiences of others, that guns kept people alive, kept communities safe and all you have to do to understand this is simply think of black people as human beings and they’re gonna respond to terrorism the way anybody else would. …The southern freedom movement has become so defined, the narrative of the movement has become so defined by non-violence that anything presented outside that narrative framework really isn’t paid that much attention to. I like the quip that Julian Bond made…that really the way the public understands the civil rights movement can be boiled down to one sentence: Rosa sat down, Martin stood up, then the white folks saw the light and saved the day.”

–Charles E. Cobb Jr., “This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible”

“Do you really think they’re trying to take your guns away?!?!”

One thing that I commonly hear from gun control proponents is questions along the lines of “Do you really think the government is trying to take people’s guns away?”, as if this is some sort of absurd paranoia that has no basis in reality.

But it’s quite disingenuous for gun control proponents to claim that they aren’t trying to pass laws that would take guns away from US citizens when that’s exactly the definition of gun control – i.e. laws that restrict and reduce private firearm ownership … What kind of “gun control” are people trying to promote that doesn’t involve any guns being taken away from people? 

On a side note, I’ve also never hurt or killed anyone with the guns I own, while the US government has killed millions of people with their guns over the past few decades. I’ll start taking “gun control” seriously when it is centered on the US government and local/state police being disarmed by the people, rather than the other way around.

“In America, Young Black Men Have No Right to Life”

St. Louis County Police tactical officers fire tear gas in downtown Ferguson on Monday as crowds gathered to express their anger at the teenage student's death at the hands of police“There are lots of pictures coming out of Ferguson, Missouri, a two-thirds Black town just outside St. Louis, where a policeman shot down Michael Brown, this past weekend. The 18 year-old’s last words before dying were: “I don’t have a gun, stop shooting.” The cop kept shooting anyway. The pictures show Brown’s body in the middle of the street, where it was left for four hours in the baking sun.

Other pictures show Brown’s grief-stricken mother, and his stepfather carrying a sign that said, “Ferguson police just executed my unarmed son.” There are plenty of images from the two nights of disturbances in the town, where there isn’t really much to loot. However, I think the most poignant picture shows young Blacks blocking the street in front of the Ferguson police department, their upraised arms signaling surrender, just as young Michael did before the cop administered the coup de grace.

How different that picture would have been in 1966, when young Black people in California responded to murderous police violence with armed patrols of their own, under the newly formed Black Panther Party for Self Defense. The Party declared that Black people had just as much right to defend themselves as white people, including the right to defend themselves from the police, who act as an occupying army. Which is, of course, a self-evident truth.

Black Panthers bringing guns to capitol to protest gun control
On May 2, 1967, Black Panthers amassed at the Capitol in Sacramento brandishing guns to protest a bill before an Assembly committee restricting the carrying of arms in public. Self-defense was a key part of the Panthers’ agenda. This was an early action, a year after their founding. (source)

The Black Panther Party’s vigorous assertion of the right to self-defense prompted the U.S. government to double-down on its monopoly on the use of force – first, with a massive campaign of assassination and false imprisonment against Black radical leadership, many of whom still remain behind bars. Then, as the decade of the Seventies began, mass Black incarceration became the universal policy of the United States – north, south, east and west. A new class of Black politicians filled the void that police repression had created. These were men and women who were quite amenable to corporate rule and made comfortable homes in the Democratic Party. Even as the prison population rose to nine times 1970 levels, the Black Misleadership Class blissfully celebrated its own upward mobility.

Meanwhile, the Mass Incarceration State consumed millions of Black lives and consigned most Black communities to Constitution-free zones, where young Blacks could be arrested for nothing, or shot down in the streets with impunity, as was Michael Brown, and as happens to other young Blacks every day of the year.

The people who rule America no longer need Black labor. What they do need is a class that is forcibly anchored at the bottom of U.S. society, who can be scapegoated for whatever is wrong with America, and whose very presence serves as an excuse for massive urban dislocation and the steady erosion of civil liberties. Michael Brown and countless others have died in order to keep America deeply stratified. That’s the only use the United States has for young Black men.”

— Glen Ford (via Black Agenda Report)

 

Statist “gun control”: promoting an elite monopoly on armed violence

The most common solution put forth (by the corporate media) to address the high levels of gun violence in the United States is “gun control” —  that is, asking the state to regulate the manufacture, sale, and use of firearms. Gun violence is a problem, and something needs to be done about it  But federal/state “gun control” legislation is not the solution.

"Photo of victims killed in drone strike on wedding convoy from Yemeni journalist & being circulated widely on social media."
Photo of victims killed in a U.S. drone strike on a wedding convoy in Yemen (December 2013) … The oligarchs who ordered and oversaw this act of mass murder will also oversee “gun control”. Do you trust them to make good decisions about who should and should not be armed?

There are several problems with asking the U.S. government to stop gun violence by controlling who has access to firearms and ammunition. The most obvious of these is that the US government is the single largest perpetrator of gun violence on the planet. It spends over $500 billion per year on military, police, and intelligence forces. The military has killed far (i.e. millions) more people than civilians with guns. They are also the world’s largest arms dealer — giving billions of dollars worth of weaponry to foreign dictatorships (Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt, Bahrain, etc.), paramilitary death squads, and domestic police forces. They oversee the largest prison system in the world (something that can only be maintained through the constant employment of violence). Why would we rely on these people to stop armed violence? When bureaucrats like Diane Feinstein (whose top campaign donors included several weapons manufacturers, and who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee which has overseen the torture and assassination of thousands of people) get up and talk about “gun control”, what they really mean is that they want to be in control of all of the guns, so they can continue using them to murder people who threaten corporate profits.

The second problem is that “gun control” does nothing to address the social causes of violence in our society — racism, militarism, sexism, economic exploitation, etc. Yes, it is true that firearms are frequently used by abusive men to murder their partners. However, when police are twice as likely to be domestic abusers as the general population, why would we expect that granting police a monopoly on firearms would protect women from gun violence? When we send millions of young men and women overseas to murder people in the name of the U.S. military, why do we act surprised when they come home and commit gun violence here? … The point is that we need to work towards social changes that address the root causes of violence, if we want it to stop.

Gun violence is a real problem (as we all were reminded of by the tragedy today), which we desperately need to come up with solutions as a community (working towards the ultimate goal of peaceful coexistence and universal disarmament). But the “gun control” debate (promoted by the corporate media) is totally backwards. If we really want to gain control of gun violence, we need to go after the largest perpetrator (the US government) first. The people need to disarm the police and military, rather than the other way around. Only after the people have disarmed the state, and replaced the police and military with community self-defense groups, could we safely start working on a local level towards voluntary disarmament (i.e. once arms are no longer necessary to defend our communities against violence).

Rahmatullah, 19, a victim of a NATO air strike, tries to sit up on his bed in a hospital in KabulPhoto: Ramatullah, a 19-year old Afghan boy who was the victim of a NATO airstrike

Misdiagnosing the culture of violence

“American culture is a violent culture; it has always been a violent culture. […] A sick society produces sick people. A society in which many forms of violence are valorized will produce many incarnations of violence that are not. This does not excuse the killer’s actions, or rationalize his motivations, but it is an honest assessment of factors which produce such behavior and which [gun control] legislation and medicalization will not succeed in muffling. […]

In a classic study of the relationship between war and violence within war-making societies, Dane Archer uses historical, cross-national data to demonstrate how war making produces significant and consistent elevations in homicide rates among ordinary citizens. The legitimation and sanctioning of murder, atrocities and the targeting of civilians in war causes an increase in murder at home. […] Criminalizing all those labeled as mentally ill or (attempting) to make guns harder to get will not change that basic universal precursor to all atrocious acts – that of seeing other people as not worthy of life.”

— Mike King, “Misdiagnosing the culture of violence” (Counterpunch, December 18, 2012)