Gun Rights are Civil Rights

Gun Rights are Civil Rights

By Noel Jett

Content warning: this article contains mentions and discussions of suicide, rape, and transphobia.  Proceed with caution as needed.


Modern day liberalism seems to be grounded in the desire for human rights.  Usually, conservatives disagree that what liberals want are human rights.  (The problematic assumption made by both sides that all human rights should be catered to by a government, rather than by a society, is a discussion for another article.) The Umpqua Community College shooting resurged the national obsession with gun rights vs. gun control.  The longer this goes on the more agitated I become because I can’t help but think that the focus has shifted to the wrong discussion, which is whether or not people really need guns, specifically “assault rifles,” typically described like some mystical creature that is large and automatic and loads of other scary things.  

The occasional liberal knows what sorts of things should be banned, but usually it’s an idea, not a real specific issue, that’s getting all our children super murdered and stuff.  I definitely agree there’s a massive problem in America with shootings that only we have, and I want to fix that just as much as the next person, but here’s what bothers me about gun control: it’s not a removal of guns, it’s a government monopoly on guns.  The fact that that doesn’t bother white liberals should give away immediately that the desire for gun control comes from a position of privilege.  In case you haven’t noticed, the police force is racist, and growing up on maybe not the best side of town taught me not to trust police the way other white people I know seem to.  I would give you a statistic on police brutality but we can’t even get an accurate number, so instead have fun with these tragic stories about completely obvious police racism.  (That sentence wasn’t long enough, here’s a few more.)  Oh, and here’s that famous one about that time the police beat a homeless man to death for literally no reason (tell me again about how you want to use the government to care for the poor).  Not to belabor the point, but here’s a couple cases of rape and sexual abuse of women by police, and here’s a couple cases of rape and sexual abuse of minors and children by police.  No amount of “good cops” can reverse systemic sexism and racism in society and the judicial system.  See why this is a bad idea?

So we all know helicopter parents can be pretty annoying, but did you also know they’re sexist?  I’m tired of hearing parents talk about gun control because their kid was terrified in a school lockdown—maybe you should be yelling at your kid’s school about this instead of me.  The odds of a student of any age getting shot while at school are 1 in 7.8 million.  The odds of a student of any age getting shot and killed while at school are 1 in 15 million.  The odds that a woman will be raped in her lifetime are 1 in 4.  And I know you’ve heard it before but I think it’s still worth saying: the likelihood of someone who wants to kill a bunch of people caring whatsoever about the current gun laws is… low.  It’s fair to point out that not all rapes could be stopped with a gun, but less shootings could be stopped with gun control.  How many criminals bought their weapons from a storefront?  I couldn’t find definitive statistics for exactly what I was looking for, but it is true that 39.2% (the majority) of convicts for crimes perpetrated with guns received their guns from illegal weapons dealers, and none of the guns used at Columbine or Sandy Hook, the two deadliest K-12 shootings in U.S. history, were bought legally.  Laws restricting the purchase of guns are irrelevant to unlawful purchases.

In the same way, being queer has been a wonderful life lesson in trust no one, and while there is truth in the point that a gun doesn’t immediately equal safety and defense from an attacker, I feel like less trans women would be dead if there was encouragement to own and learn how to use a weapon in the queer community.  Those are only the killings from this year: this is a state of emergency, and unless you plan on fixing transphobia and the warped view of masculinity plaguing the nation overnight, our best shot (no pun intended) is self-defense.  Less than half of those women were shot and it’s going to take a lot longer to remove guns from killers than it would to add guns to victims (except hopefully this time, only victims of attempted murder).  The fight for more gun laws is wasting time, and when these murders are happening this fast, there is literally no time to waste.

What about background checks for guns, to keep crazy people from shooting everyone?  Yeah, that’s not ableist.  Just kidding, it totally is!  This concept is vague and unhelpful.  Let’s assume this would be a federal law requiring all businesses that sell guns to do a full background check on everyone who buys a gun.  I think most people supporting this idea would agree to that, no? That full background check would include mental health history, arrests, past employment verification, credit check, driving records, and social security.  That may strike some people as excessive, and it should, but that bit about the mental health history should be the scariest.  Look, if someone is suicidal, they’re going to find a way to kill themselves if they don’t get help, and no amount of guns will change that.  Even if you think guns are too easy to acquire, you can’t argue that it’s easier than it is to acquire a razor, a belt, a rope, a bottle of sleeping pills or even the exhaust from one’s own car.  Suicide by gunshot is, relatively speaking, one of the more difficult methods and its popularity may come only from its (supposed) painlessness.  So, if you’re looking to prevent suicides, gun control is a pretty crappy way to go.  But if you’re looking to prevent people from being able to defend themselves/their homes because they have received or are receiving treatment for depression, congratulations, you’re ableist and you’re helping ableism be legally enforced.  Thanks.

In some counties, getting a driver’s license requires answering a question about any past mental health issues.  A friend of mine moved to Brazos County from another state and had to get her driver’s license updated, and when she indicated on the form that she had received treatment for a psychiatric illness, depression, she was forced to retake the written and road tests.  Despite asking just about everyone who would let her speak if they were super sure that she needed to do that, since it had never affected her driving before, she ended up retaking both tests.  Only afterwards did the original clerk who made the decree admit to maybe having made a minor error, offering a half-hearted “shit happens”-style apology.  My friend asked again if there was anything else she had to do, stupid or not, to prevent losing her license.  She was told there was nothing else.  And then of course there was something else.  About a month later she received a letter telling her she would need to provide a letter from her psychiatrist confirming she’s fit to drive, in less than 60 days.  She did and only recently was confirmed that she can continue to drive, so it could have gone worse, but this is certainly not the worst example of ableism by a government institution.  (It might be a good idea to go back to those articles about police brutality and see how many of those people had mental illnesses).  Which is worse: the government having discretion over who gets to own guns, or each individual gun shop owner having discretion over who gets to own guns?  Most people with a mental illness aren’t violent, and while the people saying that we have a mental health problem, not a gun problem, are on the right track, they’re also spreading really harmful ideologies about mental health.  The “mental health problem” this country has is a stigma about mental health, and it makes it difficult to catch and treat mental illnesses.  A mandatory abnormal psychology course would do this country more good than banning guns.

This whole article can be traced back to one concept that is a blatant lie and must be stopped.  Say it with me: Governments were not made for protection.  They were made for power.  The “little guy” has never won in a majority-rules world, and he never will.  (Which do you think politicians care about more, trans rights, or the transphobic vote?)  If your rights are up for debate, you are not free, and if your rights are controversial, you should know that government is not going to be on your side.

Firearm Use by Offenders, Bureau of Justice Statistics, February 2002

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