by J. Pharoah Doss, For New Pittsburgh Courier
The last Democratic presidential debate took place in Houston, hosted by Texas Southern University, a historically Black college. Six weeks prior, a White nationalist targeted Hispanics and killed 22 people in El Paso, Texas, the hometown of presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke.
During the debate O’Rourke made statements he thought he should make on a Black college campus like, “Racism in America is endemic,” and, “We can mark the creation of this country, not at the 4th of July 1776 but August 20th, 1619 when the first kidnapped African was brought here against his will.” O’Rourke believes American history should be told from the perspective of its victims.
When the debate moderator asked about gun control, O’Rourke announced to the nation: We are going to take your AR-15s and your AK-47s. We’re not going to allow them to be used against fellow Americans anymore. Of course, second amendment supporters condemned O’Rourke for promoting gun confiscation and stressed that the founding fathers wrote the second amendment for defense against government tyranny.
O’Rourke addressed this argument recently at Ohio State University.
He stated there’s an honest debate that the second amendment is meant for defense against a tyrannical government, but his reading of the U.S. constitution, the second amendment, and U.S. history is that argument should have been decided in a courthouse in Appomattox, Virginia (This reference is to the end of the Civil War). O’Rourke’s answer only makes sense when American history is viewed through its victims. He seems to be suggesting since the Confederacy took up arms against the United States to preserve slavery, the “defense against government tyranny” can be dismissed as a racist argument.
Maybe, but there’s an intellectual inconsistency here.
O’Rourke doesn’t view gun control through the same historical perspective of the victim that he views everything else, because gun control was the most effective policy in order to maintain White supremacy.
In the colonies and the states that formed after the Revolutionary War, racially discriminatory gun laws were the norm. Whites feared Black uprisings and lawmakers passed statutes barring slaves from possessing firearms and other weapons. The ban also applied to free Blacks to prevent them from assisting any slave revolt that occurred.
Restrictions were lifted during the Civil War. (Desperate times, desperate measures.)
After the war the South was determined to take all guns from Blacks to restore their previous order. Black codes were passed to restrict former slaves from possessing a firearm. Most Blacks didn’t comply. Blacks didn’t need to understand the original intent of the second amendment to know bearing arms were needed to defend themselves against government tyranny. The KKK and other groups raided Black homes and seized every weapon they could find.
Fast forward to the 1960s, there was civil unrest, church bombings and riots, but it wasn’t until Blacks started shouting Black power and the Black Panther Party for self-defense formed that frightened enough lawmakers in Congress for them to pass the gun control act of 1968.
O’Rourke is aware of this history, he just believes it’s irrelevant because it has nothing to do with present-day victims of gun violence, but that’s a huge intellectual inconsistency from a candidate who prides himself on narrating American history from the perspective of its victims.
(J. Pharoah Doss is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
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