On Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016, 10 days after the Orlando Nightclub shooting terror that targeted members of the LGBTQ community, U.S. Congress members from the Democratic party held a sit in on the House floor and demanded that congress members from the Republican party held a vote on gun control laws. The Democratic members of congress involved in the sit-in hold that the United States government has been silent on gun violence for far too long and never acted to prevent domestic tragedies like the Orlando shooting or the 2015 shooting at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina after previous shootings where radicalized individuals used military grade weapons like Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut or the Aurora, Colorado Batman Movie shooting.
Interesting enough that a sit-in had been staged—it is ironic that members of the United States government would attempt to enact gun control measures domestically while also being the largest dealer of arms in the world.Furthermore, reflecting on the history of discriminatory gun law practices that target people of color, who suffer from extrajudicial killings at the hands of the state at higher rates than whites, it is imperative that any legislation on gun control in the U.S. should also institute measures that would limit the types of weapons used by police departments across the country. Conversations around the nation are under way that some states will soon form legislation that classifies attacks on police as a hate crime. Seemingly a preemptive attempt to thwart any organization of a black panther like militarized armed resistance coalition that could have the capacity to defend black lives and members of other vulnerable communities from the physical violence acted on them by the state.
The history of gun control laws in the U.S. since antebellum were always aimed at disarming black people in fear of people not agreeing to exist as property to colonial settlers. A publication from the American Civil Rights Union details this discriminatory history and touches on Black Codes in Louisiana enacted in 1751 that authorized the murder of any black person in possession of a potential weapon such as a cane, however, being equipped with melanin in one’s skin is often enough of a threat to be killed. While Democratic members of Congress sit in on the house floor they should ensure that this history is addressed if they seek to create gun control legislation to reduce the accessibility of weapons and firearms to American citizens, in which people of color are already disproportionately excluded from purchasing legally.
Mapping Police Violence, a data report on police violence compiled by #BlackLivesMatter activists, emphasizes not only that rates of police killings are rising but also that city crime rates and police violence are not related. Furthermore, this report also notes that less than one-third of the black people killed by police in 2015 were armed or considered violent. Though I agree that military grade assault weapons should not be available to the general public and reforms should be made to prevent citizens from obtaining these type of weapons, I also advocate that perhaps the deadliest adversary to black life and freedom be disarmed and the arsenal of weaponry that it uses to systematically murder black people is limited.
I simply do not think it is fair that the United States will boast it’s efforts to combat international terrorism while being an agent of radicalizing individuals and groups domestically and internationally. I do not think it is fair that in further restricting firearm purchases the communities who are most susceptible to violence (Women, LGBTQ, POC) will be less able to resist violence visited upon them which is often perpetuated by those employed by the state. America needs to do better.