The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Social justice of a different caliber

By Sam Brier

Macalester students regularly champion the cause of social justice. Among other things, advocates of social justice fight for equal rights for all members of society. Race or socioeconomic status should not prevent a person from access to education, food, housing or job opportunities. Macalester students proudly and passionately support this vision, so it seems logical that they would support an individual’s right to self-defense, regardless of race or level of income. However, by not speaking out against strict gun control measures, Macalester students ignore a fundamental aspect of social justice and silently stand by as the rights of low-income minorities to protect themselves becomes limited.

Interestingly, the history behind gun control includes efforts to prevent blacks from getting firearms. In “The Second Amendment: Toward an Afro-Americanist Reconsideration,” Robert Cottroll and Raymond Diamond considers ways in which southern states used gun control to oppress blacks. Their research reveals that during the nineteenth century, most southern states banned possession or use of firearms by blacks. In some cases, some states went as far as forming white citizen patrols to search black-owned homes in order to confiscate weapons.

Today’s gun restrictions operate much more subtly, but still have the effect of limiting the rights of lower-income minorities to self-defense. In More Guns Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws, author John Lott looks at increasingly burdensome gun restrictions like long waiting periods and high gun license fees. ” If you have a $140 license fee versus a $20 fee, you’re more likely to get white, suburban, middle-class people going to get [gun] permits,” he noted.

“But my research finds that it’s basically poor blacks living in high-crime urban areas who are the people most likely to be victims of crime and who would benefit the most from being able to own a gun.”

These facts are lost on Macalester’s proponents of social justice, who want to improve the lives of poor minorities and other underprivileged Americans. They remain silent as lawmakers pass increasingly restrictive gun laws, subscribing to the rhetoric that such laws will keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Unfortunately, criminals do not obey such laws. Criminals have and will continue to obtain guns regardless of the laws that legislators pass. For instance, Chicago has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation, yet, has some of the highest crime rates, according to the FBI.

In short, burdensome gun laws make it harder for law-abiding citizens to own guns, especially low-income minorities who often live in high crime neighborhoods. By standing silent and supporting such laws, we tell these people that their right to protect themselves and their families is not as important as our fear of criminals. We tell them, in effect, that they do not need guns when they have the police to protect them. Such a message is condescending at best and cruel at worst. The fact that a large number of minorities live in high crime neighborhoods shows the widespread failure of police to protect them. In addition, repeated racial profiling and mistreatment by police has left many minorities distrustful of law enforcement.

In today’s world, a functioning firearm is the best way to protect oneself from becoming a victim. Rather than insisting that we know what is best for minority Americans, we should ensure that all Americans, regardless of race or socioeconomic status, have the right to self-defense and the means to secure that right. Macalester students working towards social justice should consider this goal a centerpiece of their mission. Anything less is disingenuous and an insult to the cause they claim to support.

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