This new movement could lead to disaster without proper implementation
By Matthew Fraser, Opinions Editor
In my very first article for the Other Press I wrote about POC and LGBTQ+ individuals being essentially excluded from the gun rights conversation. I spoke then about how the negative image of gun ownership actively pushes the rest of us out of the conversation and into casualty from laws written to punish political opponents. There is a new day dawning as people increasingly lose trust in the government and police forces; for some, the presumptions about state guaranteed safety are falling away. Now, we are faced with a new problem: defending great ideas from their poor implementations.
It has been documented that across Canada and America, gun purchases climbed as the COVID-19 outbreak created a climate of intense fear. Though it is bittersweet to see people realize that their safety ultimately resides in their own hands, the fact that it has been done in such a panicked manner—where people do not have access to the necessary training and practice conducive to safe gun ownership—is a problem. However, the political needle (in America) towards gun ownership will be forced to shift in the next few years; it will no longer just be conservatives who see the value in the Second Amendment. Suddenly, the people who once supported extreme gun control measures have been made subjects of these measures in their time of need, be they mandatory waiting periods or license approvals. Laws that the people wanted are now being questioned by the voters themselves. How much this will influence the Democratic party is unclear, but they must change in the face of this new reality.
Over the past few years black gun ownership in America has drastically increased. This trend seems to trace back to the election of Donald Trump, and Philip Smith, the president of the National African American Gun Association agrees. The association has gained 30,000 members since its inception in 2015. Smith credits this growth to black people suddenly seeing that the America they live in is filled with emboldened racists.
This July 4, the Not F*cking Around Coalition (NFAC) and its founder Grand Master Jay led a march to Stone Mountain, Georgia. What attracted attention to the march was that everyone marching was African American and armed. Seeing as it took place in an open-carry state the sight was not in part unusual, but the message spread by Grandmaster Jay and his coalition was. Their willingness to engage in violence shows that the NFAC is unapologetic and tailor made for action. Though I can’t say for certain that all black gun owners are judged by these actions, nothing could have hurt the image of black gun ownership quite like Grand Master Jay’s gun ignorance and the negligent discharge by the NFAC at a Breonna Taylor rally.
The continued slow growth in representation that the black community needed in the Second Amendment fight was stricken by this. Worse still is a group that claims to be made of “highly trained” shooters that demonstrates poor muzzle discipline and suffers a negligent discharge resulting in injury. This instantaneously transformed them from an oddity group to dangerous LARPers. (Grand Master Jay claims that a member dropped their gun while fainting. He also claims that the shotgun was an older model without a safety, explaining why it went off easily.) You cannot stop people in a “shared” cause from having their own opinions, but you can suffer as their actions reflect on you; I see the NFAC’s misdeeds hurting black people in the eyes of those who looking for any new way to justify their prejudices AND hurting the legitimate good work of anyone who fights to correct the misunderstandings around gun ownership.
Finally, there is the tragic misuse of firearms for self-defence. The case of Jillian Wuestenberg, a woman who pulled a gun during an escalating encounter, was just one of many examples of fear blending too closely with aggression. Though the Wuestenberg’s were being threatened with physical harm, the moment Jillian stepped out of her car and pulled out her gun she needlessly escalated the situation. I support armed self defence but I must admit when things go wrong. There are certain responsibilities that come with firearm ownership and there must be a higher level of discipline practiced by anyone exercising their right to own a firearm. There is a duty to try every measure to retreat and deescalate a situation before using a firearm—it should only be seen as a last resort.
There are great principles underlying the idea of gun ownership, but the movement is only as good as the people practicing it. With something as contentious as the civilian right to own lethal force, every misuse will have consequences whether it is the misapplication of the law or of the weapons themselves. If chaos rabidly descends on America, the mistakes may soon outweigh the good that has been done.