Black Panthers made headlines.
By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Z Communications Daily Commentary
A front page story in the Washington Post struck me. [David A. Fahrenthold, “GOP field backs gun rights with both barrels,” March 29, 2015] As one would expect, the potential candidates for the Republican presidential nomination are jumping all over themselves to show how ‘pro-gun’ they are.
In the USA we have discussions about guns that pretend to be based in history, but actually miss certain key features. In so doing, the heart and soul of the gun debate is overlooked and the issue devolves into questions of morality and gun safety.
The gun issue in the USA is related to history but not particularly to the 2nd Amendment (the supposed right to bear arms). The debate precedes the 2nd Amendment by more than a century and it revolves around settlers and race.
The gun debate in the USA started in the 1600s and, while there were always matters of safety and hunting, the key question was actually one of who had the right and authority to possess weapons. The second question centered on why the centrality of weapon possession at all.
The settlement of North America, and specifically the original thirteen colonies, was not a non-violent act. It represented an invasion. There immediately arose the question of the protection of the invaders, i.e., the colonists. Thus, weapons, at all costs, had to be kept out of the hands of the indigenous population—the Native Americans or First Nations. Severe penalties were created for any settler who sold or traded weapons to the Native Americans. This notoriety made its way into the popular media over the years with stories about so-called mavericks who supplied Native Americans with weaponry. During much of the colonial era, and into the 19th century, by the way, this form of activity was frequently associated in the minds of much of the white public with Irish dissidents who were in opposition to the British colonization of Ireland.
Weaponry was also essential for handling an ‘internal’ problem within the emerging settler state: indentured servants and slaves. The 1600s was a period of regular uprisings carried out by indentured servants and slaves. The indentured servant workforce was originally composed of Africans, Europeans and some Native Americans. It was the turmoil during this period that drove the colonial ruling elite to identify the need to splinter the workforce in order to retain power. In that context arose the modern usage of “race,” based largely upon the successful experience of the British in the occupation and suppression of the indigenous population in Ireland. (Continued)