I’m about to dig myself a big ol’ hole, and go in way over my head. I’ve been blogging long enough to know this post is going to summon the drama llama, because if there’s one thing that’s been a constant — the longer I blog, the more negative people get if I state an opinion that doesn’t fall in line with the gun rights movement being one, big happy family. A family where all activism is good activism, all that matters are good intentions, and there can never be any methods or forms of activism that harm the movement as a whole.
But I can’t help but wondering if VCDL must be running out of things to occupy their time and energy if they are protesting local libraries posting signs that essentially echo Virginia law:
The library’s gun policy reads, “Carrying concealed weapons is prohibited, except as permitted by law.”
I see that sign, and I’m thinking, “OK, I’m carrying a gun that is permitted by law, so I can go right in.” I think most people who have a legal firearm on them would come to the same conclusion. So what’s to protest? One could argue the sign is useless, and that would be a reasonable argument. One could also argue it confuses people as to their rights, which I think was VCDL’s point, but I’m not sure that point came across. The way Phillip Van Cleave frames this issue steps on another one of my pet peeves when it comes to directly comparing being a person who carries a gun to being a person who is black:
“What if they had said ‘We don’t allow African-Americans, except if allowed by law. Would that be okay? I don’t think so,” Van Cleave said outside the library. “[The rule] implies that no one is allowed to protect themselves on the property.”
Carrying a gun is behavior that one has complete control over. Discriminating against someone because of an action is vastly different than discriminating over someone because of a condition of birth that they cannot help and have no control over. If you see a sign along a highway rest area that says “no guns,” you can choose to leave your gun in the car. You can’t choose to leave your black in the car. That’s why it’s not equivalent. The suggestion of equivalence here cheapens just how horrible the and immoral post-reconstruction Jim Crow actually was. It also ignores the long history of our law and society viewing regulating behavior as legitimate, but discriminating against conditions of birth as illegitimate.
We have to be very careful about drawing comparisons. I think it’s fine to make analogies and comparisons between our civil rights movement to preserve the Second Amendment, and other civil rights movements in history. I think it’s fine to point out the motivations of many early gun control laws were racist and xenophobic, and that many gun control advocates are closed-minded and hateful (dare I say bigoted?) against people who choose to exercise and advocate for their civil right to keep and bear arms. It would have even been fine, I think, for Phillip Van Cleave to make the analogy that we wouldn’t tolerate such a sign over a polling place suggesting blacks can’t vote, except as allowed by law, and I think that was likely the point he was trying to make. But the problem is that Van Cleave’s statement makes a comparison, rather than an analogy, that suggests being a gun owner is the persecutorial equivalent of being black in the Jim Crow South. I think that’s a comparison the vast majority of Americans are going to not only find unpersuasive, but that will actively turn them off to the message. Using analogies to other civil rights contexts is fine and necessary. It’s perfectly legitimate to point to suppression of RKBA and point out we would never accept this in other civil rights contexts, but we should be careful about making comparisons between behavior and conditions of birth.