In an op-ed published in the New York Times
, a professor at the University of Notre Dame sought to link racism to opposition of continually tightening gun laws. Philosophy professor Gary Gutting wrote “permissive gun laws are a manifestation of racism” the inspire the “hatred of racism” allegedly found among those groups and individuals seeking further gun controls.
Gutting wrote that the exposure to guns in poor African-American neighborhood, coupled with the availability of legally and illegally purchased firearms is a factor in what he describes as a culture of racism.
Gutting argues that racism, on the part of whites, can motivate those in the gun control movement provide “the vigor and persistence needed” to overcome gun rights groups and gun owner. He wrote, “If we fail to oppose with equal passion and vigor the relentless political pressure of (mostly white) gun advocates, we force a large number of black citizens to live with the constant threat of gun violence. We’re in effect letting the Second Amendment trump the Fourteenth Amendment, implicitly preferring the right of gun ownership to the right of black people to live free from fear.”
Gutting said that the gun control advocates’ positions have been ineffective, arguing that any attempt at “arguing against the claims of the gun lobby” is a “waste of time.” He asserts that “…fear of gun violence is the great motivator. Pro-gun advocates see guns as our best defense against armed criminals. Anti-gun advocates see the wide availability of guns as a greater threat than criminal violence. The issue seems to come down to what you fear more: criminals or guns.”
Gutting added, "But few of us actually see guns as existential threats to fundamental American values. In this, however, we are mistaken. Our permissive gun laws are a manifestation of racism, an evil that, in other contexts, most gun-control advocates see as a fundamental threat to American society."
The professor broke down the position of gun rights advocates thus:
“But the passion of the gun lobby goes much deeper than fear of criminals. As Firmin DeBrabander’s excellent book, “Do Guns Make Us Free?” demonstrates, the basic motivation of the pro-gun movement is freedom from government interference. They talk about guns for self-defense, but their core concern is their constitutional right to bear arms, which they see as the foundation of American freedom. The right to own a gun is, as the N.R.A. website puts it, “the right that protects all other rights.” Their galvanizing passion is a hatred of tyranny. Like many other powerful political movements, the gun lobby is driven by hatred of a fundamental evil that it sees as a threat to our way of life — an existential threat — quite apart from any specific local or occasional dangers.”
To support his argument of a racial divide over guns, Gutting resorted to citing a Gallup poll that appears to show that African-Americans are more favorable to stricter gun laws than whites. The majority in the same sample group in the poll, however, does not believe that universal background checks (such as those announced on January 5 by President Barack Obama) will be effective in reducing the number of mass shootings. That same sample asserts that the country is safer if more citizens were given licenses to carry concealed weapons.
Addressing the issue on January 6 in a CNN interview, Sheriff J. Alton Cannon Jr. of Charleston, South Carolina, said that he does not believe background checks alone can stem gun-related violence. In the interview, Cannon said that gun control advocates may not understand the criminal mind-set and thus put ineffective controls into place. He said that the country has a mental health crisis that is exacerbated by what he called a “culture of violence” that includes violent movies and video games such as Grand Theft Auto, “which gives extra points for killing police.” He called on Hollywood to police itself and reduce such violent displays.
While he expressed agreement on coordinating various government databases in order to identify criminals who seek to purchase weapons, he expressed the fear that one of the major components of Obama’s gun control package will actually backfire.
Cannon said that if persons seeking mental health services are stigmatized when their healthcare professionals deemed them unfit to possess firearms and thus report them to law enforcement, the result could be an exacerbation of the mental health crisis.
A background would not have prevented the deadly attack at a Charleston church in 2015, said Cannon. It was at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. church where a deranged young white man shot nine black worshippers to death after he had been welcomed into the worship space for prayer. The shooter, Dylann Roof (21), reportedly sought to provoke a race war. Cannon said that he was involved in the drug culture, where both illegal drugs and guns are easily available, thus making a background check ineffective in his case.
Following the shooting, the FBI revealed that its agents and local prosecutors had fumbled a background check on Roof. Despite having previously admitted to drug possession, Roof was able to buy a .45-caliber handgun because of mistakes by made by law enforcement. In addition, local prosecutors failed to respond to an FBI request for more information on Roof. At the time FBI Director James B. Comey said “We are all sick this happened. We wish we could turn back time. From this vantage point, everything seems obvious.”
Roof is facing nine counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder, and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony, as well as hate crime charges. He is facing the death penalty. The shooter came from a family with a history of divorce and domestic violence. A high school dropout, Roof attended at least seven schools in two South Carolina counties. According to family members his chief past-times were narcotics and video games.