I’ve covered four chapters and a foreword of Larry Correia’s In Defense of the Second Amendment and there are three chapters and a conclusion to go. There is a genuine danger of writing more words about the book than there are actually in the book. I’m already set to have more parts to this series of posts than there are chapters in the book.
I want to look at one of the broad themes that have come up in Correia’s book. I began to zero in on it in the previous post where he made this strange remark.
“Ironically, the Venn diagram of people who love the idea of red flag laws and people who protested the Breonna Taylor shooting that happened during a police raid pretty much make a circle.”
Correia, Larry. In Defense of the Second Amendment (p. 73). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Before I continue, I’d like to clarify something so that what I’m saying is not misrepresented. I do not believe that Larry Correia is racist in the sense that Larry Correia and many conservative Americans would use the word “racist”. That is, I don’t believe he has specific overt and conscious dislike of various ethnics groups or would consciously treat an individual he met negatively because that individual was a specific ethnicity, skin colour or nationality. People more broadly use the term racism to include other things such as unconscious biases , unexamined stereotypes, systemic biases in organisations, laws and social circumstances. That sense of the term “racism” is much broader and is consistent with the idea that somebody can be racist and not know it and indeed be racist whilst actively opposed to racism.
In the previous post I pointed to the way gun rights arguments have been curated so that they increasingly align with conservative law and order values. This alignment subverts the possibility of the kind bipartisan political consensus on gun control that has occurred in other English speaking countries where conservative law & order values have found common ground with left/liberal public safety values. This has led to the strange circumstance where the UK represents the most draconian levels of gun control and the US represents the most permissive. The two countries differ on other topics obviously (public healthcare being another one) but the disparity on guns is particularly notable given the common cultural, linguistic and legal histories.
Correia’s book has no specific chapter on race and no in-depth discussion about Black Lives Matter. There is also no specific chapter on the use of guns as a form of defence against the government nor a detailed discussion of the idea that this is a key purpose of the second amendment. There is a subsection in Chapter 5 that addresses the idea that “The Idea of the Second Amendment Being Used to Stand against a Tyrannical Government Is Obsolete, Because Our Federal Government Is Too Overwhelmingly Powerful for Its Citizens to Resist.” It is a bit of a mixed bag though and dances around the underlying political and ethical question of under what circumstance armed resistance against a government (and agents of the government) is permissible.
Some gun rights advocates on the right are more overtly negative about the police than Larry Correia. However, Correia’s position is best understood in terms of this alignment between gun rights and conservative law and order values. In the subsection I mentioned above there is an interesting quote from Correia. I’m removing it from the broader context because I’ll get to his boogaloo reasoning in a future essay. I’m bringing it up here because I want to piece somethings together.
“Having worked with a lot of police departments, guess what? The officers who actually know how to shoot? The ones who run the training programs? Usually they’re my people too. The gun nuts gravitate toward that position because (a) more taxpayer-funded ammo and (b) they actually care about the subject, so they learn on their own and then try to pass those skills on to their coworkers to better keep them alive.”
Correia, Larry. In Defense of the Second Amendment (p. 112). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.
In context, Correia is making this point to illustrate how difficult gun confiscation would be and how US society might split in a civil war. However, it also helps illustrate who Correia sees as “my people”. Earlier, in the same chapter, he makes a similar point about members of the military and the police.
“Above I mentioned a Venn diagram of obstinate gun owners and the military, but you can change that to cops and it’s going to be pretty similar. Those groups overlap a lot, and, depending on the particular department or unit, the Venn diagrams look like stacks of pancakes.”
Correia, Larry. In Defense of the Second Amendment (p. 111). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.
And to be utterly fair, when it comes to race, there are points where Correia uses the “my people” phrasing also.
“These racial comparison memes exist because of projection. The anti-gun zealots are terrified of the idea of minority groups being armed because of their own innate racism (just like the entire history of gun control), so of course they assume their opponents are the same way. But more importantly, the reason the vultures get so upset is that once people have chosen to arm themselves, they are less likely to vote for politicians who are going to disarm them. Meanwhile my people are downright gleeful. Welcome to the fight, newbs.”
Correia, Larry. In Defense of the Second Amendment (p. 181). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.
After all, there’s no racial component in the gun rights Correia is advocating for. He wants guns to be legal and common. After all, the fewer laws restricting gun ownership there are, the fewer ways there are of those laws having either intentional or unintentional biases based on race. Further, as Correia is pointing out, many of America’s past gun control laws have had expressly racist elements to them.
Correia can also point to sections of his book where he is critical of police. True those sections are primarily about circumstances when the police were slow or ineffective but in Chapter 7 he acknowledges (sort of) police violence.
“Terrible reporting aside, you may believe that grand juries are too soft on police involved shootings. That may be a valid argument. You may believe that prosecutors are too lenient on police officers because they both work for the government and there is an existing relationship between the prosecutors and the police. That may be a valid argument. Burning down Walgreens isn’t the answer. There are stupid cops, and there are cops who make mistakes. As representatives of an extremely powerful state, they should be held to a higher standard. Just because people work for the government doesn’t make them infallible, and if they screw up and kill somebody for a stupid reason, they should be punished.”
Correia, Larry. In Defense of the Second Amendment (pp. 175-176). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Well sure, burning down a shop SHOULDN’T be an answer in a stable society or in a just society. However, as we discussed in the last post about the murder of Breonna Taylor, it is extraordinarily difficult without intense public pressure to get US police officers punished. Worse, Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker who fired his gun in self-defence at a group of intruders (actually cops) was initially arrested and charged with attempted murder (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killing_of_Breonna_Taylor ).
As very recent events have shown, there’s more to this than just guns but guns and law enforcement are part of the picture.
I’m intentionally moving back and forth through the book because there are multiple pieces scattered throughout it. I’m circling back now to something I skipped over.
In 2016, Philando Castile was driving his girlfriend and her four-year-old child when he was pulled over by a police officer and questioned. Castille, for his own safety, let the officer know that he had a gun in the car. The police officer shot at Castille seven times at close range. Video of the immediate aftermath of the killing was streamed on Facebook by his distraught girlfriend. Unsurprisingly, people were shocked by the apparent murder of an innocent man.
“In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, Reynolds posted a live stream video on Facebook from her and Castile’s car. The incident quickly gained international interest. Local and national protests formed, and five months after the incident, Yanez was charged with second-degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm. After five days of deliberation, he was acquitted of all charges in a jury trial on June 16, 2017. After the verdict, Yanez was immediately fired by the City of Saint Anthony. Wrongful death lawsuits against the City brought by Reynolds and Castile’s family were settled for a total of $3.8 million.”
Without the video and the subsequent protests, it is unlikely that the officer would not have been even charged.
The question then, in what meaningful, practical sense did Philando Castile have a legally protected right to bear arms or a legally protected right to self defence? If you can be legally shot dead by an agent of the state for stating that you have a gun, then practically you do not have a right that is supported by the law regardless of whether you have a “right” in a more abstract sense.
To be fair to many gun owners, many did express concern about the killing but notably the NRA was almost silent on the issue.
“We don’t want the NRA to be just for old white guys,” a member of the gun group wrote this week on Hot Air — one of several right-leaning outlets upset with the organization’s failure to speak out on Castile. “It needs to represent everyone who supports and defends the Second Amendment and stays on the right side of the law.” The Washington Post couldn’t find any statement from the NRA about the verdict or video in Castile’s case, and the organization has not responded to requests for comment since Sunday.”
In so far as the police were held accountable for the killing, it was not due to the activity of gun rights activists but rather protestors and the growing movement that became known as Black Lives Matter.
Racism is obviously part of the reason behind the NRA’s silence, probably in both senses of the word. However, a more direct reason (also grounded in racism) was the alignment I have already discussed between gun rights and conservative law and order values. In particular, guns rights activists are unwilling to demonise local and state law enforcement and when they do (as we can see in Larry Correia’s book) it is for being cowardly and unwilling to shoot people.
Notably, the BATFE and to a lesser extent the FBI will get demonised and in particular, specific cases of law enforcement violence (the Waco Siege, Ruby Ridge and most recently the death of Ashli Babbit in the Capitol on January 6th 2021) are seen as important examples of the danger of the state to gun owners and conservatives in a way that Philando Castile is not seen.
Correia dances around Black Lives Matter because he sees it as a left-coded political issue. Back in 2020 on his blog he reacted to the multiple protests in US cities as follows:
“A friend of mine posted about seeing this: “Where are all you gun owners now that the federal government and police are attacking citizens in the streets?? Now that the National Guard is out oppressing citizens? I thought this was the moment you’re waiting for? So why aren’t you out there fighting them with your guns? You’re nothing but a bunch of fucking cowards!” My response was the GIF of Nelson Muntz going HA HA.”
Of course, the actual point people were making was not a request for Correia’s “people” to turn up with their guns but to point out that supposed prophylactic effect of widespread gun ownership against government tyrrany was non-existent.
In Chapter 5, Correia touches on Black Lives Matter again with an attack on protests and dig at grifting:
“Why was there such an astoundingly massive increase in homicides in 2020? What current events could have possibly influenced that number? This was the year of “fiery but mostly peaceful” protests, and people chanting “All Cops Are Bastards,” while cities let hoodlums start up their own “autonomous zones.” Big city DAs decided to quit sending violent criminals to jail. Grifters changed Black Lives Matter to Buy Large Mansions, and the very people they were supposedly helping had their neighborhoods engulfed in violence and chaos for it. It’s almost like letting criminals do whatever they want, unimpeded by the law, Mad Max–dystopia-style has negative consequences or something.”
Correia, Larry. In Defense of the Second Amendment (pp. 78-79). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.
The corruption and excessive spending in the NRA don’t get a mention though.
But there’s a much earlier connection that I want to look at in Chapter 1.
“There have been mass killings attempted by BLM supporters and Bernie Bros, yet when I mention those cases to the zealots who act like this “epidemic of violence” has a single source, I’m met with clueless stares because they haven’t heard of those. In 2016 in Dallas, a psycho gunned down five cops and then got taken out by a bomb robot2—that’s the kind of lurid sensationalism our sleazy media love. Yet that case got memory holed because the identity and politics of the killer weren’t convenient for the narrative at the time.”
Correia, Larry. In Defense of the Second Amendment (p. 4). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.
The “Bernie Bros” example was the shooting of Republican House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (injured but not killed). I don’t know in what sense that has been “memory holed” but then I read rightwingers online all the time and in conservative spaces, you’d think it was the only shooting that has happened in recent years.
The second example of the BLM supporter is more relevant. Again, I don’t know in what sense this story has been “memory holed”. I live a long way away from the US and I’m well aware of it but maybe the people Larry Correia argues with are more forgetful. I’ll quote Wikipedia to get you up to speed in case you are suffering the specific amnesia Correia is concerned about.
“On July 7, 2016, Micah Xavier Johnson ambushed a group of police officers in Dallas, Texas, shooting and killing five officers, and injuring nine others. Two civilians were also wounded. Johnson was an Army Reserve Afghan War veteran and was angry over police shootings of black men. The shooting happened at the end of a protest against the police killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, which had occurred in the preceding days.”
Like all the other mass shootings I’ve had to dicsuss, it is a shocking and disturbing incident. It raises many questions but noticeably Correia doesn’t engage with any of them even though the case itself (a veteran uses a gun to kill agents of the government in revenge for killings by other agents of the government) is one that appears extremely pertinent to Correia’s later discussion of gun owners retaliating against the use of force.
Compare and contrast:
“The scariest single conversation I’ve ever heard in my life was with five special forces guys having a fun thought exercise about how they would bring a major American city to its knees. They picked Chicago, because it was a place they’d all been. It was fascinating, and utterly terrifying. And I’ll never ever put any of it in a book, because I don’t want to give crazy people any ideas. Give it about a week and people would be eating each other. And gee whiz, take one wild guess what the political leanings of most Green Berets are?”
Correia, Larry. In Defense of the Second Amendment (pp. 110-111). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Compared with other developed countries, police in the US are particularly murderous. In 2019, police in the US killed over a thousand people. As a rate per 10 million people that comes to 33.5. So not a leading cause of death overall and spread over a huge population. The rate for Canada? 9.8 (2017). Police in the US kill citizens at rate over three times greater than their colleagues to the North. Australia? The rate is 8.5 (2017-18), way to high but a fraction of the US. In the UK with the strictest gun control and with police officers usually NOT carrying guns? The rate is 0.5 (2019) – a rate that represents three deaths.
It’s almost like gun control, even gun control that leaves police officers armed protects citizens from being killed by the government! Maybe that’s an inference to far but let us look at it the other way around. Is US gun ownership protecting people from being killed by the government (state or federal)? No. Unambigously no. Further, the burden of those deaths has a notable racial element to it.
Gun control laws in the USA genuinely do have a racist history. They really have been used to attempt to ensure that Black Americans do not have guns and that white Americans (particularly property-owning white American men) do have guns. That history has played out in that way up to the last quarter of the Twentieth Century. With the success of the Civil Rights movement, overtly discriminatory policies became less politically, socially and legally acceptable. Notably, in parallel with these social changes, we see the rise of an expressly ideologically conservative gun rights movement focused on the principle of individual gun rights as means of self-defence of the home.
The racially discrimination simply gets pulled into the arbitary application of self-defence. For Black Americans “self-defence” and gun rights in general are no protection against arbitary police violence. Where, gun rights activist speculate about future scenarios of government oppression, many other Americans are directly experiencing state violence. For them gun rights, gun ownership and second amendment provide no protection either via legal means or extra-legal means.
Nor is this just a racial disparity. US-style self-defence laws such as “stand your ground” laws provide little legal protection for women.
““(The Legislature’s) intent … was to provide law-abiding citizens greater protections from external threats in the form of intruders and attackers,” prosecutor Culver Kidd told the Post and Courier. “We believe that applying the statute so that its reach into our homes and personal relationships is inconsistent with (its) wording and intent.”
Meanwhile, those same laws appear to have a connection with increased levels of homicide.
“In this cohort study assessing 41 US states, SYG laws were associated with an 8% to 11% national increase in monthly rates of homicide and firearm homicide. State-level increases in homicide and firearm homicide rates reached 10% or higher for many Southern states, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana.”
Pro-gun policies fail if we see widescale gun ownership as a means of securing the rights and physical safety of citizens in general. However, if we look at them as securing the power and legal impunnity of the police and a community of primarily white property owning men then it is notable how well they do indeed work. In fact they work in much the same way as many historical US gun control measures where intended to work. The legal strategy has changed rather than the policy objective.
Next time: Chapter 5 or at least part of it and some crimes against statistics.