Professor Charles Gallagher of La Salle University believes the public would be a lot more suspicious of a group of armed blacks walking through, say, a Target store, than of a group of whites.
“Whites walking down Main Street with an AK-47 are defenders of American values; a black man doing the same thing is Public Enemy No. 1,” says Gallagher.
You can’t talk about guns in America without talking about race, Gallagher and others say. The panic that would ensue at the sight of armed black men in public, they say, derives from the same racial fears that can be traced to the conquest of Native-Americans and the institution of slavery.
The United States has the most armed civilian population on the planet, they say, because some of its white citizens have a history of confronting racial anxieties by “gunning up.”
The National Rifle Association and other groups would beg to differ.
George Washington University law professor Robert J. Cottrol, for example, says that the NRA should stand for the “Negro Rifle Association” since the NRA enthusiastically supports the gun rights of African-Americans. Many black lawmakers, in contrast, favor strict gun control measures.
The Ku Klux Klan was one of the first hardcore supporters of gun control in the nineteenth century precisely because it prevented blacks from acquiring firearms.
Professor Gallagher says white fears about black (crime/criminals) demonstrate “stereotypical attitudes about black men and violence that are as old as America itself.”
Except when such attitudes don’t exactly fit the prevailing narrative and, in fact, are twisted to gin up racial discord.