Why Ferguson Is Also, And Again, About Guns

Ferguson Guns

A colleague who travels in opinionated and passionate social justice agitation circles asked me this week what I thought of the Michael Brown verdict. He wanted a reaction to the decision by a Grand Jury not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for, well anything. I replied truthfully. It’s hard to know where to begin sorting through the micro tragedies that culminate in this disappointing outcome for justice of every kind.

What’s happening in Ferguson, and rattling the cages of strained municipalities throughout the country, is, of course, about our complicated and corrosive attitudes about race. But it’s also about economic and educational inopportunity and inequality. It’s about a broken justice system that Brown family attorney Benjamin Crump rightfully concludes, “needs to be indicted.” And yes, always and forever when it comes to public safety and the senseless loss of life on American streets, it’s about guns.

No one disputes Officer Wilson’s legal right to arms on August 9, 2014. He is an enforcer of Ferguson’s laws, a servant of the public. However, the chain of events and the necessity of Wilson’s use of lethal force on the unarmed teen remain very much in question. In part what the tragedy points to is a fear-driven, trigger-happy culture promoted and profited from by forces such as the NRA and the gun manufacturers it represents. Whatever happened, as another colleague of mine asked this week, “to shooting in leg?” That’s if we accept just cause for firing in the first place.

What happened is that we have been listening to men like National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre tell us for too long that “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.” With their smug and swaggering delivery, the old white cowboys have taken over the messaging machine of an organization that was founded with relatively admirable goals: to advance rifle marksmanship and teach firearm competency and safety.

What’s happened is that the old Wild West trope of a lone man protecting home and hearth has been perverted into a “Me first. Take ’em in dead or alive” mindset. More than the gun itself, there’s no greater threat than a mildly powerful individual afraid of losing his or her place in a fragmented, unstable society. And for whatever reason, the white male Officer Wilson was threatened enough outside the proportionately overrepresented confines of the Caucasian-run Ferguson police station, that he opened fire six times on a young black man.

Did that fear stem from the historical tyranny of white male patriarchal ideology and the growing threat of its disappearance in a diversified 21st Century global community? Undoubtedly, it was an influence. Is the tragedy of Brown’s death magnified by the fundamental injustices of our criminal and legal systems, which disproportionately target people of color? Most definitely. And there’s no way we can separate the incident from the settling in of a new Gilded Age that is destroying opportunity for the middle and working classes, as well as the social safety net.

But also. Also. It’s the gun problem. Few will admit it out loud because it’s too unpopular, politically disadvantageous or career threatening. But dissemination does not change reality. We’re all afraid of getting shot – and with good reason. The US firearm homicide rate is over 10 times higher than that of the second ranking high-income nation on a Humanosphere chart (oddly, Portugal). Writer Kate Leach-Kemon summarizes the data: “When it comes to gun violence, the United States stands out.”

A few months ago while visiting Vancouver, it took me a full weekend to pinpoint exactly why I felt safer traversing the streets of the beautiful mountain town. Then I remembered Canadian gun laws. They go like this: “In Canada, civilians are not allowed to possess automatic firearms except those registered before 1978, handguns with a barrel of 105mm or less in length, and specifically modified handguns, rifles or shotguns.”

In the absence of fear for life and safety, the high internal alert that US gun culture forces most of us to adopt in our schools, neighborhoods and homes took a powder. And it was wonderful. For so many reasons, including nationalized health care, education and sensible gun laws, there aren’t Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin catastrophes north of our border.

Cynical individuals and agencies with dubious agendas have spent decades convincing us we can’t have that kind of relative peace here. So we stand by and shake our heads while young man fall. But they’re not telling the truth and we don’t have to tolerate the status quo.

11 Replies to “Why Ferguson Is Also, And Again, About Guns”

  1. America doesn’t want to hear the truth. It could be guns, climate change, post racial society hell take your pick on any issue and it will show we don’t want the truth.

    When I use to hang with Rasta’s they would educate me about the west. How corrupt it was and all its institutions. And one thing they always told me, Babylon will fall. Because we will do it to ourselves.

  2. I respect disagree with this article.

    The problem is matches.
    Without matches, how can fires be started?
    Sometimes solutions are staring us in the face

  3. I totally agree with this article preposition. The saying that guns don’t kill, people do” fits well here. Not one case over the history of guns has one gun on its own kill anything. With that being said, the problem is that we have no valid way before hand for those who do not have the cognitive ability to own guns. In the current case with D. Wilson, killing a monster instead of a human should disqualify his ownership more less being a cop. With the leader of the NRA words of only good guys use guns wisely is a blatant falsehood. With both, the latter affecting the most, who or what is going to determine good or bad. Good guys with guns kill quicker at times than bad guys when righteousness of mind is used as a basic preposition. The statements from the old west of “the only good indian is a dead indian” and Wilson killing with an “unforgiving conscious” validate this preposition. Good and bad devalues the original preposition and using it insures the status quo winning every…

  4. Ferguson is not about gun laws. Ferguson is about Congress, who passed the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 targeting minorities, both blacks and Hispanics.

    This law was extended with the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1972. THC was listed as a Schedule I drug with no medical value. All hemp varieties produce some THC. This gave the government the power to wage a war on drugs/marijuana.

    Government agencies such as the CIA & DEA themselves became involved in the illicit drug trade. The Oliver North’s Iran-Contra scandal was a guns for drugs scam. It still goes on today with the CIA.

    All this targeted minorities in the US principally blacks. The result was extended jail sentences for the mere possession of small amounts of marijuana as well as seizure of all personal property bankrupting citizens of what property they had.

    Congress needs to remove THC from the CSA. Why doesn’t Obama introduce legislation to remove THC from the CSA and transfer it to the Department of Ag…

  5. I encourage folks to look at the Washington Post article Diagraming the Michael Brown Autopsy. Brown attacked Wilson and Wilson was justified in killing Brown. Simple truth that many just can not accept. Too bad for them, but great that we have such as wonderful and “fair” legal system. No witch hunts.

  6. First of all being the idiot that you are word of advise. When you want someone to read a article that you think is important one should post a link to said article or people will think you are a racist dumbass. Just my 2 cents idiot

  7. More guns = more gun violence. more cars = more car crashes. More smokers = higher cancer rates. None of this is rocket science. It’s also pretty disingeneous to completely ignore raw violent crime rates in those countries that have scorned guns. Even worse, how the use of the said firearms have been well documented in preserving life and property during the Ferguson events. What, no mention about that?

    If this is about guns, it’s only because you’re making a wild and obscenely desperate attempt to make it about guns.

  8. Brown attacked a cop. The shooting was justified. Why do nut jobs need to find something to blame rather than blaming the person who did the illegal act?

  9. You’re really reaching!

    A cop defends himself and you’re still blaming guns?

    Michael Brown didn’t have a gun.

    Cops still aren’t out of their cars taking care of their communities.

    Blaming the victims, whether they be black, white, or police is a distraction.

    The same spoiled kids are poor, wealthy, black, white, brown, yellow and red.

    Our problem is we are eating foods that are high in poor calories. Let’s talk about that.

    Someone sold the lower and middle class’s jobs off shore. Let’s talk about that.

    Our problem is our education system is 27th in the world. Let’s talk about that.

  10. “In the absence of fear for life and safety, the high internal alert that US gun culture forces most of us to adopt in our schools, neighborhoods and homes took a powder. And it was wonderful.”

    If ye love wealth better than liberty,
    the tranquility of servitude
    better than the animating contest of freedom,go home from us in peace.
    We ask not your counsels or your arms.
    Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you.
    May your chains set lightly upon you,
    and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen. –Samuel Adams

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