The 2nd Amendment Doesn’t Exist
A society is bound together by the rules and mores that everyone obeys and acknowledges implicitly. But technically speaking, there’s nothing physically stopping anybody from taking any particular action.
One person can steal from a store, and even though that act is illegal in a very concrete manner, it’s effectively permitted if they are either not caught or not punished. Or someone else can go for a jog through their neighborhood, and even though that act is perfectly legal, it is effectively criminalized if a neighbor decides to stalk that person in a pickup truck with their son and hunt them down with legally-acquired firearms.
You see, rule of law is only as strong as a society’s will and ability to adhere to it. And on that grounds, the second amendment fails. Effectively speaking, it does not exist.
Because try to imagine a scenario where Ahmaud Arbery, knowing the dangers of Jogging While Black, had exercised his 2nd Amendment rights, and had a small firearm on his person during his jog. He’d still be dead. There were two guns trained on him. Assuming he would have attempted to use his gun in self-defense, whichever one he would have tried to shoot first, the other would have shot him anyway.
And in that scenario, his murderers would be free, without question. He would have had a gun. They would be able to credibly claim that they were acting to save their own lives. We’ve seen this happen before. In Orlando with Trayvon Martin. In St. Paul with Philando Castile. If your victim is Black, even if they are not actually armed, if you have reason to believe they are armed, you will not be convicted. So if he is actually armed? It isn’t even a question.
Ahmad Arbery didn’t have any 2nd Amendment rights. How could he? The 2nd Amendment doesn’t exist. It’s a few sentences written down on paper, recognized and enforced only at the whim of those in control.
And if you’re not a member of the group that’s in control? Well, when you try to engage in the rights that they have claimed for themselves, all you do is lose the ability to prosecute when they decide to re-assert their control. When they decide that your illusion of equality is rubbing them the wrong way. You have a choice: acknowledge your second-class status and accept it, or forfeit any possibility of justice in the event of your murder.
Imagine you see an armed man physically abusing an unarmed man on the street. Let’s say the firearm doesn’t get involved. Imagine the armed man throws the unarmed man to the ground. Imagine he kneels on the man’s neck, hard. Imagine the man on the floor is begging for his life. And imagine that you, yourself, are exercising your 2nd Amendment rights and have a firearm on your person.
You can save someone’s life. You can act to preserve the life of a victim by taking the life of an assailant. It’s both a moral and legal thing for you to do.
But imagine the man on the floor is George Floyd. And the man killing him is a police officer. What do you think happens to you as a consequence of saving George Floyd’s life? It isn’t anything good, I can assure you.
You see, you don’t really have 2nd Amendment rights, either. It’s a privilege that can be taken away by scenario, and by whim of those in control. The 2nd Amendment is an illusion that allows the strong to subjugate the weak. It exists only as long as it does not betray that purpose.
Imagine someone breaks into your home. They violently break down your front door, and you have a legitimate, clear reason to fear for your life. Imagine you fire at your assailants in self-defense. Imagine they murder your girlfriend in this attack. And imagine that they arrest you for having the audacity to defend yourself.
Even in clear cases of self-defense, in your own home, when you have done nothing wrong, the Breonna Taylors of this world will die and the Kenneth Walkers of this world will be charged. And the assailants will likely never be brought to justice in a way commensurate to the severity of the crimes that they have committed. Because the 2nd Amendment doesn’t exist.
I don’t expect this essay to get past the eyes of people who personally know me, but in case it does, in case you are reading this and have no mental image in your head of who I am, I want to make it clear that I am not Black. These words are my own, but they are not the most important words on the subject at hand. There are many issues which I can speak to from personal experience, for which I have a solid authority to speak on what are and are not the most important issues on the table.
This is not one of them. There are other people who are closer to this issue. If you are reading my words, I implore you to seek out the words of Black writers and activists as well. They’re the ones being affected day-to-day. They’re the ones who are forced to think about these issues for their entire lives, and not just when a video of gross abuse of power is released to the general public, and they think about them whether they want to or not.
Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where people did not have to regularly confront their own mortality by virtue only of their skin tone? Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where centuries-old law did not have its intentions twisted in order to perpetuate systems of inequality? Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world without inherent systems of inequality?
We do not live in that world. We cannot hope to live in that world any time soon. But see what you can do to listen to those who are not members of the group that is in control, see what you can do to lift them up, on their terms and not yours, so that some future generation, somewhere down the line, may have that hope that we lack.