some facts about guns, episode 9

As you no doubt are aware by now, the jury in Michael Dunn’s trial was able to find him guilty on three counts of attempted murder and a count of firing a deadly missile into a vehicle, but hung on the actual murder of Jordan Davis. I’ve already expressed my thoughts on the believability of Dunn’s self-defense narrative here, and with a respectful nod to the dangers of litigating in the court of public opinion (here are some pros and some cons of the practice), I won’t rehash all that.

But here are Davis’s father and mother:

“We will continue to stand, and we will continue to wait, for justice for Jordan.” — Lucia McBath (Jordan’s mother).

“It’s not in my nature, actually, to not lash out, and to not say inflammatory statements, or whatever. And I had to hold all that in, because I think that [our] son deserved the best representation that he could have gotten, as parents. And I thank you all for seeing that we as parents were good parents to Jordan, and that he was a, he was a good kid. He was — it wasn’t allowed to be said in the courtroom, that he was a good kid, but we’ll say it: he was a good kid.” — Ron Davis (Jordan’s father).


Here is The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates on America’s hostile indifference to black life:

I insist that the irrelevance of black life has been drilled into this country since its infancy, and shall not be extricated through the latest innovations in Negro Finishing School. I insist that racism is our heritage, that Thomas Jefferson’s genius is no more important than his plundering of the body of Sally Hemmings . . . . I insist that racism must be properly understood as an Intelligence, as a sentience, as a default setting to which, likely until the end of our days, we unerringly return.

(Coates turned off comments on this piece, quite appropriately.)


Race weaves all through the plague of deadly violence that still curses us, even unto the seventh generation. America is a fearful place — people are terribly afraid in America, and it is fear, mostly, that drives the desire for guns. The arming of America was driven in no small part by fears of slave revolts and Indian resistance — that is to say, the fear that our original racial sins (slavery and extermination) would come back to haunt white America.


Now, of course, we don’t fear Nat Turner or Crazy Horse. The conditions that created American fear are long gone. But the fear remains.

That fear, and the myths about black people fed by that fear, may have made it harder for a jury to believe a seventeen-year-old black boy could be shot down by a white man for no reason. More insidiously, that fear and those myths may have created the conditions for the shooting in the first place.

Fear is now just the common condition of American life. Sometimes it’s attached to race; sometimes it is more free-floating. And sometimes, as Coates points out, it as affected by race in more indirect ways:

Spare us the invocations of “black-on-black crime . . . .” The most mendacious phrase in the American language is “black-on-black crime,” which is uttered as though the same hands that drew red lines around the ghettoes of Chicago are not the same hands that drew red lines around the life of Jordan Davis, as though black people authored North Lawndale and policy does not exist. That which mandates the murder of our Hadiya Pendletons necessarily mandates the murder of Jordan Davis.


As I say, sometimes it’s attached to race, and sometimes it isn’t. But this is a fearful country — born with a terrible moral debt already on its ledgers, raised in the nursery on stories of frightful bill collectors who would someday bring the tally home, its pubescent rite an inconclusive struggle to set the balance right, its adulthood marred even yet by the lingering effects of a long habit of fear. We wear fear like Ebenezer Scrooge wore his invisible chain. It is a ponderous chain.

Fear still controls us. It guides the hand of the white property owner and the black property owner and the good neighbor and the man on his porch, the officer at the accident scene and the cop in the train station.

And so we are afraid, and because we are afraid, we need guns, and because we all have guns, we are afraid. On and on. And so we try to ensure that only the “good” people have guns. We disarmed blacks and Indians overtly at first, and when that was no longer palatable we invented phony reasons to put the people we’re afraid of in jail and then invented phony reasons to prevent convicts from getting weapons. And thus we were supposed to be safe.

Except, of course, that it is ridiculous to think you can restrict guns to the “right” or the “good” people. Because those people don’t exist, or to the extent they do — Buddhist nuns, let’s say — they’re not the ones who buy guns. And everyone else is no good — hopelessly poisoned with fear.


More positive news in the next installment, I promise.

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2 Responses to some facts about guns, episode 9

  1. Pingback: some facts about guns, episode 10 | The Handsome Camel

  2. Pingback: rethinking the Zimmerman prosecution | The Handsome Camel

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