You’ll have heard it said by many liberals and even progressives that the Second Amendment centers on arming militias in a post-colonial America. Yet, the reality behind the legal statute that enshrined gun rights in the United States Constitution is more nuanced, and far more sinister. As Roxane Dunbar-Ortiz notes in her book, “Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment,” the arming of state militias, which ultimately became the National Guard, was already noted elsewhere in the Constitution, so why was there a need to stipulate the right to bear arms in the Bill of Rights, which pertains to individuals? That's because, according to Dunbar-Ortiz, the Second Amendment can be traced directly back to settler colonialism.
“Basically, the Second Amendment is about killing Indians, taking their land, and increasingly, slave patrols,” Dunbar-Ortiz tells Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer in the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence.” The “Loaded” author lays out the genocidal genealogy of the right to bear arms, and explains that, at its root, it ensured the ability of white men to oppress people of color in order to steal or keep stolen land, and to control slaves through slave patrols. To top it off, our current police forces, Dunbar-Ortiz goes on to argue, are essentially just modern-day slave patrols.
So why, the author asks, do liberals, including her own representative Nancy Pelosi, insist on the erroneous idea that the Second Amendment stems from the outdated need to arm militias? According to Scheer, the reason is quite simple.
“[Political leaders] have a theory that works for them,” says the Truthdig Editor in Chief, “because it does not force an examination of the ugly aspect of American history that is a settler colonialism. That slavery was the norm, that destroying indigenous people was the norm.”
This lack of honest examination of U.S. history, along with American myths about “cowboys and indians” that are still perpetuated, are the foundation of the violent, gun-obsessed society that constitutes America today. It holds liberals and even progressives back from an effective approach to gun control, and it may be what inspired D.H. Lawrence, who Dunbar-Ortiz quotes, to write, “The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.”
Listen to the full discussion between Dunbar-Ortiz and Robert Scheer, in which they discuss how this American ideology also extends to the nation’s foreign policy.