Some think that Latinos may lead the way to gun control in the future because they are more likely to favor strict gun control than others. Well, let’s hope not. Or at least, before Latinos enter into this debate, let’s hope they enter it with as much information about gun control than what they are learning from their liberal counterparts.
Last week’s tragedy in Aurora, Colorado has reset the debate over gun control with renewed hope by anti-gun advocates that Latinos may give them the electoral heft they need to increase the power of the gun control lobby.
First, let’s get one thing out-of-the-way. The right to keep and bear arms has nothing to do with hunting, collecting or sporting. The sensibilities of liberals’ anti-gun attitudes do not need to be assuaged as a prerequisite to owning firearms. The right to own firearms is a fundamental right recognized by the Constitution. It is not a privilege. It is a right just as voting, free speech or, dare I say, privacy is.
Second, the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right, not a collective right. It is not a State right. To say that a State can regulate firearms under the pretense of regulating a militia ignores the fundamental reason the 2nd Amendment exists, the connection between an armed citizenry and a free society.
This does not mean there should be zero regulations on guns, but the political standoff over gun control is fundamentally about mistrust. Gun owners simply do not trust the government or anti-gun folks to impose any regulations on gun ownership, and when gun control advocates create false justifications for the ownership of guns, such as hunting, gun owners are justified in that distrust.
Third, we should understand the historical connection between gun control and racism. Simply put, gun control is people control, and this has had deeply racist implications in the past. The roots of gun control in California are tied to white anxiety over Mexican-Americans and Chinese-Americans at the beginning of the 20th century.
Gun control gained renewed vigor in California after the Black Panthers armed themselves against white police officers intent on keeping their boots on the neck of the black community. Gun control in the South was explicitly designed to keep guns out of the hands of black communities who used firearms to defend themselves against the Ku Klux Klan.
This was a central reason for giving responsibility over gun-permitting processes to the local police and sheriffs. While permits were freely handed over to whites, blacks had zero chance of being permitted to own firearms, making it easier for white vigilantes and thugs to terrorize black folks.
As police officers in Anaheim terrorize Latinos at will with their attack dogs and rubber bullets, advocating gun control has serious consequences for the relationship between Latinos and their government that we should think about before making a choice to disarm ourselves.
Perhaps we may want us to look like the most gun-restricted cities in the country, such as Washington D.C. and Chicago, but we should recognize that strict gun laws in those cities have done little to make the good citizens of those cities, who are largely minorities, feel any safer from gun violence or from their overzealous police forces who trample on their rights with impunity.
Finally, the idea that Latinos are more disposed to gun control for any cultural reason is patently false. Mexico, where a majority of U.S. Latinos come from, is one of the few countries besides the United States to have its own version of the 2nd Amendment. Article 10 of the Mexican Constitution recognized over one hundred and fifty years ago that “every man has a right to have and carry arms for his security and legitimate defense”.
Unfortunately, Mexico’s recognition of the right to keep and bear arms included a direct avenue for government suppression of that right, with tragic results we don’t need to rehash here.
Latinos should acknowledge the greater historical context and meaning of the right to keep and bear arms before making a decision about gun control. Most important is the relationship between the people and the government. The government may indeed desire a less armed citizenry, or fewer armed Latinos, but Latinos’ answer to the government should be, fine, you first.
Stephen A. Nuño, Ph.D., NBCLatino contributor and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University. He is currently writing a book on Republican outreach into the Latino Community.