It seems appropriate to read this right before the March For Our Lives rallies start taking over towns across America. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz does a fantastic job laying out her argument, piece by piece, about the historical context of the 2nd Amendment.
She starts with a little personal history, about her getting caught up in a gun-buying/shooting frenzy in 1970 when her New Orleans women’s group was infiltrated by a spy who made up reports about their intentions. The group decided they needed guns to protect themselves, went on a buying spree, learned to shoot them, and discovered there were zero laws against guns in New Orleans. After giving you her bona fides, she then jumps back in time and confronts our ugly historical roots one by one.
First up, the terrorists known as the colonists, pre-Revolution Days. In fact, the Stamp Act of 1765 (the one that brought that catchy rallying cry: no taxation without representation!) was England’s way of trying to raise enough funds to cover the cost of soldiers to keep the colonists from taking more territory from the indigenous people. The 1764 Treaty of Paris signaled peace between England & France, and not long after this, King George III issued a proclamation that prohibited settlement west of the Allegheny-Appalachian mountains. To enforce this law, they needed cash and soldiers, paid for out of the Stamp Act. Fun! So our initial itch to throw off English rule came out of their trying to keep us from pillaging land further from the natives!
The 2nd Amendment is inextricably bound to the concept of militias. And what were those militias used for? Protecting colonists from attacks from Indians and later morphed into slave patrols.
This quote sums things up nicely: “The United States was founded as a capitalist state and an empire on conquered land, with capital in teh form of slaves… this was exception in the world and has remained exceptional. The capitalist firearms industry was among the first successful modern corporations. Gun proliferation and gun violence today are among its legacies.”
Dunbar-Ortiz gets into mass shootings later in the book and of course once the book gets published it’s immediately out of date, since these events happen with more and more frequency. But she does manage to put the Vegas massacre into context with Pulse nightclub, VA Tech, etc.