Former Bloomberg lackey Alex Yablon has taken to the pages of The New Republic to review a new book by racialist University of Arizona sociologist Jennifer Carlson titled Policing the Second Amendment. The book’s (and Yablon’s) conclusion seems to be that decades of “collusion” between the National Rifle Association and law enforcement has created a dark dystopian society comprised of xenophobic, trigger-happy concealed carriers, insurrectionist armed militia groups, racist police forces and militarized “American crusaders” who are all-too-eager to kill. This, despite a decades-long decline in FBI violent crime statistics that reached pre-pandemic generational lows.
You have to wonder what color the sky is in Carlson’s (and Yablon’s) world.
After decades of NRA lobbying, gun laws are as likely to encourage gun carrying as to restrict it. A growing number of states, like Arizona, have so enthusiastically embraced gun populism that they no longer regulate guns in public at all. In places that do license firearms, police decide who gets to pack.
Carlson observed the sheriff-run process in Michigan, one of the few states with public licensing hearings, and found that it often brutally reproduced racial hierarchy. Not only were African American applicants for concealed carry permits more likely than white applicants to be denied because of a criminal record, they were also subjected to more scrutiny in cases where the sheriffs had discretion and to revocations for nonviolent offenses; lectures on respectability politics; and, in a surprising number of cases, threat of arrests for open warrants.
This has been the NRA’s two-pronged strategy to the problem of gun violence since the early twentieth century: Convince both police and civilians to arm themselves heavily and to kill without a second thought as part of a never-ending “war on crime,” fought against internal opponents who pose a threat because of their innate “bad guy”-ness.
The persistence of gun violence is just more evidence that the war has not been waged ruthlessly enough, that the Other side has not been sufficiently overpowered. As a result of a century of political organizing and lobbying, civilian gun owners and police see themselves as co-combatants fighting a perpetual domestic counterinsurgency. In other words, gun owners are cops, and cops are troops.
Though Carlson’s frame is strictly domestic, it is naturally in dialogue with work by security scholar Stuart Schrader on the ways that Cold War tactics developed by the United States and its allies to fight a global Communist and anti-colonial insurgency came back home to American policing, as well as historian Kathleen Belew’s work on the ways that America’s involvement in anti-Communist proxy wars shaped the latter-day militant hard-right movement.
Read together, this body of work demonstrates a shared structure of feeling among concealed carriers, outright vigilantes, militia members, cops, and the American crusaders who fought the Cold War and later the “war on terror”: the conviction that the American way of life only survives because hard men are willing to kill to protect it. To these men, attempts to restrict their use of force amount to a threat to that way of life.
– Alex Yablon in Why Police Back Gun Guys