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Check Out these Guns: Concealed Carry, the Second Amendment, and the Firearm as an Organ

July 12, 2016

Recently, I read an article within which the author wrote on disarmament as form of dismemberment. While the article was not academic in nature, it did cause me to think about the Second Amendment in relation to the human body.

This article is one through which I hope to start a conversation about the relations between the overwhelming amount of legislation geared toward increased “gun rights” (one of these alleged rights is that of concealed carry of a firearm) and the rhetoric surrounding the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Second Amendment has historically and is currently being used as a rhetorical device that “pro-gun” activists, lobbyists, and politicians have used to either consciously or unconsciously assert that the firearm is a type of bodily organ, an essential part of the human body.

Over the last thirty years, the laws regulating use of firearms have been dramatically weakened, and most specifically the latest sweep of bills in regards to “conceal carry rights” that allow the carry of firearms on college campuses. At least nine states within the United States now allow the concealed carry of firearms on college campuses. Further, there has been a surge of states advocating for the open-carry of firearms. These bills and laws, according to those who support their passage and implementation, provide protection from “bad guys with guns” by giving “good guys” wider access to guns.

In “The Second Amendment as Demanding Subject,” Laura J. Collins discusses the Second Amendment and writes on the difference between “rights as ends” and “rights as means” by asserting, “When politics is oriented toward preserving rights as such, the rights are functioning as an end. It is for the sake of the right that the political movement exists. On the contrary…politics of freedom occurs when the rights are one means among many for participating in public affairs and having the audacity to shape and define the world.”

The recent onslaught of concealed carry legislation, including a law in the state of Texas that overrides specific campus policies and requires all public universities and colleges within the state to formulate policies allowing for concealed carry on their respective campuses, is reflective of “pro-gun” activists using the Second Amendment as a rhetorical tool with which they attempt to “shape and define” a world safer with relaxed regulations on the consumption and use of the firearm.

As I read more articles and watch more political speeches geared toward persuading the public to support “pro-gun” legislation, I find myself viewing the passage of these laws, the advocacy for these bills and their passage, as well as the rhetoric surrounding the Second Amendment used by organizations like the National Rifle Association as discourses constructing a vision of the firearm as not only an extension of the body but as an appendage that is a part of the human body itself. Not only do groups like the NRA view the firearm as a part of the human body, but as a bodily organ that, without which, the body would cease to possess rights.

The firearm, from the perspective of “pro-gun” activists, has been transformed into a type of body itself, something that has an intrinsic right to exist. This video directly compares the right to own a firearm to the right to access education, the right to safe labor laws, and the right to access parks. This comparison, although the video says the views within it are “not necessarily correlative with the NRA’s,” illustrates the points I am attempting to make. That is, that the NRA and “pro-gun” activists believe that the firearm itself has a right to exist in connection to the human body.

In “Armed Victims: The Ego Function of Second Amendment Rhetoric,” Brett Lunceford includes a segment from a response to an article discussing the murder of John Crawford, a 22-year-old African American man who was shot while holding a toy gun he intended to purchase. An individual commented on this article, writing that “An angry white man with a gun is a patriot. An angry Muslim man with a gun is a terrorist. An angry black man with a gun is a corpse.”

Is this view of the firearm as a bodily organ one that is extended to black or brown bodies? Or, is this view one that is intended for white bodies and, specifically, white men – the ultimate constitutional patriots? While I am limited within this article to discuss in further detail, I would like to end by saying that intersections in gun rights exist. In many ways, I believe, white bodies are the sole recipient of unbounded Second Amendment rights.

If you want to know more:

  • For data on campus-carry legislation, visit http://www.armedcampuses.org.
  • For data on open-carry laws, visit http://www.smartgunlaws.org/open-carrying-policy-summary/.
  • “The Second Amendment as Demanding Subject” by Laura J. Collins was published in the Rhetoric and Public Affairs Journal. Vol. 17, No. 4, 2014, pp. 737-756. ISSN 1094-8392.
  • “Armed Victims” by Brett Lunceford was published in the Rhetoric and Public Affairs Journal. 18, No. 2, 2015, pp. 333-346. ISSN 1094-8392.

 

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