Second Amendment Is Not About Guns But ‘Anti-Blackness’, Historian Argues

by : Niamh Shackleton on :
Second Amendment Is Not About Guns But 'Anti-Blackness', Historian ArguesPA Images

Historian Carol Anderson has argued that the Second Amendment is about ‘anti-Blackness’, rather than individual or state gun control.

The Second Amendment was written in 1791 and states that US citizens have the right ‘to keep and bear Arms,’ and describes a ‘well regulated Militia’ as being ‘necessary to the security of a free State’.


Supporters of gun rights say the amendment was initially created so citizens had an opportunity to fight back against tyrannical governments both in the US and abroad, if necessary, and was made with state militias in mind rather than all citizens.

Umbrella with 'Gun laws save lives' written on it (PA)PA Images

Meanwhile, others have argued the amendment was created to allow everyone in the country to bear arms if they wanted to, as a way of protecting themselves if in danger, Live Science reports.

More than 200 years later, the amendment still remains subject to intense scrutiny, with people continuing to have differing opinions on the matter.


In her new book The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America, historian Carol Anderson, argues the Second Amendment was made with ‘anti-Blackness’ in mind, rather than guns, suggesting the law ‘was designed and has consistently been constructed to keep African-Americans powerless and vulnerable.’

Anderson, a professor of African American Studies at Emory University, makes some strong points in the book, and notes that while the US’s Founding Fathers were debating the amendment, some expressed more concern about armed Black citizens than threats they faced from British military, CNN reports.

People protesting Black citizen's Second Amendment rights (PA)PA Images

Regarding the ‘well regulated militia’ referred to in the legislation, Anderson believes this was put in with potential slave revolts in mind.


As an example of the alleged anti-Blackness surrounding the Second Amendment, Anderson calls to mind the killing of Philando Castile in 2016. Castile, who was Black, was fatally shot by a traffic police officer after informing them he had a licensed firearm in his car after being asked for his license and registration.


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Anderson told CNN it was Castile’s death that drew her to looking into the topic of anti-Blackness and the Second Amendment.

She explained:

Here was a Black man who was pulled over by police, who followed NRA [National Rifle Association] guidelines in letting the police officer know that he had a license to carry a weapon. And that led to Philando Castile being shot dead.

[…] Then journalists were saying, ‘Don’t Black people have Second Amendment rights?’ And I went, ‘That is a great question.’ And I went hunting. That was the genesis of this book.

Philando Castile grave (PA)
Philando Castile grave (PA)

The officer who shot Castile went on to be charged with second-degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm.

Speaking more about the amendment itself, Anderson said:

One of the first laws passed by Congress, the Uniform Militia Act, required all White men between a certain age range to be part of the militia and own a gun. For me, the Second Amendment really isn’t about guns. It is about anti-Blackness. It’s not about guns and the access to guns to fend off bears – what [former Supreme Court] Justice Anthony Kennedy talked about in the Heller decision when they were examining the roots of the Second Amendment. But what we see, too, during the same period is that Black people were denied access to weapons because they were Black. And it wasn’t like they didn’t have the fend-off threats.


The Heller decision refers to a Supreme Court ruling that protects and individual’s right to keep and bear arms, unconnected to service in a militia. Anderson believes any case brought against the Second Amendment is too concerned with whether the state has the right to control an individual’s access to guns, rather than dealing ‘with the reality that anti-Blackness is really foundational to understanding the Second Amendment.’

The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America will be released on June 10.

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Niamh Shackleton

Niamh Shackleton is a pint sized person and journalist at UNILAD. After studying Multimedia Journalism at the University of Salford, she did a year at Caters News Agency as a features writer in Birmingham before deciding that Manchester is (arguably) one of the best places in the world, and therefore moved back up north. She's also UNILAD's unofficial crazy animal lady.

Topics: News, Gun Control, Now, US News


Live Science and 1 other
  1. Live Science

    The Second Amendment & the Right to Bear Arms

  2. CNN

    The Second Amendment is not about guns -- it's about anti-Blackness, a new book argues