Democrats Push Gun Control, Tool of Racist Capitalist Repression
Gun Bans Won’t Stop
Racist Mass Shootings
For Worker/Black/Latino Mobilization Against Cop Terror and Racist Attacks
Hundreds came out in sweltering heat on July 10 in Uvalde, Texas, to protest the action of hundreds of “law enforcement” officials who stood by while shooter killed 19 students and 2 teachers at the “Mexican school.” The police response expressed deep-seated racism of the Anglo capitalist rulers.
Another year, another spate of grisly mass shootings in the not-so United States of America. The now-routine spectacle of mass murder followed by calls for far-reaching gun control legislation by the liberal capitalist media has become a fixture of American culture. May 14, Buffalo, New York – 10 people were shot to death at a supermarket in a predominantly black part of the city. May 24, Uvalde, Texas – 21 people, 19 of them children, were killed by a gunman at Robb Elementary School in this overwhelmingly Latino city. July 4, Highland Park, Illinois – 7 people were gunned down by a shooter during the predominantly Jewish suburb’s annual Independence Day parade.
The chorus of bourgeois politicians calling for more gun control followed shortly thereafter. The Democratic Party, and those who peddle its wares, desperately seek to turn the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution into a dead letter. Mass shootings, liberals say, are due to the fact that there are more guns in the United States than there are people. According to them, only the “responsible” forces of the capitalist state (read: police and military) should have the “privilege” of carrying firearms. While professing concern for the deaths of black people in inner-city neighborhoods, liberals and reformist leftists1 are actually pandering to racist fears of white suburbanites and demagogic appeals to militarize the ghettos and barrios. This leaves the population defenseless, while trigger-happy cops, criminals and fascists are all heavily armed.
The constitutional “right of the people to keep and bear arms” was the product of the American Revolution, against colonial rule. It was only a political revolution, to be sure, while U.S. capitalism was based on chattel slavery of African Americans and genocide of Native Americans. The Second Amendment is a fundamental democratic right which we strongly defend. It is doubly important to working people and the oppressed, who are beset by a well-armed ruling class and its professional enforcers. As we wrote after the horrific massacre at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut and a shooting spree at a shopping center in Clackamas County, Oregon, both in December 2012:
“So-called ‘progressives’ want to further strengthen the repressive apparatus by disarming the population. All historical evidence shows that ‘gun control’ will not reduce violent crime or prevent rampages by deranged individuals. It will, however, embolden racist police rampages in impoverished African American, Latino, Asian and immigrant areas. The police are there to ‘serve and protect’ the interests of the capitalist rulers and to keep their victims down. That’s why they want a monopoly on violence. Gun control has always targeted exploited populations in order to undercut their ability to resist. In the United States, from colonial times to today, it is an incontrovertible fact that gun control kills blacks.”
–“Who Controls the Guns?” The Internationalist No. 34, March-April 2013
For their part, the Republicans and their ultra-racist flank explain the mass shootings as the seemingly random and inexplicable actions of madmen. If only these deeply disturbed souls had more mental health treatment . . . and less diversity training, they wail, all the while piously intoning that their “thoughts and prayers” are with the victims. Yet these right-wing “champions” of gun rights, too, want to “take guns off the street” – just not from white people. They hail the actions of killer cops who regularly cut down civilians at a rate that rose to over 2,000 a year in 2020-21. The victims are overwhelmingly black, Latino, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders and poor white people.
But the mass shootings were neither random nor inexplicable. In all three recent instances – Buffalo, Uvalde, Highland Park – racism and other social pathologies fueled the homicides. In Buffalo, the shooter put out a huge manifesto dripping with repugnant racist bile about so-called immigrant invaders out to “replace” white people. In Uvalde, the refusal of the police to come to the aid of students and teachers under fire reflects a local power structure of Anglo segregationists ruling over a four-fifths Latino town. In Highland Park, the assailant was an avid Trump supporter prominent in harassing Black Lives Matter protests, and an anti-Semite. Yet except for Buffalo, none of this is highlighted in the bourgeois press. Instead, there has been a torrent of propaganda – and legislative proposals – for more gun control.
So two years after millions took to the streets to protest racist cop murder, many calling to “defund” and even “abolish” the police – an impossibility under capitalism – in this summer of 2022, mass shootings and hysteria over a supposed “post-pandemic crime wave” have united liberals and conservatives in calling for more police repression. Liberals want to go after the guns, conservatives want to go after black people, in practice it often amounts to the same thing – and all wings of the bourgeoisie call to beef up and “empower” the cops. Although stymied by the June 23 Supreme Court decision striking down New York’s flatly unconstitutional law restricting permits to carry handguns to those on good terms with the police, the Democratic Party is pushing for more laws to enforce a capitalist state monopoly of deadly force.
So in the name of “crime prevention,” the result will be more black and Latino men slain by kill-crazy cops in the name of controlling guns. Proletarian revolutionaries and class-conscious workers defend the democratic right to “keep and bear arms” and oppose gun control; we uphold the right of black armed self-defense, and call for worker/black/Latino mobilization against police terror and racist attacks.
Racism Breeds Slaughter
When 18-year-old Payton Gendron walked into the Tops Friendly Markets supermarket in Buffalo on the afternoon of May 14, he had his racist assault planned out. According to a trove of online messages published by the Washington Post (16 May), Gendron had “decided in February to target Buffalo’s Tops grocery store based on its local African American population…. Having identified the supermarket as ‘attack area 1,’ Gendron detailed two additional Buffalo locations as areas at which to ‘shoot all blacks’….” Within the span of six minutes, the racist assassin shot 13 people. Like Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who shot and killed 9 black people in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015, Gendron was taken into police custody alive – unthinkable had his skin been any darker.
The 180-page screed Gendron put online prior to his murder spree laid out a racist worldview shared by many recent mass shooters, including Roof, and especially Brenton Tarrant, who killed 44 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019. In fact, more than a quarter of Gendron’s rant was lifted from Tarrant. Calling himself an “ethno-nationalist eco-fascist national socialist,” the Buffalo shooter wrote that black and Latino people were “replacing” white Americans, carrying out a “white genocide” under the direction of a global Jewish cabal. This so-called “replacement theory” has roots going back to tsarist Russia, with the 1903 publication of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fabricated text purporting to be plans for global Jewish domination. It was used to fuel the bloody anti-Semitic pogroms on the eve of Russia’s 1905 Revolution and later to smear the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.
More recently, “replacement theory” has been popularized by French writer Renaud Camus, who claims that European Union elites are funneling migrants and refugees from Africa and the Middle East to replace white Christian Europeans. In the United States, this racist garbage has gained wide circulation through the likes of Fox News host Tucker Carlson, whose nightly primetime show frequently vituperates against “coastal elites” and Democrats flooding Latin American migrants into the United States in order to replace “classic” Americans and win votes (New York Times, 15 May). Camus’ and Carlson’s sanitized versions don’t explicitly name a Jewish conspiracy as being behind this plot, but the anti-Semitism is thinly veiled, as “globalists” and “elites” are frequently used as synonyms for Jews by racists and conspiracy theorists.
Ten days after the mass murder in Buffalo, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos decided he was going to kill his grandmother. After shooting her in the face, he took her car and drove to Robb Elementary School, where he broke into a classroom and murdered two teachers and 19 students. Ramos had a history of threatening to kidnap, rape and kill young women and girls he met online. The aggrieved sexism is reminiscent of other mass shootings and spree killings, such as the 2014 Isla Vista, California, murder of six people by 22-year-old Elliot Rodger, who hated women for his inability to get dates and went on a murderous rampage as a result, targeting a sorority house and deli. But the racism underlying the Uvalde massacre was not what Ramos believed and espoused, it was the response of the police.
Police of multiple jurisdictions peering into window as shooter continued killing spree in Uvalde, Texas, May 24. As parents frantically shouted, “Go in there! Go in there!” an army of 376 cops of different jurisdictions, including Border Patrol (left), Uvalde city police (in black) and Texas state police (right), stood by and did nothing.
For 78 minutes, an army of police stood by, allowing Ramos to gun down 21 people, one by one, while the cops did nothing. “In total, 376 law enforcement officers – a force larger than the garrison that defended the Alamo – descended upon the school in a chaotic, uncoordinated scene that lasted for more than an hour” (Texas Tribune, 17 July). Most of the “explanations” in the mainstream media for this excruciating spectacle come down to the statement that there were “systemic failures” by “law enforcement,” as an investigation by the Republican-controlled Texas legislature declared. But while hundreds of cops grotesquely stood by as the killing went on, the police did not “fail” at their job, which is not to “serve and protect” the population but to enforce the interests of the ruling class.2
Much of the blame has been placed on Uvalde school district police chief Pete Arredondo. However, there were 150 U.S. Border Patrol agents and 91 state police officers, as well as cops from other departments, on the scene. And they not only let these children and their teachers be slaughtered, they prevented parents from rescuing them. When Angeli Gomez, a Robb Elementary parent and local farm worker, arrived at the school after hearing the news, she was handcuffed by a police officer for trying to enter the building and save her kids. Other parents who tried to intervene were tackled to the ground. Gomez eventually made it into the building and saved an entire classroom of children and their teachers, including her own kids. Her reward? Harassment and intimidation by the local police department (Jezebel, 29 June).
The bigger story is of an 82% Hispanic city ruled over by an arrogant Anglo Republican elite. An article by a writer from Uvalde spelled it out: “Most of Uvalde’s political leadership and the heads of the largest employers are White. At the center of town on the courthouse grounds, you’ll find a monument to Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president — installed when the Ku Klux Klan dominated Uvalde politics.”3 An effort in the summer of 2020 to remove the statue of the head of the slavocracy was defeated by the Republican-led city council. Meanwhile, school district police chief Arredondo is also a politician, who was elected to the city council earlier in May, allied with Republican mayor Don McLaughlin, who administered the oath of office in private a week after the massacre.
Uvalde cop SWAT team. The police are certainly not there to protect and serve the population. Rather, they defend the interests of the racist ruling class.
Moreover, Robb Elementary School was central to the “struggle in Uvalde over the past half-century to desegregate its schools,” the Washington Post article noted. Although the school opened in 1954, the year of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision mandating public school desegregation, Uvalde’s Mexican American students were sent to Robb or Anthon schools in the city’s heavily Hispanic southwest quarter, while most white children attended the “better-resourced” Dalton Elementary. In 1970, Dalton students walked out over the firing of one of the few Mexican American teachers in the district, staying out for six weeks in one of the longest school boycotts in U.S. history. And in 1975, in the case of Morales v. Shannon, Latino education activists won a federal court ruling that the city had maintained de facto segregation, imposing federal court-ordered monitoring of the school district that lasted for the next 40 years.
Today, Uvalde remains deeply segregated politically, economically and ethnically, with the Anglo Republican country club set running a city with a largely poor, overwhelmingly Hispanic population, many of them immigrants. Outrage among parents over the police response during the shooting, and the “lack of transparency” by city and state officials, has boiled over in city council and school board meetings. It turns out that Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers arrived on the scene barely 2-1/2 minutes after the gunman entered the school, and students were calling 911 begging to be rescued as the cops did nothing. A July 10 “Unheard Voices March and Rally” drew hundreds in the 104° heat. Marchers held the “Uvalde police, the DPS … and all the departments who were there that day” responsible for the slaughter.
At the march there were calls for the resignation or firing of chief Arredondo and his five school police at the scene, yet the 370 other “law enforcement” personnel there were just as culpable. The media portray the Border Patrol as heroes, because a BORTAC paramilitary unit finally took out the shooter. But these professional immigrant-catchers, who are everywhere in Uvalde, also did nothing for over an hour. An academic who studies immigrant communities tweeted that he prayed for “parents fearing that their kids are dead and debating whether or not they’ll be arrested if they go to find out.”4 The CBP (Customs and Border Protection) together with I.C.E. (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) cops are the biggest police force in the U.S., part of the CBP Del Rio district whose agents infamously horsewhipped Haitian immigrants last year.
Much of the protest over the Uvalde massacre has been channeled into calls for gun control. This demand has been championed in particular by Beto O’Rourke, the liberal Democratic candidate for governor running against arch-reactionary Republican Greg Abbott. In the past O’Rourke has called for seizing AR-15 and AK-47 semi-automatic rifles. Yet if the population were disarmed – a virtual impossibility in Texas – it would leave the guns in the hands of the cops. Uvalde shows the folly of relying on the police, of whatever jurisdiction, to protect against mass shootings. O’Rourke cites the example of the horrendous 2019 El Paso shooting, when an ultra-rightist racist youth killed 23 people, specifically targeting Mexicans. Yet in that same year, 184 civilians were killed by police in Texas.5
The police response in Uvalde was not a matter of training or tactics – it was deep-seated racism, in a state that was stolen from Mexico in 1836 as a means of reinforcing the power of the Southern slavocracy. It was also the last state in the U.S. in which the abolish of slavery was announced and enforced, by the victorious Union Army, on 19 June 1865, giving rise to the Juneteenth holiday that was the high point of the 2020 nationwide protests against racist police murder.
A little over one month after the mass shooting in Uvalde, on July 4, Robert Crimo III opened fire on an Independence Day parade in Highland Park, a well-off, heavily Jewish suburb of Chicago. He killed 7 people, five of whom were Jewish or part of Jewish families. The shooter was a hardcore Trumper, who frequented “Blue Lives Matter” rallies, harassing and assaulting leftist counter-demonstrators, and referring to Black Lives Matter protesters as “monkeys.” He ran an online Discord server (a popular chat application) called “SS” where he decried “commies.” He sported clothing with far-right cartoon mascot Pepe the Frog. Recently, his posts included genocidal rantings like “i say we just get rid of the blacks all together” (June 28) and that Asian people “should be gassed and then washed” (July 2). Crimo had visited a local synagogue during Passover in an apparent attempt to “size it up,” according to the rabbi (Forward, 5 July).
Who Controls the Guns?
Congressional Democrats on Capitol steps sing “God Bless America” celebrating passage of gun control bill, while across the street, defenders of abortion rights were angrily protesting Supreme Court overturn of Roe v. Wade.
All three of these recent mass shootings were fueled by racism in different ways, yet all three have been used as excuses to push racist gun control. In early June, the Democratic-led House of Representatives (with the support of a few Republicans) passed a bill that would “allow guns to be temporarily confiscated from people deemed by a federal court to be dangers” (New York Times, 9 June). So who do you think federal courts would consider a danger? Two weeks later, on June 24, the Senate passed its version of the bill, signed into the law by President Joe Biden. Congressional liberals stood on the steps of the Capitol that day singing “God Bless America,” while across the street abortion activists protested the Supreme Court ruling canceling the constitutional right to abortion. The law earmarks $15 billion to help states enact their own “red-flag” laws and expand background checks for buyers under 21 years old. On July 29, the House passed along party lines a ban on the sale, manufacture, transfer, possession or import of semi-automatic weapons, which stands zero chance of passing the evenly divided Senate.
Amid all the hoopla over gun control legislation, on June 23, the Supreme Court ruled on New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, that New York’s century-old Sullivan Law on concealed carry of pistols is unconstitutional, which it clearly is, as it allowed the New York Police Department to issue permits at its own discretion. (In the 1970s, as the New York Times was furiously campaigning for stringent gun control, its publisher, C.L. Sulzberger, notoriously had a pistol permit, virtually unobtainable for most people, plus private armed guards.) The Court’s decision upholding the Second Amendment struck down the limitation of legal ownership of handguns to well-connected friends of the NYPD. But this is the same arch-reactionary court that the next day overturned Roe v. Wade.
Today the nation’s highest court acts as a blatantly rightist cudgel in the “culture wars” of the feuding ruling parties of U.S. capitalism. The upshot to the July 23 decision was that a week later New York State passed, with lighting speed, new restrictions to the state’s gun laws. These include barring the carrying of handguns in many public settings, and declaring them off-limits on private property unless allowed by the property owner. They spell out that gun buyers must be “of good moral character,” requiring that applicants provide contact information for four character witnesses and turn over “former and current social media accounts … from the past three years.” This scramble to erode Second Amendment protections, which guarantees the right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of organized self-defense, is partly an attempt by the Democratic Party to “do something” in the run-up to the 2022 midterm elections.
Beyond the short-term electoral calculus, Democrats have always been for gun control, attempting multiple times in the last two decades to reimpose the federal ban on semi-automatic arms (falsely labeled “assault weapons”) that expired in 2004. That ban was originally part of the racist Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which threw mass incarceration of black and Latino men into overdrive, escalated the militarization of police forces across the country and put 100,000 more police on the streets. This law was passed under the administration of Democrat Bill Clinton (and supported by Democratic “socialist” Bernie Sanders) to show that the Democrats were just as “tough on crime” as Republicans.
The desire by U.S. rulers to disarm the population stems from their deeply held fear of armed rebellion by the workers and oppressed, whose increasingly tenuous economic situation coupled with the ceaseless drumbeat of racist police harassment and killings makes for a social powder keg. As we have written in the past:
“In the United States, racism is behind gun control laws going back to slavery. Not only were slaves generally prohibited from having weapons, so increasingly were free blacks as fear of slave revolts grew. Following Nat Turner’s Rebellion (1831), Virginia made it illegal for free blacks ‘to keep or carry any firelock of any kind, any military weapon, or any powder or lead.’ Tennessee changed its constitutional clause from ‘freemen … have a right to keep and to bear arms’ to ‘free white men.’ The Supreme Court’s infamous Dred Scott decision (1857), holding that black people had ‘had no rights which the white man was bound to respect,’ laid out the connection between gun control and democratic rights.”
–“Who Controls the Guns?”
The right of armed self-defense has always posed a threat to the ruling class’s ability to maintain its racist “law and order.” In the 1950s and ’60s, black neighborhoods organized armed self-defense groups, such as the Deacons for Defense and Justice, to protect themselves against the Ku Klux Klan and other good ole boy would-be lynchers. The Black Panther Party for Self Defense started as an armed self-defense group to protect black motorists in Oakland from the city’s notoriously violent and racist police department. In fact, it was the Panthers’ 1967 march on the California State House, brandishing long arms in defense of their Second Amendment rights, that led then-governor Ronald Reagan to push for gun control laws in California.
Today, liberals see the epidemic of mass shootings in the U.S. as a simple equation of “more guns = more shootings.” This ignores the basic fact that the capitalist state, which carries out the daily violence of repression against black people, Latinos, workers and all the oppressed, claims a monopoly on violence. The repressive forces of that state – the military, police, security guards and their adjuncts – are armed to the teeth with increasingly heavy weaponry. At a time when the threat of fascist terror from the likes of Proud Boys and Patriot Front racists, acting in tandem with the cops, is becoming acute, the working class needs to organize workers defense guards to protect themselves and all the oppressed.
This state power of the capitalist exploiters and oppressors asserts its supposed right to decide who is worthy of owning and carrying firearms. Striking workers? Nope. Black neighborhood groups? Think again. Oath Keepers and other far-right militias? Bingo. So-called “red flag” laws would serve to target leftists and other anti-racist agitators. Bans on “assault weapons” (the oft-deployed term serves only to stoke fear of guns in the general public) will only serve to ensure that workers and oppressed people are outgunned by their enemies, who would subdue and murder them.
Meanwhile, in Democrat-controlled cities across the country, mayors and the police departments they preside over are revving up a law-and-order crackdown on guns. In New York City, Democratic mayor Eric Adams is cynically using the uptick in gun violence to bring back “stop and frisk” – the racist practice of randomly pulling young black and Latino men off the street, and searching them for weapons. At the height of this practice under billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg, half a million stops were recorded every year, and tens of thousands of people were funneled into the prison system. Meanwhile, their neighborhoods were terrorized by a de facto occupation force of racist “jump out boys” – plainclothes cops in unmarked vehicles. Now ex-police officer Adams is waging a “fear city” campaign to turn New York into “cop city.”
The consequences of being an armed African American, Latino or Native American can be deadly, under this racist system that seeks to deny the oppressed this fundamental right. On the streets and highways of the U.S., the Second Amendment doesn’t exist for the oppressed. Look no further than the case of 32-year-old Philando Castile, shot to death in his car in front of his girlfriend and daughter in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota in 2016 during a traffic stop, when he told the officer pulling him over that he had a legal weapon.6 The police killing machine is automated, as in the case of 13-year-old Adam Toledo, murdered by Chicago Police Department cops in March 2021 after a sensor in the heavily Latino Little Village barrio registered what was interpreted as gunfire. Cops cruising the area were immediately notified, and 2 minutes and 40 seconds later, Adam, with his hands in the air, was shot dead.7
So liberal Democrats want “gun control.” They are joined by conservative Republicans in demanding “guns off the streets.” Here’s what that looks like in reality. First, the fascists, racists and right-wing militias will not be disarmed, or have their arsenals seized. They are auxiliaries of the forces of capitalist repression, as has been shown over and over, from Portland, Oregon to Kenosha, Wisconsin. There are an estimated 434 million firearms in civilian possession in the United States. You think police are going to seize all those? Think again. Second, all a cop has to do is yell “gun!” and seconds later another black or brown young man will be lying in the street, cut down in a hail of police bullets. And third, aside from rare exceptions, the killer cops will get off free.
The gruesome violence endemic to U.S. capitalism in its advanced decay is a symptom of a fraying social fabric. Like other forms of crime and sociopathic behavior, there is no solution under capitalism, which treats working people, the poor and oppressed as disposable in its frenzied quest for profits. Only a society with a rationally planned economy, where production is to meet human needs, not squeeze out profits, in which rampant poverty and all-sided oppression has been abolished, can begin to address the severe social pathologies underlying mass shootings. The racism that animates so many of these shootings can only be addressed by a workers government dedicated to the full emancipation of black people – and all the oppressed – from the yoke of racist capitalist oppression. To get there, we need a socialist revolution. The prime task at hand is to build a Leninist-Trotskyist workers party, a “tribune of the people,” to lead it. ■
- 1. See “Democrats Exploit School Shooting to Push Racist Gun Control,” in The Internationalist No. 51, March-April 2018; and “‘Socialists’ Chase After Anti-Gun Movement,” in The Internationalist No. 55, Winter 2019.
- 2. See “Uvalde Police Didn’t Move to Save Lives Because That’s Not What Police Do,” The Intercept, 27 May. In fact, the behavior of the police, which was criminal by any standard of humanity, was explicitly not a crime according to bourgeois law and the capitalist courts. After the 2018 shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a federal judge, basing herself on Supreme Court decisions, “ruled that the two agencies [police and school district] had no constitutional duty to protect students” under attack (South Florida Sun Sentinel, 17 December 2018).
- 3. “I’m from Uvalde. I’m not surprised this happened,” Washington Post (29 May).
- 4. See “Border Patrol Agents Killed the Uvalde School Shooter. But Why Were They on the Scene?” Texas Monthly, 26 May.
- 5. From the database Fatal Encounters.
- 6. “Black America Under the Gun," The Internationalist No. 48, May-June 2017.
- 7. See “Chicago Cops’ Killing Machine Grinds On,” The Internationalist No. 63, April-June 2021.