MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Many gun laws vary by state, in the absence of strong national gun control. That explains the open carrying of semi-automatic rifles in stores such as Target in Texas without any police intervention. In every photo that I have seen of the gun toters of AK-47s and the like in Texas two realties are apparent: 1) All the defiant military-style gun carriers are white; and 2) there are no police to be seen as the gun fanatics swagger through housewares toting Uzis.
The reason that there are no police to be seen is that it is now legal to tote around handguns and semi-automatic long guns in stores and other public spaces in the longhorn state. Texas is not the only such state: In Ohio, state law allows people to carry firearms in many public spaces (though the NRA Institute for Legislative Action notes that "a person should exercise caution when carrying a firearm in public"). The state generally has loose firearms laws and can be considered a pro-gun-owner state. Nevertheless, a black man, 22-year-old John Crawford III, was shot dead by Beaver Creek, Ohio, police in early August - for holding a toy rifle in the toy section of a local Walmart. Apparently, a customer had called 911 and said a man was holding a rifle, and the police showed up, shouted a few disputed orders and then killed Crawford with real guns, as the toy Walmart rifle fell to the floor. (He did not enter the store with the toy rifle; he happened to pick it up while in the toy section of the store.)
It would be extremely difficult, given the recent events in Ferguson and the long history of racial bias shown by police in shooting black "suspects," to surmise that Crawford's skin color and dreadlocks didn't play any role in the decision of the Beavercreek police officers to murder a young adult holding a toy rifle.
After all, in Texas, white gun zealots roam freely in big box stores, scaring customers and their children right and left - and nothing is done to remove them from the premises (because dangerous state laws enable their actions). In fact, gun owners are allowed to tote weapons everywhere in Texas, except for a few excluded locations such as courtrooms, where judges don't want to take any chances with gun enthusiasts armed to the hilt.
There is also the telling case in which, for weeks on end, local, state and federal government law enforcement officers stood down when faced with heavily armed white militias protecting scofflaw Cliven Bundy in Nevada. Make no mistake about it, the US government allowed armed seditious militias to seize land in the United States, and law enforcement agencies in the US did not stop them or attempt to arrest them.
However, if one young black man is playing with a toy rifle in Walmart, he gets gunned down and dies. Michael Brown got the same lethal treatment and he wasn't even carrying a gun - a toy one or a real one. However, militias composed of white men with military-style firearms can violate the laws of the United States and claim "sovereign territory" without repercussion.
Awhile back, Thom Hartmann wrote a commentary on Truthout in which he details how the history of slave patrols were the antecedent for police and white groups criminalizing the status of black men.
That's a legacy that pervades the United States: from our unjust incarceration system to the police labeling of black men as "criminal until proven innocent" to the lethal shooting of a young black man for choosing to look at a toy gun in Walmart.
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