The NRA is quite possibly one of the most controversial organizations in America. An organization built around the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms, their work has both staunch supporters and vehement opponents. As the video incidents are increasing of young African-Americans being shot in their cars while running away, and the alleged “hands up, don’t shoot” incident, the races are on edge regarding firearms, and legislators are trying to curb gun violence with very little effect.
The latest incident with Philando Castile has the NRA in the line of fire. When Castile was pulled over while driving with his fiancé and her young daughter, he alerted the police that he had a gun in his glove compartment. And he also told officers that he had a permit to carry the gun. But when he went to the glove compartment to retrieve his wallet, as he was instructed to do, the officer said he panicked, and Castile was fatally shot in front of his family members. Immediately following the confrontation, his fiancé uploaded the video to Facebook to expose the truth.
The police officer in the tape maintains that he told Castile not to reach for his gun and that Castile did anyway, while the fiancé screamed in the background of the video that he was getting his wallet as he was instructed to. If this were an isolated incident then it might not be so controversial, but there are a long list of black gun owners who have been shot by police due to a misunderstanding of permitted guns, even when the officer is told about the gun first thing.
A criminal defense attorney in Boston can confirm the laws across the nation allow Americans to carry weapons in public as long as they have a permit, but the law doesn’t see to be working the same way for white gun carriers as it is for African-Americans. Clarence Daniels, a man who had a permit to carry a weapon, was tackled in Walmart by a bystander who saw his holstered gun and decided to take matters into his own hands. Alton Sterling, another African-American with a permit to carry, was shot dead by police officers in Louisiana while being pinned to the pavement because he had a gun in his pocket and the officers misread it as a threat to their life.
Mark Hughes, who openly carried his rifle legally, went to a Black Lives Matter protest for Castile. Police enforcement tweeted out a photo of him holding his legal rifle, and he has become the target for hostile interrogation — even after he relinquished his legal firearm. Before 1990, only fourteen states allowed you to carry handguns in public.
However, due to lobbying by the NRA, all 50 states now allow concealed carry permits. Although the argument was that people should be allowed to protect themselves, for the African-American community, this seems to be working in the reverse, especially when they are out in public.
The constitutional right to carry allows people to have a permit to carry a firearm as long as they have “training.” But that training can be minimal depending on where you live, and this means millions of Americans are packing heat they don’t know how to use correctly, and they might be unwittingly putting themselves in more harm as opposed to having a way to protect themselves.
The right to self-defense has ramped up around the US. Laws across the nation allow people to use lethal self-defense whenever they feel threatened — but that can be a pretty broad spectrum of circumstances.
Currently, something called SC128 is in the works in the Florida legislature, and it would make the Stand your Ground law look like child’s play. The bill would shift the burden of proof so that prosecutors would have to disprove that the defendant felt threatened to even be able to take the case to trial. Right now, the defendant has to present evidence at the pretrial phase that convinces the judge that self-defense was a legitimate excuse.
Many worry that the Trump Administration that is more in tune with the NRA — as opposed to the Obama Administration, which was in constant opposition to it — will create a more violent society and increase the cases of people literally getting away with murder. Americans are guaranteed the right to bear arms according to the Second Amendment, but that doesn’t mean they should use guns whenever they feel threatened in any way — that has become a recipe for disaster.