In half of American states, people can now carry guns without a permit, and I’m scared

OPINION: Do you feel safe moving through a country where almost anyone may be packing?

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Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

I’m scared y’all. The start of 2023 means now half of America’s states allow citizens to carry a gun without a permit. So in half of America, pretty much anyone can walk around carrying a gun. Any time you have a disagreement with someone, or they just decide you’re a criminal, or they want to intimidate you, they can just pull out a gun. And there are so many guns around that people should assume that others also have guns, so if you don’t pull yours out first, you may end up dominated or dead so pull quick. This is America. 

Do you feel safe moving through a country where almost anyone may be packing? I sure don’t. Do these people carrying guns in public have proper training? Who knows. Do they have a history of violence? Without requiring a permit or a license, there’s no way of knowing if they should be carrying. So we have lots of people who probably shouldn’t be carrying. That’s really scary. Also, we’re in the midst of a mass shooting epidemic — according to data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive, in 2022, there were more than 600 mass shootings in the U.S., the second-highest annual total for mass shootings on record. The Marshall Project found there were more mass shootings in the last five years than in any other five-year period going back to 1966. But, sure, let’s have anyone who wants a gun get a gun. In half of the country. This is madness.

Some may say, well, putting more guns in the possession of “good people” means more fear in the hearts of “bad people.” The NRA thanks you for swallowing their dumb logic whole. This is entirely false — in states with weaker gun laws, homicide rates are higher. Mississippi has the weakest gun laws and the highest gun death rate in the country. The states with the highest firearm mortality rates are Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Wyoming — all of them have the weakest gun control laws. The more guns in a given area, the less safe everyone in that area is. Studies show more guns do not stop more crimes, but red-state politicians love telling people that there should be no restrictions on their ability to carry a gun, and Republican voters love hearing that. It’s part of the American macho ethos — the gun offers the gun holder a sense of independence, power and freedom. He doesn’t have to rely on the government to protect him and his family. He can do it himself. Or something like that. 

But if someone starts shooting in a public place, shouldn’t the citizens who are there be able to defend themselves instead of having to wait for the police to arrive? That sounds OK in theory, but live shootings are extremely stressful, complicated situations — they’re difficult for police officers who are trained to deal with them. If someone opens fire in a crowded movie theater or a supermarket, do we want a second or third or fourth shooter to start firing? That sounds like absolute chaos. Imagine how many innocent bystanders could be killed.

Also, while these mass shooter events are happening more often than ever, they also remain rare occurrences — most of us will go our whole lives without encountering one. But all those people walking around with guns all the time are a threat to my safety all the time. What happens when they get angry and pull out their weapon? What if they get drunk and pull it out? Or if they misunderstand the scene unfolding in front of them and start firing at the wrong person? What happens when one gun-carrying citizen pulls out a gun on another gun-carrying citizen and then the two of them are pointing their guns at each other in the middle of the mall or the gas station or whatever? Allowing just anyone to walk around carrying a gun is insanity.

The American love affair with guns is very much about white power. White Americans used guns to take this land from the American Indians and to control Black slaves. That’s what the Second Amendment was really about — preserving white supremacy and slavery. Guns give white men a feeling of strength, and in a world where white people often imagine Black men as having superhuman powers, the gun is critical to them maintaining the feeling of dominance. 

All Black people should be afraid of a well-armed white citizenry — this is a nation drenched in shooter bias, which means people are quicker to shoot Black targets than white ones. A nation filled with guns in a country with shooter bias and the imperative to continue feeling white and dominant at a time when many white people sense their dominance slipping away is a recipe for disaster.

I grew up with a gun in the home. I watched my father take his small handgun with him to work every day. He never once needed it at home, but according to my parents, it may have saved his life on one or two occasions over 30 years. I understand, on a visceral level, the protection that guns can bring. But we as a nation have let the fear-mongering of the NRA, and the GOP lead us down a very frightening path — allowing too many people to have guns too easily puts far more people in danger than it protects. We are a nation awash in guns, and that makes all of us far less safe. I’m scared, and you should be, too.


Touré, theGrio.com

Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is also the author of seven books including the Prince biography Nothing Compares 2 U and the ebook The Ivy League Counterfeiter. Look out for his upcoming podcast Being Black In the 80s.

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