Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Tamir Rice, Gun Laws, and American Apartheid

Esquire has a great essay on the unresolvable tension between American gun laws and American policing of minority communities.

This is the issue I've been harping on since John Crawford, but even here - the piece closest to the heart of the matter, at least among those that I've seen - an insufficiently fine point is put on it.

What is the theory of law here?

Video evidence makes crystal clear that neither Crawford nor Rice - the latter of whom was perceived to be of legal age for owning a firearm by the officer - was "brandishing" a weapon, in the technical sense of that term. Both were carrying what were perceived to be firearms. Ohio is a permissive preemptive open carry state. This means that a) both were perceived to be performing actions which, had they actually been performing them, would have been exercises of their federal, state and municipal rights; and b) as a consequence, police orders to relinquish their (perceived) weapons were unlawful. So there are only two possible theories of law here: 1) the second amendment and state gun possession laws do not apply to black people; or 2) it is objectively reasonable for police offers to use lethal force against black people when they exercise their legal rights, if those officers feel subjectively threatened by that exercise.

The argument that it was objectively reasonable to believe that either of them were in the course of committing, or intending to commit, a crime, takes us no further. It implies that under American law, the subjective impressions of a complaining civilian suffice as the basis for such an objectively reasonable belief about a black person, even though no feature of the scene itself at the time police arrive supports this, and multiple features count against it.

We are seeing, with alarming frequency, evidence that the U.S. Is in fact an apartheid regime - as it would have to be in order to reconcile the absurd permissiveness of gun laws as written with the actual motivation for those laws. Why can't anyone see/admit this? When will we be able to have a public conversation about the reality that this is, de facto, contemporary American law?

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