Does the Second Amendment Protect Only White Gun Owners?

The most common refrain from gun rights supporters in the wake of mass shootings or other gun violence is that the best response to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Yet in recent weeks, we have seen two Black men, a group already disproportionately victimized by police use of lethal force, shot and killed by police while protecting those around them with guns they were legally allowed to carry.  

It turns out that not only are unarmed African-Americans more likely to be shot, but those who seek to follow the advice of the National Rifle Association and others to arm themselves may only make themselves more vulnerable. It is especially troubling that gun rights proponents have largely been silent when police kill Black people for lawfully using their guns.

For example, the NRA and President Trump — despite their embrace of the social media bullhorn — have not condemned the police for killing unarmed Black people. Moreover, they have yet to denounce police officers who kill Black people for possessing guns they’re legally entitled to carry. 

The police killings of legally armed Black citizens, and the refusal of leading gun-rights proponents to sincerely defend the victims, raises the same troubling question that both Martin Luther King Jr. and the Black Panther Party also confronted when they tried to exercise their rights to bear arms: In practice, do Second Amendment rights protect only white gun owners? 

The most recent example is Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford, Jr., a former Army recruit and a licensed firearm owner in Alabama, an open-carry state. The police department has yet to release the video of the incident, but we now know that Bradford was carrying his gun at a mall on Thanksgiving night when someone else began shooting — the kind of situation where gun proponents often claim that being armed will save the day.

Bradford responded by drawing his gun and “directing shoppers to safety,” reported The New York Times. But when the police arrived, witnesses say they shot him “within milliseconds.” The police department initially asserted that Bradford was the mall shooter and lauded his killer as a hero.

But it was wrong.

The department has since admitted this statement was “not totally accurate” in at least two ways. First, the officer shot the wrong man, and the mall shooter was actually still at large. Next, police admitted that Bradford had not “brandished” the gun but simply had it in his hand when officers approached. An independent autopsy has revealed that Bradford was shot three times from behind.

President Trump has had nothing to say about this tragedy. The most to come from the NRA is spokesperson Dana Loesch tweeting her surprise that the police have refused to release the bodycam footage. But even that statement took more than a week. As Black Alabamans and racial justice allies protested in the days following Bradford’s death, the organization said nothing about the reality of race in America or about how Black men are denied the right to bear arms that others enjoy. 

Instead of acknowledging Bradford, a real-life good guy with a gun, it tweeted a quote from its executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre: “To preserve our values and protect our freedom, America needs the good guys to step up like never before.”

And Bradford’s death isn’t even an isolated incident. 

Just two weeks prior, police officers killed Jemel Roberson, a Black security guard and registered gun owner, who responded when several men began shooting at the Illinois nightclub where he worked. When the police arrived, Roberson was doing his job: He legally had his gun out and had subdued one of the men with his knee in the man’s back.

It didn’t matter.

The officers shot and killed Roberson, even as witnesses warned them he was a security guard. Roberson has widely been lauded as a hero, and even the police department later conceded Roberson was “a brave man who was doing his best to end an active shooter situation.”

But again, gun rights proponents have been quiet. 

When Philando Castile was killed in 2016 after telling the police officer who stopped his car that he had a gun and a license to carry one — the recommended procedure for announcing the presence of a gun to an officer — gun rights advocates were again silent. The NRA said nothing about Castile’s case for more than a year.

When Loesch finally did offer a statement, she stopped short of criticizing the police officer, cryptically saying that “… there were a lot of things that I wish would have been done differently.” She suggested that an NRA Carry Guard card could have prevented his killing. But the officer shot Mr. Castile while he was reaching for his driver’s license and registration, so it’s not clear how having an NRA card in his wallet could have possibly helped. 

This equivocation is unprincipled. Whatever one’s view of the appropriate scope of the Second Amendment, it ought to extend to all equally, without regard to race.

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Daniel Lingeman

Is this an instance where ACLU is offering to step up to the plate and go to bat for the civil liberties of minorities, or is this just an opportunity to criticize NRA for selectively defending the 2nd Amendment? Nothing would make me happier to switch my donations to an organization that was concerned with fighting equally hard for all civil rights for all people, but ACLU has clearly stated they think that restrictions on the 2nd Amendment (ones that they would never accept for any other part of the Bill of Rights) are just fine. To illustrate, here is an excerpt from your own web site with the specific words about gun control replaced with blank spaces. Try and find a way to make this sound reasonable with any other civil liberty:

When analyzing ______ measures from a civil liberties perspective, we place them into one of three categories. First are laws that regulate or restrict particular types of ____ or _____, regardless of the purchaser. These sorts of regulations generally raise few, if any, civil liberties issues.


The issue here, at least in the last 2 legally armed African Americans being shot by police is..... the police. By all accounts, no warning were given. Shots where fired. In one case, it was a security guard in uniform. In the other it was a young man with his back turned, doing what soldiers do.... protect the rear of the retreat.

But you also can’t ignore the fact that the vast majority of gun crime is committed by black men. This sets up a bias in the part of police, and others, consciously or unconsciously.

Unless something is done to counter racial stereotypes and bias, this will, unfortunately, happen again.

Bill Lee

Silly, shallow article.
Blaming the current NRA for something that happened 50 years ago.
The NRA is proud of all Legal gun owners and lawful use of firearms. Race is completely irrelevant.
As for Philando, we weren’t there, so how are we to make a judgment?
The NRA is tha Nation’s most forceful advocate for self defense, esp “Black Americans”. If the ACLU, NAACP, Kaepernick Cared About Black Lives, they would start with Chicago and Baltimore.
You Divisive race baiters are pathetic.


There are so many misinformed righties here. The ACLU believes in the US constitution. Just because you don't think every person should have a right to carry every weapon known to man with no restrictions whatsoever does not mean they do not believe in the 2nd Amendment. It's only been 10 years since Heller was decided that it even applies to individuals. And no one is saying it's written in the constitution that it does not apply to minorities. Although none of our did when it was written. It's just that in practice it clearly does not protect blacks, because the police are getting away with killing blacks with guns with no repercussions what so what.


The REAL problem here is that we do not yet have all of the facts. The state agency that has taken over the investigation has not released ANYTHING yet. Any conclusion drawn at this point is totally premature. We just don't know what happened AT ALL!!!

Rogue Editor

This is not an appropriate topic for a question headline, ACLU. Phrasing it that way creates a cushion of doubt for the obvious answer, which is simply "yes."

This is a historically documented fact, and your article would be much stronger and more compelling if you didn't introduce it like a matter that's up for public contention. The second amendment was a crucial part of not only white supremacist colonial violence against indigenous people, but also for facilitating violence against slaves and, later, enforcing segregation. Modern day interpretations of this amendment, including Castle Doctrine (stand your ground laws), continue to disproportionally benefit white people while endangering the lives of people of color. It was designed to do this, and waxing faux patriotic about resisting governmental tyranny with militias is fucking absurd now that unmanned drones reigning death from the sky exist and are already being used in extrajudicial killings of American citizens overseas.

I know you know this, so kindly don't use vaguely leading questions that distort. Instead, clearly articulate for the truth of this so that advocates can use your content to promote change. We have enough jingo jockeys trying to normalize questioning obvious reality. Don't stoop to that level and play that game. Hold fast to the truth and say it clearly; don't couch it in the trappings of debate as though this answer isn't already known.


So far the droans haven't secured a win in Afghanistan.

Charles Nichols

Where is the ACLU lawsuit to overturn California's 1967 ban on openly carrying loaded firearms in public, which was enacted specifically to disarm the members of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense?

The ACLU has had over 50 years to file a lawsuit but hasn't. I, on the other hand, am now in my 8th year of litigation in my fight to overturn the ban. Before I filed my lawsuit, I approached the ACLU, and the NRA, and the Second Amendment Foundation, and the Gun Owners of America/California. They all told me to go pound sand. The NRA has been in Federal Court since April of 2010, fighting to uphold the 1967 Loaded Open Carry ban and the two Unloaded Open Carry bans which went into effect on January 1, 2012, and 2013.

The NRA helped write and endorsed the passage of "The Mulford Act of 1967" of which the Loaded Open Carry ban was a part.

In July of this year, the 9th circuit court of appeals published a decision which held that there is a right to openly carry firearms in public, for the purpose of self-defense. Unless that decision is overturned by an en banc panel, or by SCOTUS, it is binding on every Federal judge in the 9th circuit.

The ACLU could file a lawsuit tomorrow and immediately obtain a TRO/Preliminary Injunction against California's Open Carry bans and shortly thereafter obtain a permanent injunction, and it could do so based soley on the Second Amendment decision in Young v. Hawaii.

The ACLU could have, and can, overturn the law independent of the Second Amendment on the grounds that the 1967 ban was racially motivated and has been disproportionately enforced against blacks and other racial minorities to this present day. Under 9th circuit case law, one need only show that the ban was racially motivated, proving that it is disproportionately enforced against minorities is not required.

But the ACLU won't.

Lawrence Mack.

Greeting from Racist Australia,where the Police have not shot and killed any Black man, armed or otherwise all year.

J. Parks

If the ACLU spent more time protecting civil liberties i.e., the Second Amendment (2A) less of these types of tragedies would occur. However, in their near total acquiescence of all things gun related to NRA, 2A Foundation, GOA and Charles Nichols, things as tragic as this happen... So my answer is 2A protects all Americans regardless of the color of their skin and I bristle at the notion that the ACLU would question that considering their long history of undermining 2A rights.


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