Volume 13

Armed with Privilege: The “Right to Keep and Bear Arms” as a Tool for Reinforcing Exclusionary Conceptions of Citizenship

by Chayce Glienke

The “right to keep and bear arms” is often touted as a fundamental right that affords protections to all Americans. However, as this note argues, the “right to keep and bear arms” does not now provide—nor has it ever provided—the same presumptions of lawfulness to Black Americans as it does to White Americans. Part I of this note explores the origins of the “right to keep and bear arms,” beginning with the founding of the United States and continuing through the Reconstruction era. Part II analyzes Black disarmament through gun laws as a mechanism of constructing exclusionary conceptions of citizenship that prioritize whiteness. Part III imports this lens of citizenship to the modern context, arguing that high profile examples of racially disparate responses to firearm use demonstrate that vestiges of earlier, more explicit restrictions on gun ownership still function to reinforce racially exclusionary conceptions of citizenship.

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