Fervor for 2nd Amendment rooted in slave patrols | Political Eye

Second Amendment

The congressional office for U.S. Representative Vicky Hartzler (R, MO-04) mailed a poorly-timed postcard, touting Hartzler’s pro-gun “credentials” only days after the mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas. The taxpayer-funded mailer included photos of Hartzler holding an AR-15, the semi-automatic weapon of war like the one used in the Uvalde massacre, calling herself “Missouri’s 2nd Amendment Defender.” 

The Second Amendment has been used since the 18th century to provide the constitutional framework for gun laws in the 21st century. It is a historic fact that part of the original motivation for this amendment was to guarantee the individual states the right to use their armed militia to maintain control over Black slaves. This fear was heightened after the successful Haitian slave revolt. Militia were felt to be necessary because they could easily be morphed into “slave patrols” to block any possible slave revolts.

As for current Republican orthodoxy about the 18th century thinking that was reflected in the U.S. Constitution, it conveniently ignores the fact that the same regulations in the 18th century that required citizens to participate in the militia also forbade Blacks and Native Americans from having weapons. Moreover in slave states, militia were used to inspect slave quarters and members confiscate weapons when they found them. 

Hartzler’s office said that the congresswoman was “praying for all those lost and their loved ones,” although her campaign mailer celebrated Hartzler’s “A” ratings with the NRA and other pro-gun special interest groups. But what could, at best, be described as Hartzler’s lapse in judgment didn’t happen in isolation:  she joins the nearly 20% of Missouri Republican lawmakers identified as members of right-wing extremist groups on social media. Such groups promote factually-baseless conspiracy theories involving critical race theory, the lie that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election, and the widespread denial of COVID-19. As members of Facebook groups, in particular, Republican legislators were found to be constantly barraged by misinformation that had deeply “penetrated state politics.”  

According to comments from St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Kevin McDermott, “U.S. firearm deaths have edged upward nationally in recent years, but in Missouri it has been more like an explosion. Between 2005 and 2020, as Missouri lawmakers methodically scrapped one longstanding gun restriction after another, the total number of annual deaths here, as well as the annual gun deaths (that is, the number of deaths per 100,000 residents), both have roughly doubled.”

Lawmakers’ participation in Facebook groups and other social media platforms may seem harmless on the surface, but a deeper look reveals that their membership is an implicit “legislative stamp of approval” that legitimizes and normalizes extremist groups. 

In other words, a significant number of Missouri lawmakers are frequently exposed to misinformation and conspiracy theories, and these same lawmakers vote to pass laws that promote their “causes,” regardless of the cost. 

Hartzler’s mailer last week, as inopportune and hypocritical as it was, further underscores the disconnect between Hartzler and the real needs of her constituents in Missouri’s Fourth Congressional District, Hartzler was one of only a handful of Missouri lawmakers who chose not to seek federal spending earmarks for community projects within her district. Congresswoman Cori Bush (D, MO-01), on the other hand, secured $9.2 million for St. Louis-area community projects. As for retiring Sen. Roy Blunt (R), he grabbed the sixth-highest earmark package in the country, including $313.3 million for Missouri projects. 

Waiter, check please 

State Senator Steve Roberts, Jr., the embattled challenger to Congresswoman Cori Bush’s First District seat, couldn’t seem to catch a break during his two most recent fundraisers. Both fundraiser events were held in Clayton and were attended by 8-10 protesters, who again called public attention to Roberts’ history of sexual assault allegations. One of Roberts’ victims, attorney Amy E. Harms, attended the protest last Thursday outside of Cafe Napoli in Clayton, and spoke to supporters about the assault she said she suffered and the response by the police and prosecutors involved in her case. The protesters were widely cheered on by drivers honking their horns as they passed by the demonstration.

Roberts’ campaign distributed flyers inside the restaurant, claiming that the event had been rescheduled to this evening due to staffing shortages. No staffing shortages were observed by protesters during their demonstration, which overlapped with several hours of the restaurant’s evening’s dinner service. 

Just when Roberts expected to breathe easy at a “meet and greet” with potential voters at the home of a wealthy Clayton resident on Saturday, another group of around half a dozen protesters assembled, once again calling attention to Roberts’ history of sexual assault allegations. Inside the private event, Roberts reportedly referred to himself as a “victim” and complained that his situation – the credible allegations against him – was comparable to the plight experienced by the protagonist in the play, “The Crucible.” The comparison to Arthur Miller’s 1953 fictionalization of the Salem witch trials was quite the stretch for the freshman state senator, but when a hyper-inflated ego prevents even the most basic level of self-awareness, we suppose that the constant demand by voters for greater accountability from Roberts could feel like a bit of a witch hunt.

Given the gravity and credibility of the allegations against Roberts from the women he allegedly assaulted, his campaign against the popular, heavily-favored Rep. Bush should expect no peace through August 2. In sharp contrast, Rep. Bush launched a national movement to demand the extension of the life-saving eviction moratorium, ultimately resulting in President Joe Biden agreeing to do so. Roberts, on the other hand, voted to ban the unhoused from sleeping on state-owned property and supported harsh sanctions against St. Louis City if it refused to endorse the state’s harsh, possibly unconstitutional laws. Roberts’ weak attempts to deflect the unfavorable media attention from his two public sexual assault allegations and consequent settlements backfired, drawing even more attention to the stories of the women who accuse him. 

In the meantime, Roberts’ campaign naively believes that challenging Rep. Bush to a series of 10 debates – yes, once per week until Election Day – would bode well for his lagging ill-advised bid. While Rep. Bush has been focused on representing St. Louis in Congress and legislating for the best interests for all of us, Roberts is still stumbling,  failing to overcome the much talked about allegations of sexual violence and abuse.

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