How Institutional Racism & Gun Culture Have Poisoned America

It takes a month in Georgia to register to vote, but you can buy a gun for a mass murder in 10 minutes.


The Massage Parlor murders in Georgia remind us that guns, the South, and racially motivated murders have a long history.

As I lay out in detail in my book The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment, the Second Amendment was written the way it was, at the time it was, to guarantee that Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia could maintain their state-based militias, which they explicitly referred to as “Slave Patrols.”

Those Slave Patrols were used for hundreds of years by white people to keep African-Americans under their thumbs, and, after the failure of Reconstruction in the election of 1876, the Klan used guns as readily as they did nooses to terrorize Black people in the South.

Thus it should be no surprise that when a 21-year-old white man in Georgia decided he wanted to murder Asian women, he would stop at a gun shop and walk out minutes later with a 9 mm handgun.

That purchase happened just a few hours before he opened fire. Now Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Ae Yue, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng are dead, along with Paul Andre Michels and Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz.

I used to live in Georgia, and attended the Georgia Police Academy for a book I was writing the year the Olympics were in Atlanta. When you buy a gun in that state, there are no background checks and no questions asked: all you need is a state-issued ID and either cash or a credit card.

There’s also no waiting period. Thirteen states and Washington DC have waiting periods that run from as little as 3 to as many as 14 days between the time you show up in the store and lay down your ID and money, and the time you can pick up your gun and take it home.

Research published by the National Academy of Sciences found that these waiting periods have a substantial impact on reducing murders committed with guns, averaging around a 17% reduction in gun homicides “avoiding roughly 750 gun homicides per year.”

Instead, as was noted in The Wall Street Journal, “The U.S. represents less than 5% of the 7.3 billion global population but accounted for 31% of global mass shooters during the period from 1966 to 2012, more than any other country…”

America is the only developed nation in the entire world where this sort of thing happens on a daily basis. As the research just mentioned notes: “[I]f the United States could lower its firearm death rate to that of Finland (the high-income country with the second highest rate [in the world]), roughly 20,000 fewer people would die from guns every year.”

But that isn’t happening here because racism and “gun culture“ have both evolved in this country into what are essentially intertwined industries. 

Both have their own substantial base of mostly white men, and both racists and gun enthusiasts have numerous and frequently interconnected support groups, secret Facebook groups, and politicians who openly take their side. Both are also profitable for those who trade in them.

Like racial hatred and religion appear to have poisoned this alleged murderer, institutional racism and gun culture have poisoned America itself.

The two combined are so potent that even after mass shootings of children in schools or people attending outdoor concerts, the racist/gun partisans in the US House and Senate prevent any sort of motion toward rational gun control in this country.

It takes a month in Georgia to register to vote, but you can buy a gun in 10 minutes, walk out of the store, and kill somebody as quick as you’d like. 

Seriously. The Georgia website for voter registration says, “Please allow the county at least 3 to 4 weeks before contacting your county“ to confirm your voter registration. They have to check you out, after all. This is important stuff, this voting.

But to get a gun that you can use for mass murder? No problem. Just lay down your money and walk away with your weapon.

The reason? Racism.

It’s no coincidence that the laxest gun laws and the most restrictive voting regulations in our country are almost entirely centered in states that were part of the old slave-holding Confederacy. 

America has a gun problem and a democracy problem, and both are rooted in white supremacy and racism. Racism keeps guns in people’s hands and homes, and guns are continually used as racist tools of terror.

If we’re to move forward, we must address both.


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