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Beyond Law and Order in the Gun Debate

Summary: Forging anti-racist gun policy requires decentering the criminal justice system as the go-to institution for solving gun violence.

  • Jennifer Carlson Jennifer Carlson
Published: June 29, 2021

This essay is part of the series Protests, Insur­rec­tion, and the Second Amend­ment

ABSTRACT: In 2020, millions of Amer­ic­ans mobil­ized for racial justice and police account­ab­il­ity under the banner of the Black Lives Matter move­ment. The diverse range of their demands notwith­stand­ing, activ­ists over­whelm­ingly called for the decen­ter­ing (if not also defund­ing) of police as the go-to insti­tu­tion for solv­ing prob­lems of crime, broadly reflect­ing the anti-racist polit­ics embraced by the contem­por­ary crim­inal justice abol­i­tion move­ment. Recog­niz­ing that Amer­ican gun policy has often deepened the reach of the crim­inal justice system amid the war on crime’s broad ambit, this article considers how abol­i­tion­ist approaches — and the broader scholar-activ­ist work in which they are embed­ded — chal­lenge the tradi­tional coordin­ates of gun polit­ics and gun policy and provide a frame­work for forging an anti-racist gun polit­ics. Putting crim­inal justice abol­i­tion­ism into conver­sa­tion with exist­ing community-led efforts that decen­ter the crim­inal justice appar­atus in gun viol­ence preven­tion, this essay exam­ines gun abol­i­tion­ism as a means of revamp­ing domin­ant visions of safety and justice from an anti-racist perspect­ive — and refor­mu­lat­ing the lead­ing approaches to gun policy accord­ingly.