Radicalism and Rights: White Supremacy, American Gun Culture, and the Second Amendment

Reflection by Nickolas Abbott ’20, a history major

On Thursday, September 5, 2019, the LMU History Department, in conjunction with the Departments of Political Science, Sociology, and Psychology, presented the “Radicalism and Rights” panel, discussing white supremacy, gun violence, and the history of the Second Amendment in American society. This panel was comprised of Professors Sean Dempsey (HIST), Evan Gerstmann (POLS), Joe LaBrie (PSYC), and Rebecca Sager (SOCL). The Q&A session after the panel presentation was moderated by Professor Elizabeth Drummond (HIST).

The panel discussed American political culture, the lack of trust in civil institutions, the challenges of universal gun buyback programs, and the difficulties in comparing American gun culture to many other nations in the rest of the world. The talk highlighted the history of various efforts to enforce and subvert gun control in America by providing historical examples, such as government responses to armed groups like the Black Panthers during the civil rights movement. The faculty especially addressed the means by which the government has used gun control to suppress minority groups’ right to bear arms throughout the twentieth century, which filters into modern debates about the issue. Each professor brought essential insights into the multifaceted issue of gun violence in America, addressing the political history of efforts to regulate the constitution, the mentality of groups opposing gun control legislation, and the psychology of hate groups that give rise to this sort of violence.

After the panel presentation, faculty fielded questions from the audience. Students and faculty discussed many points, including the role of partisanship in gun control debates as well as the insidious nature of gun violence beyond high-profile mass shootings. The panel also engaged with and answered questions from students who expressed interest in becoming politically active. Faculty urged students to get involved in the upcoming elections of 2020, their future professional environments, and civil society – the nation needs educated and engaged citizens to wrestle with these serious questions.