The Second Amendment exists, and it isn't just for white Americans. In the wake of the Philando Castile shooting, the police need reminding of that.
But perhaps some gun rights advocates need reminding of that as well.
As reported at Reason and elsewhere, Castile was shot by a police officer near St. Paul, Minnesota, after he reached for his wallet in order to produce his concealed carry permit. Cops then detained his girlfriend and her young daughter—who were in the car at the time—as Castile bled to death. Other officers comforted the cop who shot Castile, but no one bothered to assist the dying man, or even check his pulse.
During a subsequent press conference, Diamond Reynolds—Castile's girlfriend—insisted that he had done nothing wrong. And she's right. They were stopped because their car had a broken tail light. That's it.
In Minnesota, citizens are allowed to carry firearms if they have a permit to do so. Castile was merely exercising his Second Amendment rights. His decision to inform the officer about his weapon was courteous, but not legally required. Permit holders in Minnesota do not need to tell cops that they are carrying firearms unless specifically asked.
It seems fairly clearly, then, that Castile is in some sense a Second Amendment martyr: He was killed by a police officer because he was exercising his rights. We know, of course, that these kinds of things are more likely to happen to black Americans, regardless of whether they were doing anything wrong.
I would think it would be the easiest thing in the world for gun rights advocates to condemn this senseless killing. And yet, as I write this, the most important gun rights organization in the country hasn't said a word. The NRA's Twitter feed makes no mention of the Castile shooting, even though it's been a trending topic all day.
National Review's Charles Cooke cautions against instinctively blaming the NRA whenever there's a shooting, and of course he's right. But I would expect the organization to at last express some outrage that an agent of the state killed a man, in no small part because the man was carrying a legal firearm. Cooke also observes:
In my view, too many conservatives react to these stories by presuming that the police must have got it right. I understand how irritating it is to hear the argument that "cop X was bad, therefore cops are generally bad," but it is equally fallacious to contend that "cops are generally good, so cop X must have been good." There is, I'm afraid, some truth in the charge that conservatives are skeptical of government up until the point that the police or the army are involved.
The Castile shooting—as horrible as it is—provides a perfect opportunity for civil liberties advocates on the right and left to come together and condemn government overreach that resulted in the death of a man who did nothing wrong. It's a moment to reaffirm that Constitutional rights should be enjoyed by all people equally, regardless of race.