Officer Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty in the case of manslaughter against Philando Castile on Friday. Moments later, 2,000 protesters flooded I-94 in St. Paul, Minnesota. to express their outrage at the legal system’s failure to bring justice to black lives once again.
However, one usually vocal group has remained uncharacteristically quiet about the demoralizing Castile verdict: gun rights activists.
For those of you who have forgotten the details of Castile’s case among the painful flurry of officer-involved shootings that have occurred since he was killed last July, Castile was a licensed gun owner who was legally armed at the time of his 50th — and final — traffic stop.
“Sir, I have to tell you, I do have a firearm on me,” Castile calmly told the officer in his final moments, as recorded in Yanez’s dashboard camera. “Don’t reach for it then,” the officer replied. “I’m not pulling it out,” Castile responded. It was model behavior, the kind that one develops after being stopped by police officers 50 times.
Not one second passed before Yanez fired seven shots into Castile — who was not reaching for his gun — and killed him.
The dash-cam recording and Castile’s clean record attest to his being an exemplary citizen and a perfectly responsible gun owner. And yet, not a single Second Amendment advocate has come forward to decry that Castile was shot for exercising his constitutional right to bear arms.
Not a single gun rights activist has expressed even mild concern over the acquittal of Yanez: not the National Association for Gun Rights, not Gun Owners of America, not Ted Cruz, not the President of the United States, not even the National Rifle Association, who spend millions of dollars every year to ensure guns remain omnipresent in America.
What can explain the deafening, sickening silence?
Perhaps it is the fact mourning the unjust slaughter of a black life would put firearm advocates at odds with these leaders’ overwhelmingly white, Republican followings.
Perhaps it is the fact that Philando Castile’s innocence does not fit neatly into the Second Amendment narrative these activists rely on, one in which white Americans must defend themselves with guns against thugs and thieves who are black and brown.
Perhaps it is the fact that the same people who blindly support this outdated constitutional provision also believe that “All men are created equal” only applies to those who are white.
Renee Perez is a junior majoring in political science.