Political Science


Securing white democracy: Guns and the politics of whiteness

Document Type



What does the open-carried gun tell us about the contemporary political structure of whiteness, and how do such objects operate to reinforce this structure? To work through these questions, this article brings together political theories of racialized democracy and political theoretical analyses of gun-rights debates with insights from interdisciplinary scholarship on guns to generate a political theoretical account of the relationship between guns and white democracy. To do so, we analyze two open-carry spectacles: recurring Second Amendment protests featuring the prominent display of open-carried weapons, and open-carrying protestors in Michigan demonstrating against stay-at-home orders in response to COVID-19 in 2020. Our analysis of these two cases illuminates our central arguments about guns and white democracy. We argue that guns operate to politically align white bodies amid the ongoing constitution of political whiteness: open-carried firearms work to reinforce and reproduce white democracy. We further claim that the force of open-carried guns in sustaining white democracy works through two linked dynamics: first, guns extend, generate, and secure the wages of whiteness; second, they protect and assert white dominion. Taken together, these dynamics explain how guns uphold white democracy, but also illuminate, we argue, the contingency of that political power. It is that contingency which suggests that the open-carried firearm might also help contest it in turn, a point illustrated by turning to scholarship on the relation of firearms to the civil rights movement. © 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.

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Contemporary Political Theory

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