Tweet Highlights a Racial Double Standard in America's Gun Debate

July 6th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

The fatal shooting of 37-year-old Alton Sterling by a Louisiana police officer on Tuesday sparked a debate about the different ways that gun rights advocates respond to mass shootings and police violence, particularly when a Black victim is involved.

Some feel that the contrast reveals a racial double standard.

This post from Twitter user Jenni calls attention to the issue. It has almost 9,000 retweets at the time of writing.

Context is important here.

Police responded to an anonymous call that Sterling was threatening people outside of a convenience store with a gun, but video of the encounter doesn't show him threatening the officers. Sterling also reportedly had a weapon, which police retrieved from his pocket after he was shot to death. However, it was unclear whether he legally had a concealed weapon, The Associated Press reports.

Yet those who feel the police acted in the right seem to point to Sterling's possession of a firearm as the reason he was fatally shot. (That was how the officers involved in the shooting justified their response, at least.) In some cases, the Twitter user suggests, those critical of Sterling are the same people who endorse concealed carry policy in the wake of mass shootings such as the Orlando massacre.

Here's another Twitter user's take on the double standard.

And here's one of the many responses the post elicited.


The tweet generated a conversation about racial double standards in gun rights circles, but it's important to note that the parallel is imperfect. Because we don't know whether Sterling had a concealed carry permit, there's a lingering legal question. If the gun was not registered or if Sterling did not have a concealed carry permit, the response from gun advocates is at least consistent with their views on illegal gun ownership.

A 2015 Gallup poll found that a majority (56 percent) of Americans believe that expanding concealed carry policies would lead to increased safety. Even more Americans (86 percent) support expanded universal background checks. So there are details that we don't know that could throw the Twitter user's comparison off, but the sentiment is evidently shared by many.

RELATED: Alton Sterling's Family Gives a Heartbreaking Response to His Death