America’s Two Kinds of Justice

Jennifer A. Serafyn is a graduate student at the Harvard Kennedy School and a Zuckerman Fellow at the Center for Public Leadership. We live in a country where the right to buy a gun is more sacrosanct than the right of a black person to not be shot and killed by someone with a gun. On Feb. 23, Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man was out jogging in a Georgia neighborhood when he was chased down, shot, and killed by Gregory and Travis McMichael, a white father and his son. Despite having a video of the killing and knowing the identities of the two suspects, it took Georgia authorities more than two months to arrest the McMichaels, which finally occurred on May 7. Also in the past month, a group of gun shop owners, would-be gun owners, and gun rights advocates filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts federal District Court challenging an order signed by Governor Charles D. Baker ’79 that mandated non-essential businesses, including gun shops, remain closed during the pandemic. On May 7, less than one month later — and the same day the McMichaels were finally arrested — United States District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock issued an order allowing gun shops to reopen because, even in an emergency, “we don’t surrender our constitutional rights.” Judge Woodlock found that the plaintiffs’ Second Amendment right to bear arms “deserve[s] respect and vindication.” It took a federal judge in Massachusetts less time to uphold the right to buy a gun […]

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