In the evening of July 6, 2022, 19-year-old Ehmani Mack Davis caused a disturbance in a Detroit neighborhood that attracted police to his location. According to police, upon the arrival of officers at the scene, Davis broke out a window and fired shots at the officers, striking Officer Loren Courts. As Courts’ partner rendered aid, Davis casually walked out towards the officers holding his Draco AK pistol. Another officer fired shots at Davis, striking and killing him. According to police, Davis at that point likely intended to commit “suicide by cop.” Officer Courts later died.
This tragic event garnered a lot of media attention. A focus on the gun – and by extension the place of guns in our society – inevitably follows. Gun crime is conducted with many types of firearms but the gun used in this crime may be particularly illustrative of the situation in which we find ourselves.
What is a Draco? In the world of guns, a Draco AK pistol is a rather clunky, short version of an AK-style rifle. The series of guns have become popular upon glorification in hip-hop culture, especially since being embraced by superstar rapper Soulja Boy around 2016.
“Draco” means “dragon” in Latin. Like the mythological creatures, we ought to remember they can represent either good or evil depending on how they are framed and who is doing the framing. Western cultures generally depict dragons as representations of evil – creatures to fear and guard against. Eastern cultures traditionally depict dragons as positive entities symbolizing ideals such as prosperity, peace, and power.
The same is true of the gun. To some they represent instruments that secure fundamental rights from infringement in a world of inherent of danger. To others they represent a danger in themselves and an unnecessary threat to the peace of society. What matters most is the Will of the person that wields the instrument; in the hands of the righteous they are bringers of justice and protectors of virtue, whereas in the hands of the depraved and disturbed they can intensify evil intent and multiply death and destruction.
If we accept that it is the Will of the person holding the gun that is the operative factor in making such a determination, we ought to focus on identifying and supporting the elements in society that bolster Good Will while at the same time critiquing and limiting the elements responsible for proliferating Bad Will. In the debate over guns there is a lot of noise, but this is what is really important to figure out if we truly want to limit violence.
Hip-hop’s influence on the proliferation of the Draco in America seems undeniable. But we should be careful not to blame hip-hop itself for any rise in violence done with a Draco, as they are not inherently any more dangerous than the multitude of other firearms available in America’s extensive firearms market; a market that appeals to people far removed from hip-hop culture.
Why does a Draco appeal to those in the hip-hop culture? Pitchfork has an excellent article on the subject in which they quote popular Atlanta rapper Killer Mike on the gun. From the article:
“The corresponding proliferation of Dracos in rap lyrics and videos is both cosmetic and pragmatic. They’re formidable high-round weapons that carry lower penalties in some states. “The Draco is a short-stock AK,” says Killer Mike, a long-time gun enthusiast who mentions that his dad owns two. “Dracos are effective in the United States ’cause in places like where I live at, they’re classified as pistols. So it gives you an opportunity to have what’s considered a handgun and not a rifle in your car with the most maximum capacity of ammunition because you’re essentially running banana clips in those things.” Mike, who doesn’t own one himself, still sees the benefits to having one. “I understand why, on a day-to-day basis, people are using it,” he says. “There’s a video of a guy about to be robbed and he gets out of his car with that and the robbers just fuck off.” Wielding a weapon in a rap video is an act of aggression, a threat of what awaits anyone who dares to test the rapper’s resolve, and Draco’s, in name and artillery, symbolize that power.”
One of the takeaways from this assessment is that the Draco has a desirable intimidation factor for those that love them. Just like an author that may use the image of a mythological dragon as allegory in a story, such an intimidation factor could be used offensively in a villainous manner to threaten others, or defensively to successfully respond to and avoid a threat. So any serious critique of their use in hip-hop culture would need to shift towards that which may cause someone to want to willfully be threatening to others. Just admiring a Draco or using them defensively are not problematic. This moves the discussion away from a narrow focus on hip-hop or trivial physical features on guns that may be deemed “scary” by some, and towards the more broad socio-economic forces that negatively impact real people making up the various sub-cultures of society.
Ehmani Davis had a Draco, but we cannot assume he was influenced to obtain it because of hip-hop culture or any other specific factor, nor does it matter so much. What we know about him so far is that he had prior legal troubles and a warrant was recently sought for another act of violence just before his tragic end. How many problematic socio-economic factors did he share with other perpetrators of such violence? How many warning signs and cries for help were missed or ignored? There is a definite trend that correlates with such events. While individuals are ultimately responsible for their actions, it is also true that all of us in society as a collective, in our various capacities, sometimes fail to uphold the duty we have to others. This is what we must focus on rather than blaming guns such as the Draco, which are merely dragons awaiting masters to define and script their fate.