Gun Control Laws Arose Out Of Racism in the 19th Century — It Continues Today

From Anthony Gregory at the Independent Institute, Who Goes To Prison Due To Gun Control?

Somehow, left-liberals have associated the cause of gun rights with white racism, when if anything it is gun control that has a racist legacy. In the United States, early gun laws targeted recently freed blacks, and open carry first became banned in California under Governor Ronald Reagan to disarm groups like the Black Panthers. Today, blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately subjected to humiliating stop-and-frisk searches in the name of gun control.

Perhaps the most telling data concerns the racial makeup of who goes to prison for gun violations. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, for Fiscal Year 2011, 49.6% of those sentenced to federal incarceration with a primary offense of firearms violations were black, 20.6% were Hispanic, and only 27.5% were white.

This is how gun laws actually work—those caught violating them go to prison. For the mere act of owning an illegal weapon—not necessarily for using it, not for threatening anyone with it, not for being irresponsible with it—people who have harmed no one are locked up in prison for years at a time. As with the rest of the criminal justice system, particularly the war on drugs, these laws disproportionately harm the poor and minorities. That is the inescapable reality of gun control.

It makes sense that blacks and others living in the inner city would rely more on private, illegal guns for self-defense. The police are unreliable at best in many of these communities. It also makes sense that minorities would be disproportionately hurt by these laws, because so many of the dynamics in play are the same as with the drug war—people are being punished for what they own, rather than what they have done to others; it is easier for police to go after those in poor neighborhoods than to search middle-class folks in nice neighborhoods; jurors approved by prosecutors tend to believe police testimony over the word of minority defendants; prosecutors tend to use discretion in possession crime cases that fall more painfully on the disenfranchised; public defenders offer inadequate services for those loads of court-appointed clients, and so forth.

There are a hundred reasons why I oppose gun control. But here is one that lefties, if they are to be consistent at all, need to take to heart: More gun laws mean more peaceful people, disproportionately young black and brown men, who have committed no violence against anyone, being locked up in cells. That might make you feel safer. But it makes me feel like I live in a mockery of a free, humane society.

After the Civil War ended slavery the newly freed blacks were made to suffer under Jim Crow laws which were in reality the South’s attempt to reinstate slavery in a different form. The Freedmen needed guns to protect themselves from the newly arisen Ku Klux Klan and other whites who would abuse them. Gun control laws were passed throughout the South that had as their only purpose the disarming of blacks. These laws were never meant to be enforced against whites and they seldom were.

When questions were raised the laws were changed to make only guns made for the Army legal for citizens to own. The strategy was that poor blacks couldn’t afford them because they were more expensive. That backfired when every gun maker began labeling every gun they made “Army-Navy.” Compare this to the modern attempts to outlaw cheap guns liberal politicians have named “Saturday Night Specials.” This is another law the mainly affects poor inner city black people who can’t afford a Kimber 1911 but can buy one of these low-cost revolvers to protect themselves in their home.

Clayton Cramer has also written extensively on The Racist Roots of Gun Control

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