Gun Control is Racism
I once heard that “gun control is people control.” This phrase had a profound affect on me. Growing up as an inner-city black kid, I had a unique perspective on gun control. I saw how guns were used by some evil men to do evil deeds. I also grew up seeing friends and family lose their lives to inner-city gun violence. More importantly, I saw how what guns meant to the law-abiding, vast majority of people who live in the inner-city. People who wanted to live their lives and take care care of their families, and needed to have the means to protect them.
As the gun control debate rages, I have examined the country’s most restrictive gun laws and realized, as many of Americans already know, that the most restrictive gun laws are found in large urban areas. These large urban areas just happen to have the largest percentages of people of color (a combination of Hispanic, Black, and Asian).
New York City 54%
Los Angeles 69%
The effort of state and local governments to deny large swaths of their communities the basic right of self defense was appalling. Upon further examination, I found it shocking how much effort was exhausted to deny the people that need to defend themselves the most, the means to do so. That’s when it hit me, gun control is the most overt yet subtle, form of racism, and a brief examination of American History supports this idea: Gun Control is Racism.
Racist arms laws predate the establishment of the United States. Starting in 1751, the French Black Code required Louisiana colonists to stop any blacks, and if necessary, beat “any black carrying any potential weapon, such as a cane.” If a black refused to stop on demand, and was on horseback, the colonist was authorized to “shoot to kill.” In the Spanish colonies of North America in the 1700 and 1800’s, black slaves in search of freedom from their bondage orchestrated several armed revolts. This resulted in laws passed which prohibited all blacks, free and slave, from carrying arms.
It is not surprising that an examination of the pre-civil war firearms laws specifically prohibited free blacks from carrying firearms. One example is the 1834 change to the Tennessee Constitution, where Article XI, 26 of the 1796 Tennessee Constitution was revised from: “That the freemen of this State have a right to keep and to bear arms for their common defence,” to: “That the free white men of this State have a right to keep and to bear arms f or their common defence.” Then, in 1840 we start to see such ideas written into statute. An 1840 North Carolina statute provided:
“That if any free negro, mulatto, or free person of color, shall wear or carry about his or her person, or keep in his or her house, any shot gun, musket, rifle, pistol, sword, dagger or bowie-knife, unless he or she shall have obtained a licence therefor from the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions of his or her county, within one year preceding the wearing, keeping or carrying therefor, he or she shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and may be indicted therefor.”
Such laws weren’t written to prohibit slaves from carrying firearms, they specifically referenced “free negro’s.” As we moved into the Reconstruction Era we see various states and localities passing “Black Codes” that restricted the freedom of newly freed black slaves. Specific “Black Codes” adopted after the Civil War required blacks to obtain a license before carrying or possessing firearms or Bowie knives. These restrictive gun laws played a part in the efforts of Republicans at the time to get the Fourteenth Amendment ratified, because it was difficult for night riders (the early incarnation of the KKK) to generate the correct level of terror in a victim who was returning fire. The Jim Crow era of the early 1900’s gave more reason for blacks to be armed, but also birthed more statutes preventing so. Such statutes paved the way for tragedies like the Rosewood Massacre in December of 1922. A massacre that resulted in the murders of unarmed black people and destruction of a black town at the hands of racists mobs and the KKK. Some eyewitness accounts suggested a death toll as high as 150.
As recently as 1941, Florida Supreme Court Justice Rivers H. Buford (1878-1959), ruling about the state’s gun-control laws (Watson v. Stone, 4 So. 2nd 703), stated, “The original Act of 1893 was passed when there was a great influx of Negro laborers into the state… The Act was passed for the purpose of disarming the Negro laborers… The statute was never intended to be applied to the white population, and in practice has never been so applied.”
Today is not 1870 nor is it the 1920’s, and when proponents of restrictive gun control insist that their motivations are color-blind, there is a chance (although small) that they are genuine in their concerns. But it is undeniable that gun control laws disproportionately restrict the freedom of people of color. Any statute, ordinance, or bill, that disproportionately restricts the freedom of people of color, is by definition, a racist law.
When one of my liberal friends asks me why I don’t support gun control or the buzz phrase “assault weapons ban,” my answer is simple; “I don’t support, nor do I wish to perpetuate, archaic and racist laws from the 1700’s.”
Gun Control is Racism.
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