Ever wondered why a handgun, a rifle, or a shotgun in the hands of a white man is okay but in the hands of a black man, it means doom? Or why gun laws and law enforcement agencies are stricter to black gun owners than white gun owners? That my friend is racist gun control at its peak. Racist gun control in the U.S. isn’t new. It has been going on for decades. Virtually every gun law ever established is somehow construed to ensure the black man has no access to firearms and the ones that allow the black man to own a firearm would have some clause, statement, or section that limits the level to which the black man can make use of his firearm. Even those laws that allow a black man to own and use a firearm like the second amendment are still subject to racist interpretations by the people in power.
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This part of the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution has made it possible for all willing citizens to own firearms right? Wrong! Like other parts of the constitution that deal with citizens’ rights and freedom, the second amendment is largely limited to the white majority. This is why you are more likely to find guns in the hands of a white man than a black man in the U.S. Today’s gun control law is a modernized version of the same restrictions and policies that were used to restrict the black populace in America from owning firearms in the 1600s.
Don’t believe me? Let’s take a trip down memory lane.
The 1609 Second Virginia Charter
I know this is a long trip but just stick with me. Before the independence of America in 1776, the first and largest colony in America under British rule was called Virginia. Let’s leave all that boring talk. The 1606 first Virginia charter and the 1609 Second Virginia Charter both emphasized the provision that “the colonists and their descendants shall have and enjoy all liberties, franchises, and immunities… as if they had been born within this realm of England…” Subsequent charters also reiterated this provision. The question is “what about the blacks that were being mobilized into this part of the world? What rights and liberties would they enjoy?” The first law that included African-Americans was the Maryland act of 1664 that prevented “Negroes” from many privileges including gun rights and interracial marriages.
It did not end there. Subsequent laws in the 1700s and 1800s also restricted blacks from owning or carrying firearms. The 1831 Virginia legislature and the 1834 Tennessee article banned “Negroes” from carrying any sort of firearm. Some of these legislation’s even specified punishments to any “Negro” found guilty of such act.
The Black Codes
After the American civil war, Southern states passed revised laws of the preexisting “slave codes” in 1865. The new codes were known as the “Black Codes.” The codes were directly aimed at controlling the activities of freed African-Americans. The goal of these laws was to prevent any sort of rebellion by the blacks. In simpler terms, the white supremacists wanted to keep the freed blacks as docile as possible. The “black codes” prevented the black populace from learning to read and write, prevented them from voting, from gathering in groups for worship, and particularly prevented them from owning rifles and other firearms. Let’s be clear, the blacks were led to believe slavery had ended a few years back. Months after, the actions of the so-called “freed blacks” were being monitored and limited in various ways to restrict black freedom. Isn’t that slavery?
Before these codes, laws existed which prevented blacks from owning firearms. In 1831, Maryland passed laws that prohibited blacks from owning guns, and in 1833, Georgia followed suit.
The Jim Crow legal system
If you live in the US, then there is a good chance you would remember the famous story of Jim crow and how it was banished by legal reforms in the early 20th century. If you don’t, here is a quick recap for you. “Jim Crow” was the name given to some local and state laws established by white supremacists which reinforced racial discrimination in Southern United States in the late 19th century and early 20th century. The law was enforced until 1965 when it was abolished, so we are made to believe.
These laws enforced the principle of “separate but equal.” Such load of crap. During the years of its existence, the law segregated the whites from the blacks on every type of human right, from civil rights to political rights. The African-Americans had to use poorer modes of transportation, were only qualified for poor educational standards, and they were denied the full right to bear arms amongst others. The blacks were forced to adapt to poorer standards of living. The “Jim Crow” laws made it almost impossible for African-Americans to own and bear arms. A civil right that was deemed fundamental by the Second Amendment.
Feeding off the Jim Crow laws, the Georgia legislature in 1910 mandated a licensing requirement for the open carry of handguns. There shouldn’t be much big deal with that right? Wrong. The 1910 legislation was different from what is in existence now. Today, if you want a permit, you basically have to qualify for one by passing the requirements such as the fingerprint scan and background check. All done to a large degree, objectively. Then (in 1910), it was very different. The Georgia legislation granted full power to the licensing authorities (mostly whites) which made it possible for top citizens like political cronies to get licenses and others could not. “Others” here largely referred to African-Americans.
In the early 1900s, Texas legislature imposed a 50% gross receipts tax on the sale of handguns. A law that was immediately upheld by an intermediate court of appeals in 1912. The court ruled that handguns are socially harmful and therefore can be taxed severely. A classic case of overpricing the cost of firearms.
Other states in the U.S. upheld many of the Jim Crow statutes including Tennessee and New York. The legislation in these states were based on bias motives and racial injustices of the “Jim Crow” laws. There were many cases during this period where Judges and Courts ignored the constitution and instead upheld white supremacy and racism.
The Mulford Act
The “Mulford Act” was a bill signed into law in 1967 by Ronald Regan. The bill was passed with the singular aim of disarming a group of black armed men known as the “Black Panthers.” As a result of the incessant rate of police brutality and black victimization that was prevalent in the black communities by white police officers, this group decided to saddle themselves with the responsibility of conducting patrols in the Oakland neighborhoods. This was an attempt to curb the rate of racism in their communities. After all, they had the right to own and bear arms according to the second amendment. But as you have probably guessed, this group was perceived as being hostile and dangerous. Why? Because they weren’t white.
The group advocated for the right of blacks to have equal gun rights so they could protect themselves. In a public display of nationalism and bravery, this group marched to the state Capitol in 1967 while the assembly was in session. They were disarmed by policemen present at the scene. The men defended themselves by saying that “the law stated they had the right to carry weapons as long as it wasn’t concealed.” The group through this act showcased the racist gun control laws in California and they advocated that the blacks too should be allowed to exercise their rights to carry firearms freely without subjugation. This should at least change something right? Wrong again. These demonstrators were later taken to the city jail and had their firearms seized. A few months later, Ronald Regan passed a bill into law that prohibited firearms from being carried openly in public places. You would be surprised to know that this act was supported by the NRA.
The 1968 Gun control Act
A year after the “Black Panther” demonstration in California, the Gun control act of 1968 was set up. This law banned “Saturday night specials” which were small cheaply made handguns majorly used in black communities. How do you expect the black minorities living in poor neighborhoods to exercise their rights to gun ownership if you take the cheaper versions out? The members of the “Black Panther” often transported their firearms through mail orders. Not surprisingly, the 1968 GCA also prohibited the act of mailing guns. Again, the GCA was supported by the NRA.
Current day Gun Control
Fast-forward a few years on and gun control laws are still set-up against a backdrop of racist gun control. Several states like Maryland require licensing in order to purchase. Many times, the licensing process costs over $200, resulting in people buying a civil right and making “more affordable guns” $200 more. So a $200 gun can cost up to $400 at the end of the day. Another classic one is the “stop and frisk” policy which is prevalent in many states in the U.S. The initiative was said to control the spread and use of unlicensed guns. However, a large percentage of the people searched either by the road side or in their homes are African-Americans. In New York, the policy is stated in section 140.50 of the state’s criminal procedure law and about ninety percent of the people stopped by the NYPD police officers are blacks who are obviously the targets of such laws.
The truth is these gun control laws aren’t set up to curb gun violence and gun-related crimes as we are led to believe. You will know this because, despite the existence of these laws, gun violence hasn’t reduced drastically. These laws were set in place to stop a particular group of individuals from gaining access to firearms. The laws are there to maintain the white monopoly on power.
Many individuals will argue that these laws are necessary to prevent gun violence but the question is: is it the availability of firearms that cause gun-related crimes or the discrimination of a group of people which causes them to pick up these guns and use them? We have brought you the evidence, make your decision.
For more complete history of the Racist origin of Gun Control, check out this document.