(Manassas, VA, July 31, 2007) There is no question that many early gun control laws were specifically aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of African Americans and other unpopular minorities. In the early 1900’s there was a movement led by the KKK to enact discretionary permitting systems whereby an individual must obtain a permit from local law enforcement to purchase or possess a firearm. While current media may revise this history to suggest that the system was intended to “keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally deficient”, there was little effort made at the time these laws were passed to conceal the fact that they were intended to protect the “dominant race” from “the sons of Ham.” New York’s infamous “Sullivan Law” (aimed more at Catholics, Jews, Italians, and other immigrants), and North Carolina’s strict purchase permit system are the only two examples I know of where these laws have survived with only minor changes since their enactment in 1911 and 1917 respectively.
In these laws and more modern iterations of the same, the message comes across loud and clear: Black people can not be trusted with firearms. If you allow Blacks to have guns, they’ll just shoot each other or commit crimes with them. In the early days of the 20th century this was a message of hate and mistrust from the likes of the KKK. Today this same message comes from “liberals” motivated by compassion and mistrust. Whether fueled by hate or love, the message is the same; Blacks are inferior and should be treated differently from Whites.
The Washington, DC Mayor and City Council are prime examples of this insidious brand of racism which positions the government as benevolent caretakers of these poor, less-able people. The DC protectorate’s ongoing quest to keep the predominantly law-abiding, predominantly African-American citizens of their city unarmed – “for their own good” – allows a small minority of thugs to prey on those citizens and each other, keeping the city at the top of the violent crime hit parade.
Along with the Klan’s hate-based racism and DC’s compassion-based racism, another factor in racist beliefs and laws is raw fear.
The Illinois Firearm Owners Identification card (FOID) is a direct result of fear-based racism. The FOID system was instituted as a response to the Chicago race riots of the late 1960’s and the militant activities of the Black Panthers. The Panthers made it clear that they understood their rights to arms and were intent on exercising those rights to the fullest. The people of Illinois, having witnessed the devastation of rampaging “unarmed” mobs were terrified by the thought of hundreds or thousands of angry Black men repeating these scenes, but this time with guns in hand.
In response to these racist fears, the Illinois Legislature, with the assistance of frightened gun groups, quickly passed a law requiring anyone who wanted to own a gun in the state to request permission from the chief law enforcement officer (CLEO) in their area. If the requestor had a criminal record, a bad reputation, or was an urban, blue-collar, Black man, the request was denied. Eventually, virtually all requests were summarily denied.
Gunowners’ participation in these racist scheme has come back to haunt them as law enforcement has tended toward broader enforcement of these laws, catching whites in tangled nets intended for Blacks.
[Editor's note: See Color Commentary: A Clarification for a correction of the foregoing factual errors and a clarification. The Illinois gun groups were not necessarily racist themselves, and some were quite aware that racial fears were being used as a tool by the anti-gun forces. We had taken this article down for a time but brought it back with pointers to the clarification because we continue to stand by the main thrust of the column.]
In Norfolk, Virginia the local government and police are being sued by a gunowner who was arrested for legally, openly carrying a .45 at a downtown festival last June. State law has made it clear for some 20years that no subsidiary government entity may enact or enforce any laws regarding firearms and ammunition. Norfolk ignored this prohibition and in May passed an ordinance forbidding the carry of weapons – including firearms – in a festival area. The city now claims the weapons language in the ordinance was a simple mistake, a bureaucratic oversight, but it is obvious that the police were informed about the weapons provision and were prepared to aggressively enforce it. Their victim was a man innocently enjoying a musical performance along with his wife, three kids and two neighbor kids.
Something that has been completely overlooked by the media in this case is the significance of the fact that this weapons ordinance was first implemented specifically for an event called “Afr’Am Fest” which was held in the same park in May. As might be guessed from the title, Afr’Am Fest is an African American Festival. It would appear that the illegal weapons language was created specifically for the Afr’Am Fest and was then reused for the following event. The key question is whether the illegal law was intentionally aimed at the attendees of the Afr’Am Fest because of their race. That would definitely appear to be the case.
It’s high time these racist gun laws were recognized for exactly what they are and repealed.
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