The Trap of “Those Other People”

Watch out for “Those Other People!”

By Jeff Knox

Gun control is all about fear of “those other people.”  Responsible, law-abiding voters who know gun owners and even some gun owners themselves have allowed the dismantling of liberty all based on fear of what “those other people” might do.  The conversation typically begins with a statement of support for gun rights and gun owners, followed with the inevitable “but.”  “But,” the speaker opines, “some ‘reasonable’ restrictions are needed because, while you and I are responsible, law-abiding citizens, there are ‘those others’ who need closer scrutiny and control.”

Throughout history fear of “those other people” has led free people to forge their own chains.  It’s a twist on the old parable of the frogs in the slowly warming pot of water, not noticing that they are being cooked until it’s too late.  But it turns out that the frogs in the pot are themselves adding fuel to the fire in the name of defense against “those other people.”

At various time in America’s historic drift toward gun control “those other people” have been Blacks, Irish, Italians, Eastern Europeans, Jews, Communists, racists, anarchists, Hispanics, illegal aliens, Muslims, radical Christians, military veterans, union organizers, gun nuts… Virtually any group imaginable has been pointed to as the threat that justifies the latest scheme to limit liberty. 

The early days of our Republic saw unrest leading to the Alien and Sedition Acts, but it was Black Freemen in the years leading up to and after the Civil War that became the original excuse for gun control laws.  In the infamous Dred Scott decision, Justice Taney, writing for the Court majority, declared that Scott, who was trying to sue for his freedom, did not have standing to file the suit because he was not a US Citizen.  Taney went on to explain that Blacks could not be citizens because citizenship would give them rights to travel, hold political meetings, and “to keep and carry arms wherever they went.”  And that would obviously be a terrible thing because there’s just no telling what “those people” might do with so much liberty.

The 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution changed the game by declaring that Blacks were indeed citizens entitled to all of the privileges and immunities of citizenship.  The route chosen around that obstacle was to enact general gun laws with a nod and a wink to upstanding White citizens.  The Supreme Court did its part with decisions like the Slaughterhouse cases and Cruickshank which gutted the 14th amendment and stripped rights enumerated in the Constitution from all citizens and opening the door to Jim Crow.  Gun control laws were among the first Jim Crow laws and remain as one of the last vestiges of that racist system. 

Meanwhile in the North, “those other people” were “anarchists” recent immigrants who were considered low class and often criminal.  The KKK, a major political force within the Democrat Party, widely promoted gun control as one of their leading and most successful initiatives.  Many states, both North and South, adopted the KKK’s Permit to Purchase scheme.  Permits were, and in some places still are, routinely denied to all but middle and upper class White folks.  Similar prejudice is often seen in issuance of concealed carry permits and enforcement of gun laws in general.  This was exemplified during the debate over Arizona’s concealed carry law when a high-ranking law enforcement official asked a pro-rights lobbyist what he was worried about.  “After all, you’re white and wear a tie.”  In other words, our lobbyist wasn’t one of “those other people.”

The issue of “those other people” shows no sign of going away.  The hottest “gun control” idea today is closing the “gun show loophole” by inserting government bureaucracy into private gun trades.  Subjecting millions to undue scrutiny for fear of a very few of “those other people.”

Another popular scheme is the idea of banning sales of guns to people on the “No Fly” and “Terrorist Watch” lists.  That sounds so reasonable until you consider that the process of who, how, and why names are added to the No-Fly and Terrorist Watch lists of “those other people” is a government secret.  It’s also well to keep in mind that conservatives, libertarians constitutionalists, proponents of smaller government, opponents of abortion, patriots, flag wavers, and all those millions of responsible, law-abiding, heavily armed “gun nuts” with their military looking guns and high-powered “sniper” (previously known as “hunting”) rifles are, to the politicians and bureaucrats who control the lists, “those other people.”

To paraphrase that great philosopher Pogo: “We have met those other people and they is us!”

Permission to reprint or post this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes is hereby granted provided this credit is included.  Text is available at www.FirearmsCoalition.org.  To receive The Firearms Coalition’s bi-monthly newsletter, The Hard Corps Report, write to PO Box 3313, Manassas, VA  20108. 

©Copyright 2008 Neal Knox Associates