The Real Origin of "Gun Control" in America

The real origin of "gun control" in America. Hint: The laws weren't designed to prevent shootings.

Dr. Steven J. Allen

WASHINGTON, DC – Democrats’ strategy for gun control:

1) Take firearms away from law-abiding citizens, leaving guns in the hands of criminals and the police.

2) Defund the police.

In the aftermath of the murders in Uvalde, Texas, Democrats did what they do in such cases. They ignored practical ideas for keeping people safe. They pushed policies that would have no positive effect but that would endanger people’s right to protect themselves. They labelled their package of meaningless gestures “common sense gun safety measures” and “gun reform,” terms that have been rated favorably in focus groups conducted by experts on political messaging. (Heaven forbid that they consult experts on, say, guns.)

Gun laws favored by the Left, and in effect in Democrat-dominated states and big cities, make life easier for criminals and gangs. That was always an effect of “gun control” laws, going back to those laws’ origin as help for the Ku Klux Klan.

Yes, the Klan.

Before the Civil War, states with slavery had “Slave Codes” that kept guns away from enslaved people. Indeed, Chief Justice Roger Taney, in the infamous Dred Scott decision denying citizenship to African-Americans, pointed out that, if they were citizens, they would have the right “to keep and carry arms wherever they went.” After the war, the Slave Codes were reworked as “Black Codes” aimed at African-Americans.

A Congressional report later found that, under the Black Codes, blacks were “forbidden to own or bear firearms, and thus were rendered defenseless against assaults.” Albion Tourgée, the lawyer who attempted to overturn segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson, said that, in areas where the Klan took control, “almost universally the first thing done was to disarm the negroes and leave them defenseless.” Often, a Klan attack on African-Americans would be preceded by visits from the sheriff and his men, to confiscate guns.

As noted by David Kopel of the Cato Institute, “The Ku Klux Klan was America’s first gun control group.”

Ida B. Wells, the great journalist and civil-rights advocate, spoke in 1892 of lynching, terroristic violence used to oppress black people: “Of the many inhuman outrages of this present year, the only case where the proposed lynching did not occur, was where the men armed themselves in Jacksonville, Fla., and Paducah, Ky., and prevented it.

"The only times an Afro-American who was assaulted got away has been when he had a gun and used it in self-defense. The lesson this teaches and which every Afro-American should ponder well, is that a Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give.”

Efforts to strip African-Americans of their gun rights took many forms. South Carolina in 1870 banned the sale of handguns except “the Army and Navy model gun,” which many Confederate veterans possessed and which were too expensive for most blacks.

Other anti-Second Amendment provisions ranged from high taxes on gun sales intended to price blacks out of the gun market (Alabama 1893, Texas 1907), to South Carolina’s 1902 provision banning pistol sales except to sheriffs and their “special deputies,” often company gunmen and Klan types. In a concurring opinion in a 1941 case, a Florida justice declared that the state’s 1893 gun control law was “never intended to be applied to the white population and in practice has never been so applied . . . “

After the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., politicians pursued “gun control” that (as in the wake of Uvalde) had little or nothing to do with preventing recurrence of the events that had supposedly sparked the legislation.

Liberal journalist Robert Sherrill noted that “The Gun Control Act of 1968 was passed not to control guns but to control blacks. . . . Inasmuch as the legislation finally passed in 1968 had nothing to do with the guns used in the assassinations of King and Robert Kennedy, it seems reasonable to assume that the law was directed at that other threat of the 1960s, more omnipresent than the political assassin -- namely, the black rioter. . . . With the horrendous rioting of 1967 and 1968, Congress again was panicked toward passing some law that would shut off weapons access to blacks."

With the rise of a new crop of anti-freedom “Progressives,” the assault on the African-American community has taken a different form. The protests that the media called “mostly peaceful,” meaning partially violent, led to cuts in funding for police and to police pullbacks, that is, police officers declining to take aggressive actions that, while preventing crime, might have catastrophic consequences for them and their families.

In 2020, U.S. homicides increased by nearly 30 percent. Far Left district attorneys in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and other cities – many of them elected with the help of extremist billionaire George Soros – drastically dialed back prosecutions of people they see as members of oppressed groups. Robert Boyce, retired chief of detectives in New York City, remarked last January that “Nobody’s getting arrested anymore. People are getting picked up for gun possession and they’re just let out over and over again.”

Once the principle was established of politicians using “gun control” to suppress African-Americans, the concept spread. David Kopel noted that, early in the 20th Century, Jim Crow-related gun control “spread north . . . aimed primarily at immigrant (Italians and Jews in New York City) or labor agitators (California) or in response to blacks having defended themselves against race riots (Missouri and Michigan).”

Likewise, today, the Democratic Party, having trapped millions of law-abiding people in high-crime areas without the ability to defend themselves effectively, are turning their attention more broadly to new targets, the people they consider the real threat to the country and to democracy, those evil Republicans.

The more laws they can pass that will bring their adversaries to heel, that will set Americans against each other, the better.

“Gun control” laws, as the Left sees them, aren’t really about controlling guns.

They’re about controlling people.


Dr. Steven J. Allen (JD, PhD) is vice chair of conservatives’ national grassroots network, The Conservative Caucus. Contact us for permission to reprint.

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