By: José Niño
Race politics are at an all-time high these days. Many on the left love invoking the “race-card” as a silver bullet to discredit their opponents’ arguments. A cheap cop-out based on raw emotion and a dearth of facts, race-baiting is used to justify destructive government interventions ranging from affirmative action to subsidized housing.
Race-baiting, does, however, have its limits. When presented with a statist policy that actually hurts minorities, the race hustlers go silent.
It’s been no different with gun control.
The race-baiters were silent following a bloody Memorial Day Weekend in Chicago, where gun violence claimed the lives of at least eight people. If they do express any concern, it will center around how the failing Chicago municipal government should have even more power to combat crime, completely ignoring the real problem: Illinois’ draconian gun control policies.
These policies hit cities like Chicago hard, and minority groups, particularly the black community, bear the brunt of these policies’ deleterious effects. Major, progressive cities embrace an array of socialist policies— government schooling, minimum wage laws, subsidized housing, etc. —that foment social decay and anti-social behavior.
Add gun control to the mix, and you have the ideal environment for criminals to prey upon defenseless minorities. It’s a cycle we’ve seen repeat itself throughout American history. Gun control has an extensive track record as a mechanism of oppressing minorities, and many of the “champions” of minority rights are in denial about the damage gun control has done to minorities over the centuries.
Here’s a refresher on why so-called “progressives” are on the wrong side of history when it comes to gun control:
The Genesis of American Gun Control
The American story is filled with numerous instances of gun control legislation serving as a mechanism by which to control minorities.
Before the United States were officially founded, colonial authorities implemented gun control as a means to quell potential unrest from minority groups, including African and Native Americans.
Virginia, in 1639, became one of the first colonies to place a statute on the books specifically banning blacks from owning firearms. During this time period, other states passed laws prohibiting the sale of firearms to certain Native American tribes.
Following the American Revolution, newly independent states had to cope with the reality of large slave populations. The Haitian Revolution, during which a large number of slaves revolted against their French overlords, served as a stark reminder to American slaveholders of the potential for insurrection. As a result, many Southern states crafted gun control laws specifically targeting slaves and freed men. Nat Turner’s slave rebellion of 1831 only reinforced slaveholders’ fears. Subsequently, states like Virginia went as far as to prohibit freemen from carrying and possessing firearms, fearing that they would team-up with slaves to revolt against plantation owners.
Post-Civil War Gun Control
Though the end of the American Civil War established the restoration of basic civil liberties for African Americans, at least in a nominal sense, Southern states sought quickly to sabotage this progress by crafting the Black Codes, laws designed to undermine blacks’ freedoms. These laws and other forms of government-sponsored discrimination made blacks living in the Jim Crow era vulnerable to lynch mobs and other race-related acts of violence and inhibited their Second Amendment rights.
But gun control was not used to target blacks exclusively.
The internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II was one of the most egregious violations of civil liberties in American history. But historical accounts of Japanese interment often omit one crucial detail: gun confiscation’s role in subduing this segment of the population.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 to create military zones. These zones paved the way for incarcerating Japanese-Americans and other groups suspected of undermining the war effort. Under 9066, Japanese-Americans saw many of their liberties gradually restricted. Eventually, their guns were confiscated to ensure peaceful compliance before they were sent off to internment camps.
Modern-Day Gun Control Still Hurts Minorities
While gun control policies are no longer overtly racist, their very existence still hurts disadvantaged minorities the most.
Any kind of licensing scheme on gun ownership represents a costly barrier to entry. Minorities of humble means are effectively priced out of their right to self-defense. Researcher John Lott explained last year in an article for The Hill how expensive licenses and fees for carrying weapons burden minorities and other vulnerable groups.
No matter how much progressives claim to defend minorities, supporting gun control does them a massive disservice. The fear and danger many inner-city dwellers in places like Baltimore and Chicago must contend with on a daily basis is only aggravated by the cities’ gun control policies.
A Modest Proposal: Create Second Amendment Zones
In today’s environment of hyper-partisan shock politics, sensible policymaking is put on the back-burner.
This is unacceptable when looking at what minorities must endure in many cities nationwide.
Meanwhile, urban centers under progressive control find themselves in dire straits, enduring daily bloodshed and loss of life. President Trump has acknowledged that Chicago’s out-of-control crime rates, but his proposal to send the National Guard is misguided. Bringing in the federal government would only generate even more unintended consequences.
A better, modest proposal for crime-ridden cities is to turn them into Second Amendment Zones.
Second Amendment Zones allow municipal units to lead the way from the bottom-up when state governments can’t get their act together. They transform cities like Chicago into places where all law-abiding citizens can freely carry firearms without jumping over onerous, bureaucratic hurdles.
While police play an important role in combatting crime, they generally show up to the crime scene after the fact. Moreover, certain police departments, especially in Chicago, are notorious for their questionable policing practices, yet institutional inertia keeps bureaucratic entities like police departments from undertaking reform.
Minorities should not have to rely on the capricious nature of partisan politics or incompetent bureaucrats to secure their neighborhoods. Restoring the Second Amendment is a proactive first step in creating safe communities, and it needs to happen before more lives are lost.
José Niño is a Venezuelan-American political activist based in Fort Collins, Colorado.