This one originally ran on America’s 1st Freedom on March 11, 2015 and is currently being rerun on America’s 1st Freedom: https://www.americas1stfreedom.org/articles/2015/3/11/jim-crow-and-the-racist-roots-of-gun-control/
by Dave Kopel
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Jim Crow is alive and well. School children today are taught that “Jim Crow” was the name for a legal system of racial oppression, which began after Reconstruction, particularly in the South, and reached its nadir in the early 20th century. Children are also taught that Jim Crow was banished by legal reforms such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education.
Yet in one important part of American life, Jim Crow continues to thrive—the legal foundation of restrictive and oppressive gun control that was built by Jim Crow. The Jim Crow cases continue to hobble the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
Shockingly, the Jim Crow laws and legacy are lauded by some persons who consider themselves liberal and tolerant. In the 2010 Supreme Court case McDonald v. Chicago, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a dissent that asserted that District of Columbia v. Heller should be overturned, and that state and local governments should be allowed to ban guns. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined the dissent. That dissent included a litany of restrictive American gun control statutes and court cases, many of them the products of Jim Crow. Previous issues of America’s 1st Freedom have told the story of how the defeated Confederate states enacted the Black Codes, which explicitly restricted gun possession and carrying by the freedmen. Sometimes these laws facilitated the activities of the terrorist organization Ku Klux Klan, America’s first gun control organization. The top item on the Klan’s agenda was confiscating arms from the freedmen, the better to terrorize them afterward.
Outraged, the Reconstruction Congress responded with the Freedmen’s Bureau Bill, the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the 14th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1870—every one of them aimed at racial subordination in general and racist gun control laws in particular.
President Ulysses S. Grant (1869-77), who would later serve as president of the National Rifle Association, vigorously prosecuted Klansmen, and even declared martial law when necessary to suppress KKK violence.
Reconstruction formally ended in 1877 with the inauguration of President Rutherford B. Hayes and the withdrawal of federal troops from the South. Even before that, white supremacist “redeemer” governments had taken over one Southern state after another.
Because the new 14th Amendment forbade any state to deny “the equal protection of the laws,” gun control statutes aimed at blacks could no longer be written in overtly racial terms. Instead, the South created racially neutral laws designed to disarm freedmen. Some laws prohibited inexpensive firearms while protecting more expensive military guns owned by former Confederate soldiers. Meanwhile, other laws imposed licensing systems or carry restrictions. As a Florida Supreme Court justice later acknowledged, these laws were “never intended to be applied to the white population” (Watson v. Stone, 1941).