2 Geo. Mason U. C.R. L.J. 67 (1991-1992)
Gun Control and Racism

handle is hein.journals/gmcvr2 and id is 73 raw text is: GUN CONTROL AND RACISM

Stefan B. Tahmassebi*
That all such free Mulattoes, Negroes and Indians . . . shall ap-
pear without arms1
INTRODUCTION
The history of gun control in America possesses an ugly com-
ponent: discrimination and oppression of blacks, other racial and eth-
nic minorities, immigrants, and other unwanted elements, including
union organizers and agrarian reformers. Firearms laws were often
enacted to disarm and facilitate repressive action against these groups.
The first gun control laws were enacted in the antebellum South
forbidding blacks, whether free or slave, to possess arms, in order to
maintain blacks in their servile status. After the Civil War, the South
continued to pass restrictive firearms laws in order to deprive the newly
freed blacks from exercising their rights of citizenship. During the later
part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century, gun
control laws were passed in the South in order to disarm agrarian re-
formers and in the North to disarm union organizers. In the North,
a strong xenophobic reaction to recent waves of immigrants added
further fuel for gun control laws which were used to disarm such per-
sons. Other firearms ownership restrictions were adopted in order to
repress the incipient black civil rights movement.
Another old American prejudice supported such gun control ef-
forts, then as it does now: the idea that poor people, and especially
the black poor, are not to be trusted with firearms. Even now, in many
jurisdictions in which police departments have wide discretion in is-
suing firearm permits, the effect is that permits are rarely issued to
poor or minority citizens.
* Assistant General Counsel, Office of the General Counsel of the National Rifle
Association of America. J.D., Georgetown University, 1987; B.A., University of Virginia,
1983. The author would like to thank Gina Abdo for her efforts in helping to prepare this
article.
1 7 THE STATUTES AT LARGE; BEING A COLLECTION OF ALL THE LAWS OF VIRGINIA, FROM
THE FIRST SESSION OF THE LEGISLATURE, IN THE YEAR 1619, at 95 (W.W. Henning ed. 1823).

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