McIntyre, Richard [faculty advisor, Department of Economics]
gun control; discrimination; regulations
Gun control is an issue that has been ingrained in the societal conscious as a measure to reduce gun violence. Many people, however, are unaware of the discriminatory history on which this legislation is based. The earliest instances of gun control in America can be traced to laws instituted by Southern colonies which explicitly banned African Americans from owning firearms. White slave owners feared an armed uprising and sought to keep weapons away from blacks. This trend continued even after the Civil War. Less explicitly racist laws were enacted, but the goal remained the disarmament of African Americans.
The North is often considered to have the most stringent gun regulations, but almost no laws regarding firearms existed there until the end of the 18th century. Gun control only began to gain popularity due to the increasing number of immigrants, especially Eastern and Southern Europeans, who were associated with gun crimes. Crime reduction became the stated goal of gun control, despite its discriminatory intentions. For example, New York City instituted a licensing requirement that seemed like a reasonable measure to lower gun crime. One of the primary motives behind this act was to keep firearms out of the hands of immigrants. The police were given the discretion on who they would grant permits to. This allowed them to deny the applications of those they deemed dangerous or undesirable.
More modern gun control consequently targets a new group for discrimination. The poor now faces the largest burden from most firearms regulations. Crime reduction and consumer safety are cited as justification for price floors on firearms. These laws, however, simply shift criminal gun demand to other sectors, but they ensure the poor will not be able to defend themselves. Some may contend that gun control is necessary to reduce gun crime and whatever inherent discrimination exists is a sacrifice that must be made in the name of safety. Unfortunately, most gun control does little or nothing to reduce crime and only the prejudice inherent in these regulations remain.