Mentioning Gun Control's Racist Past Is Now "Woke"?

AP Photo/Wilson Ring

The history of gun control is something that should be indisputable. The earliest gun control laws existed not to prevent crime or anything, but to disarm black people so they couldn’t rise up against slaveholders. This is a simple fact.


And yet, it actually is disputed.

Perhaps worse, though, mentioning these facts gets the gun rights crowd labeled as “woke.”

Gun rights have gone woke, if the briefs filed in the Supreme Court’s pending case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, are any indication.

Bruen is the Second Amendment case that gun rights advocates have been waiting for. Thirteen years ago, in District of Columbia v. Hellerthe court held that the Constitution granted an individual right to possess a gun in the home for self-defense, unrelated to the person’s participation in an organized militia. Now the court is examining when and under what circumstances a person must receive a license to carry a gun for self-defense.

The briefing in the case has made for strange alliances. Some Black criminal defense attorneys and public defender organizations, including the Bronx Defenders, filed a brief on behalf of the plaintiffs, pointing out the disparate impact gun regulations have on low-income persons of color. Twenty-one Republican attorneys general, of all people, echoed their race-based arguments. “State legislatures have often fallen short of the mark in defending this right to bear arms in self-defense,” they conceded, pointing to historical bans on carrying arms by free Black citizens in some of their own states. “In the wake of the Nat Turner slave revolt,” they observe in a typical passage, “Maryland, Virginia, and Georgia passed laws prohibiting free blacks from carrying firearms.”

They were joined by 176 House members (again, all Republican) — including such divisive figures as Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Madison Cawthorn (N.C.) and Paul A. Gosar (Ariz.) — who argued that the history of the New York gun regulation at issue in Bruen “confirms that it was designed to exclude nonelite immigrants and disfavored minorities from gun ownership.” Finally, the libertarian Rutherford Institute weighed in as well, arguing that “there are … strong parallels between poll taxes, literacy tests, and certain gun control schemes that can have the effect of preventing blacks and other minorities from owning guns much as they were once prevented from voting.”

Depending on how you count, one of every four Bruen briefs that urge the justices to strike down New York’s law argues that gun regulations like New York’s have disparate impacts on outgroups and communities of color. Indeed, to read the some of these briefs, one would think that the dominant motive for regulating the public bearing of arms — both historically and today — was not public safety or keeping the peace but racial and ethnic bigotry.


Now, in fairness, I have no interest in counting to verify his claim. Frankly, though, I don’t actually care what percentage makes the claims. What I care about is the validity of those claims, and I’ve done enough research to know that they’re stating simple facts.

Yet that is irrelevant. You see, stating facts isn’t right in and of itself. You also had to have backed the correct narrative before mentioning those facts, apparently:

The hypocrisy on display is galling. Some signatories to these briefs are the very same figures who spent the summer of 2021 supporting Big Lie-backed voting rights restrictions on minorities; who screeched that immigrants are replacing “real Americans”; and who endorsed anti-critical race theory legislation so ham-handed that teachers are now instructed to offer “opposing” views of the Holocaust. These right-wing leaders have suddenly discovered the merits of concepts like white privilege, anti-Blackness and structural racism — but only when it applies to gun rights, it seems.

Oh, boy. Let’s look at this for a moment.

The “voting rights restrictions” are things like ID requirements and reforms to absentee voting that will reduce fraud. They don’t actually have any real impact on minorities being able to vote unless you’re someone who actually thinks black people are somehow unable to find a way to get an ID or get to the polls, which they do all the time.


Concerns about illegal immigration are grossly mischaracterized to include all immigrants, which is simply untrue.

And for someone to talk about the “Big Lie” in one breath and then claim anti-CRT legislation requires an opposing view of the Holocaust is rich, especially for someone who uses the word “hypocrisy” as the second word in this particular paragraph.

Plus, no let’s also note that pro-Second Amendment briefs mentioning the racist history of gun control make a lot of sense in context. After all, New York Attorney General Letitia James is trying to claim the Second Amendment is racist in her brief. Why would they not try to counter that claim by pointing out the racist history of the gun control James is pushing?

The author makes absolutely no mention of James’ claims in her brief, probably because that’s irrelevant in his mind.

It’s not, nor is history irrelevant. Of course, considering his loose relationship with current reality, it’s unlikely that he recognizes actual history when he sees it.

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