Gun control is all about fear of “those other people.”
Responsible, law-abiding voters who know gun owners and even many gun owners themselves have allowed the dismantling of liberty all on the basis of what “those other people” might do. The conversation typically begins with a statement of support for gun rights and gun owners, but then comes the “but” and the speaker opines as to how they believe that some “reasonable” restrictions are needed because, while you and I are responsible and law-abiding, there are others who need closer scrutiny and control.
Throughout history “those other people” have been the impetus for free people to empower tyranny and adopt chains. In a twist on the old parable of the frogs in the slowly warming pot of water, not noticing that they are being cooked until it’s too late, it turns out that it is the frogs in the pot who are adding fuel to the fire – in the name of defense against “those other people.”
At various time in America’s drift toward gun control “those other people” have been Blacks, Irish, Italians, Eastern Europeans, Jews, Communists, racists, Hispanics, Muslims, radical Christians, military veterans, union organizers, big business, gun nuts, and the list keeps going. Virtually any group imaginable has been pointed to as the threat that justifies the latest scheme to limit liberty. Even the tyrants themselves have been held up as the reason to limit the rights of the people – and give other tyrants greater power and control.
In the early days of the U.S., there was some murmuring about protecting against British loyalists and counter-revolution. Shay’s Rebellion and similar incidents led to restrictions on “private armies” and seditious activities, but it was black freemen in the years leading up to and after the Civil War that became the first effective excuse for gun-control laws.
In fact, the right to arms was one of the arguments against blacks being considered U.S. citizens at all. In the infamous Dred Scott decision, Justice Taney, writing for the court majority, declared that Scott, who was trying to sue for his freedom, did not have standing to file the suit because he was not a U.S. citizen. Taney went on to explain that no person of African descent could be a citizen, because citizenship would mean that they could not only file suits, but that they could freely gather for political meetings, cross state lines at will and bear arms with them wherever they went. In short, Blacks could not be citizens, because if they were citizens they would have rights – including the right to arms – and that would obviously be a terrible thing, because there’s just no telling what “those people” might do with such liberty.
Of course the Civil War and the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution changed the game by declaring that blacks were indeed citizens entitled to all of the privileges and immunities of citizenship. That meant that the only way to keep guns and other dangerous liberties away from blacks was to pass laws restricting those liberties from all citizens.
These laws were originally enacted with a nod and a wink to upstanding white citizens, and they were very selectively enforced to only impact “those other people.” The Supreme Court did its part with decisions like the Slaughterhouse cases and Cruickshank, which gutted the 14th amendment and stripped the rights enumerated in the Constitution from all citizens, leaving them at the mercy of their local governments with no recourse to federal law or authority.
Gun-control laws were among the first Jim Crow laws passed and remain as one of the last vestiges of that racist system. Meanwhile in the North, “those other people” were primarily immigrant groups that people saw as low class and often criminal.
The KKK, as a major political force within the Democrat Party, widely promoted gun control as one of their leading and most successful initiatives. Many states, both North and South, adopted the KKK’s Permit to Purchase scheme requiring prospective gun buyers to first obtain permission from local authorities. Permission was, and in some places still is, routinely denied to the “lower classes” and other “undesirables,” while middle and upper class white folks have no trouble.
Concealed carry permits are similarly doled out in some jurisdictions where local discretion is still allowed, or the law prohibiting concealed weapons may be enforced selectively. During the debate over Arizona’s concealed carry permit system, a high-ranking law enforcement official sidled up to a pro-rights lobbyist and asked him why he was going to all this trouble.
“After all, you’re white and wear a tie,” he said.
In other words, our lobbyist wasn’t one of “those people.”
The two leading gun-control proposals today are a bill to insert government bureaucracy between individuals trading and selling privately owned firearms – the so-called “gun show loophole” – and a bill to block the sale of firearms to anyone on the government’s “no fly” and “terrorist watch” lists.
Proponents admit that more than 99 percent of private firearms transactions, at gun shows and elsewhere, are among responsible, law-abiding individuals, but they say, “What about those other people who get guns from these ‘unregulated’ sources?”
Similarly, they admit that people on the “no fly” and “terrorist watch” lists represent an infinitesimal fraction of gun buyers, and that a tiny fraction of people on these lists who legally purchased firearms ever misuse them or divert them into unlawful channels.
But then they warn about “those other people” who do or might misuse their rights, and many Americans anxiously throw another log on the fire under their own cooking pot.
What they fail to mention is that the process of who, how and why names are added to the list of “those other people” is a government secret, and to the politicians and bureaucrats – particularly those in the Obama administration who control those lists − “those other people” are you and me: conservatives, libertarians, constitutionalists, proponents of smaller government, opponents of abortion, patriots, flag wavers and all those millions of responsible, law-abiding, heavily armed “gun nuts” with their military looking guns and high-powered “sniper” (nee hunting) rifles.
To paraphrase that great philosopher Pogo: “We have met those other people, and they is us!”