Kopel on Racist Gun Control

David Kopel argues, “Throughout U.S. history, the right to bear arms has been associated with liberty and legal equality, and gun control with the opposite.” Offhand that strikes me as a bit of an overstatement, given that at various times armed white mobs brutalized black communities and others. But Kopel offers good evidence that the claim generally holds.

Kopel notes that 1619 was “the founding year for gun control in America, with a Virginia statute forbidding blacks and Indians to have arms, unless they were issued a license.” Under slavery, Kopel notes, gun control targeted slaves “and sometimes . . . free blacks as well.” Frederick Douglass discussed the problem of laws disarming black people. Kopel writes, “After blacks started using repeating rifles to resist lynch mobs, Florida in 1893 enacted the first American gun control specific to firearms types. It required a government license to possess” such guns.

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