Gun violence is one of the most serious problems in the United States. Each year in the U. S.
, more than 35,000 people are killed by guns, a death rate much higher than that in any other industrial nations. In 1997, approximately 70 percent of the murders in the United States were committed with guns. However, ironically, the United States also is the country that has the most gun control laws. Gun control laws generally focus on passing legislationâ€”by local state, or national governmentâ€”to restrict legal ownership of certain firearms.
Seemingly, gun control laws may decrease criminals’ access to guns, but in fact the same laws also have their negative effects. Thus, the controversy over gun control is always heated. But my paper is not about whether guns should be controlled or not. From another angle, looking closely at those gun control laws and their enforcement, we can not only see the criminal problem in America, but also another important social problem in Americaâ€”racial discrimination.
The racial problem of gun control has raised attention of some American scholars in the U. S.For example, a black man, General Lancy, who is the founder of a little organization known as the National Black Sportsman’s Association, often called “the black gun lobby” said when asked his opinion of gun control: “Gun control is really race control. People who embrace gun control are really racists in nature.
All gun laws have been enacted to control certain classes of people, mainly black peopleâ€¦” Some white men have said almost the same thing. Investigative reporter Robert Sherrill concluded in his book The Saturday Night Special that the object of the Gun Control Act of 1968 was black control rather than gun control.Congress passed the act to “shut off weapons access to blacks, and since they Congress probably associated cheap guns with ghetto blacks and thought cheapness was peculiarly the characteristic of imported military surplus and the mail-order traffic, they decided to cut off these sources while leaving over-the-counter purchases open to the affluent. ” Gun control in the United States has its history.
Prohibitions against the sale of cheap handguns originated in the post-Civil War South.In the 1870s and 1880s, small pistols costing as little as 50 or 60 cents were obtainable, and since they could be afforded by blacks and poor whites, these guns posed a significant threat to those who were wealthy or powerful. They were afraid that blacks and poor whites possessing guns would break their established social structure. So consequently, in 1870, Tennessee banned “selling all but ‘the Army and Navy model’ handgun”.
Of course this type of gun was the most expensive one, which was beyond the means of most blacks and laboring people.In 1881, Arkansas enacted an almost identical ban on the sale of cheap revolvers. In 1902, South Carolina banned the sale of handguns to all but “sheriffs and their special deputies”. In 1893 and 1907, respectively, Alabama and Texas passed extremely heavy taxes on the sale of such weapons to put handguns out of the reach of the blacks and poor whites.
The same thing happened in the North. Attempts to regulate the possession of guns began in the northern states during the early 20th century. These regulations were almost the same with their counterparts in South in essence although they had different focuses.In 1911, New York enacted its Sullivan Law requiring a police permit for legal possession of a handgun rather than trying to keep handguns out of means of blacks and the poor whites.
This law made it possible for the police to screen applicants for permits to possess handguns. Such a requirement may seem reasonable, it can and has been abused. Those who are not in favor with the influential or the police are easily suspected and denied permits. The act was designed to “strike hardest at the foreign-born element” particularly Italians, Catholics and Jews.
Those who were considered racially inferior found it almost impossible to obtain gun permits. Over the years, as the police seldom granted handgun permits to any person but the wealthy and influential, application of the Sullivan Law has become increasingly elitist . Then why those gun control proponents would always deny that those controls are either racist or elitist in effects? Of course the intent of those control apply to everybody and aim at reducing violence for everybody, but the controls are in fact racist or elitist in effect.We can easily notice that the anger towards weapon is originated from the anger towards criminals.
Most people, when they are hearing of an especially heinous crime, or when they are victimized, feel angry and hostile towards the offender of the crime. The uncomfortable feeling can be easily transferred from the offender to an inanimate object â€“ the weapon. Although the illegal possession of a handgun or of any gun is a crime, it doesn’t produce a victim and is difficult to be reported to the police, therefore handgun permit requirements or handgun prohibitions aren’t easily enforced.And when laws are difficult to enforce, “enforcement becomes progressively more haphazard until at last the laws are used only against those who are unpopular with the police.
” Of course minorities aren’t likely to be popular with the police. These minorities, because of police indifference or perhaps even hostility, may be the most inclined to look to guns for protection. On the one hand, they can’t acquire guns legally and on the other hand, it will put them in danger if possessed illegally.So while the intent of such laws may not be racist, their effect certainly is.
Today, the dispute over gun-control, like those of days gone by, breaks out among different social classes. Most of the dedicated proponents of strict gun controls are urban, upper-middle-class people, many of whom are to some degree influential. On the other hand, the most dedicated opponents of gun control are often rural, working- or middle-class people, few of whom can publicize their views, but many of whom know a lot about the safe and lawful uses of guns.To these Americans, guns mean freedom and security.
The gun controls dispute, therefore, has become a conflict that affluent Americans attempting to impose their discrimination on working-class people who are comfortable with guns. Above all, we have enough evidences to conclude that gun control in America, not concerning whether it should be or should not be, is a kind of racial discrimination. Now we can admit how right General Laney said: “All gun laws have been enacted to control certain classes of peopleâ€¦”
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