The Racist Origins of US Gun Control
Laws Designed To Disarm Slaves, Freedmen, And African-Americans
by Steve Ekwall
Before the Civil War ended, State "Slave Codes" prohibited slaves from owning guns. After President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, and after the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolishing slavery was adopted and the Civil War ended in 1865, States persisted in prohibiting blacks, now freemen, from owning guns under laws renamed "Black Codes." They did so on the basis that blacks were not citizens, and thus did not have the same rights, including the right to keep and bear arms protected in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as whites. This view was specifically articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court in its infamous 1857 decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford to uphold slavery.
The United States Congress overrode most portions of the Black Codes by passing the Civil Rights Act of 1866. The legislative histories of both the Civil Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment, as well as The Special Report of the Anti-Slavery Conference of 1867, are replete with denunciations of those particular statutes that denied blacks equal access to firearms. [Kates, "Handgun Prohibition and the Original Meaning of the Second Amendment," 82 Mich. L. Rev. 204, 256 (1983)] However, facially neutral disarming through economic means laws remain in effect.
After the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1878, most States turned to "facially neutral" business or transaction taxes on handgun purchases. However, the intention of these laws was not neutral. An article in Virginia's official university law review called for a "prohibitive tax...on the privilege" of selling handguns as a way of disarming "the son of Ham," whose "cowardly practice of 'toting' guns has been one of the most fruitful sources of crime.... Let a negro board a railroad train with a quart of mean whiskey and a pistol in his grip and the chances are that there will be a murder, or at least a row, before he alights." [Comment, Carrying Concealed Weapons, 15 Va L. Reg. 391, 391-92 (1909); George Mason University Civil Rights Law Journal (GMU CR LJ), Vol. 2, No. 1, "Gun Control and Racism," Stefan Tahmassebi, 1991, p. 75] Thus, many Southern States imposed high taxes or banned inexpensive guns so as to price blacks and poor whites out of the gun market.
In the 1990s, "gun control" laws continue to be enacted so as to have a racist effect if not intent:
|Police-issued license and permit laws, unless drafted to require issuance to those not prohibited by law|
|from owning guns, are routinely used to prevent lawful gun ownership among "unpopular" populations.|
|Public housing residents, approximately 3 million Americans, are singled out for gun bans.|
|"Gun sweeps" by police in "high crime neighborhoods" whereby vehicles and "pedestrians who meet a s|
|pecific profile that might indicate they are carrying a weapon" are searched are becoming popular, and|
|are being studied by the U.S. Department of Justice as "Operation Ceasefire."|
YEAR JURISDICTION STATUTE
____ ____________ _______
1640 Virginia Race-based total gun and self-defense ban.
"Prohibiting negroes, slave and free, from carrying
weapons including clubs." (The Los Angeles Times, "To
Fight Crime, Some Blacks Attack Gun Control," January
1640 Virginia Race-based total gun ban. "That all such free
Mulattoes, Negroes and Indians...shall appear without
arms." [7 The Statues at Large; Being a Collection of
all the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of
the Legislature, in the Year 1619, p. 95 (W.W. Henning
ed. 1823).] (GMU CR LJ, p. 67)
1712 Virginia Race-based total gun ban. "An Act for Preventing
Negroes Insurrections." (Henning, p. 481) (GMU CR LJ,
1712 South Carolina Race-based total gun ban. "An act for the better
ordering and governing of Negroes and slaves." [7
Statutes at Large of South Carolina, p. 353-54 (D.J.
McCord ed. 1836-1873).] (GMU CR LJ, p. 70)
1791 United States 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ratified.
Reads: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to
the security of a free State, the right of the people
to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
1792 United States Blacks excluded from the militia, i.e. law-abiding
males thus instilled with the right to own guns.
Uniform Militia Act of 1792 "called for the enrollment
of every free, able-bodied white male citizen between
the ages of eighteen and forty-five" to be in the
militia, and specified that every militia member was
to "provide himself with a musket or firelock, a
bayonet, and ammunition." [1 Stat. 271 (Georgetown Law
Journal, Vol. 80, No. 2, "The Second Amendment:
Toward an Afro-Americanist Reconsideration," Robert
Cottrol and Raymond Diamond, 1991, p. 331)]
1806 Louisiana Complete gun and self-defense ban for slaves. Black
Code, ch. 33, Sec. 19, Laws of La. 150, 160 (1806)
provided that a slave was denied the use of firearms
and all other offensive weapons. (GLJ, p. 337)
1811 Louisiana Complete gun ban for slaves. Act of April 8, 1811, ch.
14, 1811 Laws of La. 50, 53-54, forbade sale or
delivery of firearms to slaves. (Id.)
1819 South Carolina Master's permission required for gun possession by
slave. Act of Dec. 18, 1819, 1819 Acts of S.C. 28, 31,
prohibited slaves outside the company of whites or
without written permission from their master from
using or carrying firearms unless they were hunting or
guarding the master's plantation. (Id.)
1825 Florida Slave and free black homes searched for guns for
confiscation. "An Act to Govern Patrols," 1825 Acts of
Fla. 52, 55 - Section 8 provided that white citizen
patrols "shall enter into all negro houses and
suspected places, and search for arms and other
offensive or improper weapons, and may lawfully seize
and take away all such arms, weapons, and
ammunition...." Section 9 provided that a slave might
carry a firearm under this statute either by means of
the weekly renewable license or if "in the presence of
some white person." (Id.)
1828 Florida Free blacks permitted to carry guns if court approval.
Act of Nov. 17, 1828 Sec. 9, 1828 Fla. Laws 174, 177;
Act of Jan. 12, 1828, Sec. 9, 1827 Fla. Laws 97, 100
- Florida went back and forth on the question of
licenses for free blacks; twice in 1828, Florida
enacted provisions providing for free blacks to carry
and use firearms upon obtaining a license from a
justice of the peace. (Id.)
1831 Florida Race-based total gun ban. Act of Jan. 1831, 1831 Fla.
Laws 30 - Florida repealed all provision for firearm
licenses for free blacks. (Id. p. 337-38)
1831 Delaware Free blacks permitted to carry guns if court approval.
In the December 1831 legislative session, Delaware
required free blacks desiring to carry firearms to
obtain a license from a justice of the peace.
[(Herbert Aptheker, Nat Turner's Slave Rebellion, p.
74-75 (1966).] (GLJ, p. 338)
1831 Maryland Race-based total gun ban. In the December 1831
legislative session, Maryland entirely prohibited free
blacks from carrying arms. (Aptheker, p. 75) (Id., p.
1831 Virginia Race-based total gun ban. In the December 1831
legislative session, Virginia entirely prohibited free
blacks from carrying arms. (Aptheker, p. 81) (Id., p.
1833 Florida Slave and free black homes searched for guns for
confiscation. Act of Feb. 17, 1833, ch. 671, Sec. 15,
17, 1833 Fla. Laws 26, 29 authorized white citizen
patrols to seize arms found in the homes of slaves and
free blacks, and provided that blacks without a proper
explanation for the presence of the firearms be
summarily punished, without benefit of a judicial
tribunal. (Id. p. 338)
1833 Georgia Race-based total gun ban. Act of Dec. 23, 1833, Sec.
7, 1833 Ga. Laws 226, 228 declared that "it shall not
be lawful for any free person of colour in this state,
to own, use, or carry fire arms of any description
1840 Florida Complete gun ban for slaves. Act of Feb. 25, 1840, no.
20, Sec. 1, 1840 Acts of Fla. 22-23 made sale or
delivery of firearms to slaves forbidden. (Id. p. 337)
1840 Texas Complete gun ban for slaves. "An Act Concerning
Slaves," Sec. 6, 1840 Laws of Tex. 171, 172, ch. 58
of the Texas Acts of 1850 prohibited slaves from using
firearms altogether from 1842-1850. (Journal of
Criminal Law and Criminology, Northwestern University,
Vol. 85, No. 3, "Gun Control and Economic
Discrimination: The Melting-Point Case-In-Point," T.
Markus Funk, 1995, p. 797)
1844 North Carolina Race-based gun ban upheld because free blacks "not
citizens." In State v. Newsom, 27 N.C. 250 (1844), the
Supreme Court of North Carolina upheld a Slave Code
law prohibiting free blacks from carrying firearms on
the grounds that they were not citizens. (GMU CR LJ,
1845 North Carolina Complete gun ban for slaves. Act of Jan. 1, 1845, ch.
87, Sec. 1, 2, 1845 Acts of N.C. 124 made sale or
delivery of firearms to slaves forbidden. (GLJ, p.
1847 Florida Slave and free black homes searched for guns for
confiscation. Act of Jan. 6, 1847, ch. 87 Sec. 11,
1846 Fla. Laws 42, 44 provided that white citizen
patrols might search the homes of blacks, both free
and slave and confiscate arms held therein. (Id. p.
1848 Georgia Race-based gun ban upheld because free blacks "not
citizens." In Cooper v. Savannah, 4 Ga. 68, 72 (1848),
the Georgia Supreme Court ruled "free persons of color
have never been recognized here as citizens; they are
not entitled to bear arms, vote for members of the
legislature, or to hold any civil office." (GMU CR LJ,
1852 Mississippi Race-based complete gun ban. Act of Mar. 15, 1852, ch.
206, 1852 Laws of Miss. 328 forbade ownership of
firearms by both free blacks and slaves. (JCLC NWU,
1857 United States High Court upholds slavery since blacks "not
citizens." In Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. (19
How.) 393 (1857), Chief Justice Taney argued if
members of the African race were "citizens" they would
be exempt from the special "police regulations"
applicable to them. "It would give to persons of the
negro race...full liberty of speech...to hold public
meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry
arms wherever they went." (Id. p. 417) U.S. Supreme
Court held that descendants of Africans who were
imported into this country and sold as slaves were not
included nor intended to be included under the word
"citizens" in the Constitution, whether emancipated or
not, and remained without rights or privileges except
such as those which the government might grant them,
thereby upholding slavery. Also held that a slave did
not become free when taken into a free state; that
Congress cannot bar slavery in any territory; and that
blacks could not be citizens.
1860 Georgia Complete gun ban for slaves. Act of Dec. 19, 1860, no.
64, Sec. 1, 1860 Acts of Ga. 561 forbade sale or
delivery of firearms to slaves. (GLJ, p. 337)
1861 United States Civil War begins.
1861 Florida Slave and free black homes searched for guns for
confiscation. Act of Dec. 17, 1861, ch. 1291, Sec. 11,
1861 Fla. Laws 38, 40 provided once again that white
citizen patrols might search the homes of blacks, both
free and slave, and confiscate arms held therein. (Id.
1863 United States Emancipation Proclamation -- President Lincoln issued
proclamation "freeing all slaves in areas still in
1865 Mississippi Blacks require police approval to own guns, unless in
military. Mississippi Statute of 1865 prohibited
blacks, not in the military "and not licensed so to do
by the board of police of his or her county" from
keeping or carrying "fire-arms of any kind, or any
ammunition, dirk or bowie knife." [reprinted in 1
Documentary History of Reconstruction: Political,
Military, Social, Religious, Educational and
Industrial, 1865 to the Present Time, p. 291, (Walter
L. Fleming, ed., 1960.)] (GLJ, p. 344)
1865 Louisiana Blacks require police and employer approval to own
guns, unless serving in military. Louisiana Statute of 1865
prohibited blacks, not in the military service, from
"carrying fire-arms, or any kind of weapons...without
the special permission of his employers, approved and
indorsed by the nearest and most convenient chief of
patrol." (Fleming, p. 280)(GLJ, p. 344)
1865 United States Civil War ends May 26.
1865 United States Slavery abolished as of Dec. 18, 1865. 13th
Amendment abolishing slavery was ratified. Reads:
"Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude,
except as a punishment for crime whereof the party
shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the
United States, or in any place subject to their
jurisdiction. Section 2. Congress shall have power
to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."
1866 Alabama Race-based total gun ban. Black Code of Alabama in
January 1866 prohibited blacks to own or carry
firearms or other deadly weapons and prohibited "any
person to sell, give, or lend fire-arms or ammunition
of any description whatever" to any black. [The
Reconstruction Amendments' Debates, p. 209, (Alfred
Avins ed., 1967)] (GLJ, p. 345)
1866 North Carolina Rights of blacks can be changed by legislature. North
Carolina Black Code, ch. 40, 1866 N.C. Sess. Laws 99
stated "All persons of color who are now inhabitants
of this state shall be entitled to the same
privileges, and are subject to the same burdens and
disabilities, as by the laws of the state were
conferred on, or were attached to, free persons of
color, prior to the ordinance of emancipation, except
as the same may be changed by law." (Avins, p. 291.)
(GLJ, p. 344)
1866 United States Civil Rights Act of 1866 enacted. CRA of 1866 did away
with badges of slavery embodied in the "Black Codes,"
including those provisions which "prohibit any negro
or mulatto from having fire-arms." [CONG. GLOBE, 39th
Congress, 1st Session, pt. 1, 474 (29 Jan. 1866)]
Senator William Saulsbury (D- Del) added "In my State
for many years...there has existed a law...which
declares that free negroes shall not have the
possession of firearms or ammunition. This bill
proposes to take away from the States this police
power..." and thus voted against the bill. CRA of
1866 was a precursor to today's 42 USC Sec.1982, a
portion of which still reads: "All citizens of the
United States shall have the same right, in every
state and territory, as is enjoyed by white citizens
thereof to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold and
convey real and personal property."
1866 United States Proposed 14th Amendment to U.S. Constitution debated.
Opponents of the 14th Amendment objected to its
adoption because they opposed federal enforcement of
the freedoms in the bill of rights. Sen. Thomas A.
Hendricks (D-Ind.) said "if this amendment be
adopted we will then carry the title [of citizenship]
and enjoy its advantages in common with the negroes,
the coolies, and the Indians." [CONG. GLOBE, 39th
Congress, 1st Session, pt. 3, 2939 (4 June 1866)].
Sen. Reverdy Johnson, counsel for the slave owner
in Dred Scott, opposed the amendment because "it is
quite objectionable to provide that 'no State shall
make or enforce any law which shall abridge the
privileges and immunities of citizens of the United
States'." Thus, the 14th Amendment was viewed as
necessary to buttress the Civil Rights Act of 1866,
especially since the act "is pronounced void by the
jurists and courts of the South," e.g. Florida has as
"a misdemeanor for colored men to carry weapons...and
the punishment...is whipping..." [CONG GLOBE, 39th
Con., 1st Session, 504, pt. 4, 3210 (16 June 1866)].
1866 United States Klu Klux Klan formed. Purpose was to terrorize blacks
who voted; temporarily disbanded in 1871;
reestablished in 1915. In debating what would become
42 USC Sec. 1983, today's federal civil rights
statute, Representative Butler explained "This
provision seemed to your committee to be necessary,
because they had observed that, before these midnight
marauders [the KKK] made attacks upon peaceful
citizens, there were very many instances in the South
where the sheriff of the county had preceded them and
taken away the arms of their victims. This was
especially noticeable in Union County, where all the
negro population were disarmed by the sheriff only a
few months ago under the order of the judge...; and
then, the sheriff having disarmed the citizens, the
five hundred masked men rode at nights and murdered
and otherwise maltreated the ten persons who were in
jail in that county." [1464 H.R. REP. No. 37, 41st
Cong., 3rd Sess. p. 7-8 (20 Feb. 1871)]
1867 United States The Special Report of the Anti-Slavery Conference of
1867. Report noted with particular emphasis that under
the Black Codes, blacks were "forbidden to own or bear
firearms, and thus were rendered defenseless against
assaults." (Reprinted in H. Hyman, The Radical
Republicans and Reconstruction, p. 219, 1967.) (GMU CR
LJ, p. 71)
1868 United States 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution adopted,
conveying citizenship to blacks. Reads, in part:
"Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the
United States, and subject to the jurisdiction
thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the
State wherein they reside. No state shall make or
enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or
immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall
any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or
property, without due process of law; nor deny to any
person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of
"Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce,
by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this
1870 Tennessee First "Saturday Night Special" economic handgun ban
passed. In the first legislative session in which they
gained control, white supremacists passed "An Act to
Preserve the Peace and Prevent Homicide," which banned
the sale of all handguns except the expensive "Army
and Navy model handgun" which whites already owned or
could afford to buy, and blacks could not. ("Gun
Control: White Man's Law," William R. Tonso, Reason,
December 1985) Upheld in Andrews v. State, 50 Tenn. (3
Heisk.) 165, 172 (1871) (GMU CR LJ, p. 74) "The cheap
revolvers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries
were referred to as 'Suicide Specials,' the 'Saturday
Night Special' label not becoming widespread until
reformers and politicians took up the gun control
cause during the 1960s. The source of this recent
concern about cheap revolvers, as their new label
suggest, has much in common with the concerns of the
gun-law initiators of the post-Civil War South. As B.
Bruce-Briggs has written in the Public Interest, `It
is difficult to escape the conclusion that the
'Saturday Night Special' is emphasized because it is
cheap and being sold to a particular class of people.
The name is sufficient evidence -- the reference is to
'niggertown Saturday night.'" ("Gun Control: White
Man's Law," William R. Tonso, Reason, December 1985)
1871 United States Anti-KKK Bill debated in response to race-motivated
violence in South. A report on violence in the South
resulted in an anti-KKK bill that stated "That whoever
shall, without due process of law, by violence,
intimidation, or threats, take away or deprive any
citizen of the United States of any arms or weapons he
may have in his house or possession for the defense of
his person, family, or property, shall be deemed
guilty of a larceny thereof, and be punished as
provided in this act for a felony." [1464 H.R. REP.
No. 37, 41st Cong., 3rd Sess. p. 7-8 (20 Feb. 1871)].
Since Congress doesn't have jurisdiction over simple
larceny, the language was removed from the anti-KKK
bill, but this section survives today as 42 USC Sec.
1983: "That any person who, under color of any
law,...of any State, shall subject, or cause to be
subjected, any person... to the deprivation of any
rights, privileges, or immunities to which...he is
entitled under the Constitution...shall be liable...in
any action at law...for redress...".
1875 United States High Court rules has no power to stop KKK members from
disarming blacks. In United States v. Cruikshank, 92
U.S. at 548-59 (1875) A member of the KKK, Cruikshank
had been charged with violating the rights of two
black men to peaceably assemble and to bear arms. The
U.S. Supreme Court held that the federal government
had no power to protect citizens against private
action (not committed by federal or state government
authorities) that deprived them of their
constitutional rights under the 14th Amendment. The
Court held that for protection against private
criminal action, individuals are required to look to
state governments. "The doctrine in Cruikshank, that
blacks would have to look to state government for
protection against criminal conspiracies gave the
green light to private forces, often with the
assistance of state and local governments, that sought
to subjugate the former slaves and their
descendants... With the protective arm of the federal
government withdrawn, protection of black lives and
property was left to largely hostile state
governments." (GLJ, p. 348.)
1879 Tennessee Second "Saturday Night Special" economic handgun ban
passed. Tennessee revamped its economic handgun ban
nine years later, passing "An Act to Prevent the Sale
of Pistols," which was upheld in State v. Burgoyne, 75
Tenn. 173, 174 (1881). (GMU CR LJ, p. 74)
1882 Arkansas Third "Saturday Night Special" economic handgun ban
passed. Arkansas followed Tennessee's lead by enacting
a virtually identical "Saturday Night Special" law
banning the sale of any pistols other than expensive
"army or navy" model revolvers, which most whites had
or could afford, thereby disarming blacks. Statute
was upheld in Dabbs v. State, 39 Ark. 353 (1882) (GMU
CR LJ, p. 74)
1893 Alabama First all-gun economic ban passed. Alabama placed
"'extremely heavy business and/or transactional
taxes'" on the sale of handguns in an attempt "to put
handguns out of the reach of blacks and poor whites."
("Gun Control: White Man's Law," William R. Tonso,
Reason, December 1985)
1902 South Carolina First total civilian handgun ban. The state banned all
pistol sales except to sheriffs and their special
deputies, which included the KKK and company
strongmen. (Kates, "Toward a History of Handgun
Prohibition in the United States" in Restricting
Handguns: The Liberal Skeptics Speak Out, p. 15,
1979.) (GMU CR LJ, p. 76)
1906 Mississippi Race-based confiscation through record-keeping.
Mississippi enacted the first registration law for
retailers in 1906, requiring them to maintain records
of all pistol and pistol ammunition sales, and to make
such records available for inspection on demand.
(Kates, p. 14) (GMU CR LJ, p. 75)
1907 Texas Fourth "Saturday Night Special" economic handgun ban.
Placed "'extremely heavy business and/or transactional
taxes'" on the sale of handguns in an attempt "to put
handguns out of the reach of blacks and poor whites."
("Gun Control: White Man's Law," William R. Tonso,
Reason, December 1985)
1911 New York Police choose who can own guns lawfully. "Sullivan
Law" enacted, requiring police permission, via a
permit issued at their discretion, to own a handgun.
Unpopular minorities were and are routinely denied
permits. ("Gun Control: White Man's Law," William R.
Tonso, Reason, December 1985) "(T)here are only about
3,000 permits in New York City, and 25,000 carry
permits. If you're a street-corner grocer in
Manhattan, good luck getting a gun permit. But among
those who have been able to wrangle a precious carry
permit out of the city's bureaucracy are Donald Trump,
Arthur Ochs Sulzburger, William Buckley, Jr., and
David, John, Lawrence and Winthrop Rockefeller.
Surprise." (Terrance Moran, "Racism and the Firearms
Firestorm," Legal Times)
1934 United States Gun Control Act of 1934 (National Firearms Act)
1941 Florida Judge admits gun law passed to disarm black laborers.
In concurring opinion narrowly construing a Florida
gun control law passed in 1893, Justice Buford stated
the 1893 law "was passed when there was a great influx
of negro laborers in this State....The same condition
existed when the Act was amended in 1901 and the Act
was passed for the purpose of disarming the negro
laborers....The statute was never intended to be
applied to the white population and in practice has
never been so applied...". Watson v. Stone, 148 Fla.
516, 524, 4 So.2d 700, 703 (1941) (GMU CR LJ, p. 69)
1954 - U.S. Supreme Court held racial segregation of schools violates 14th Amendment.
1955 - Alabama bus segregation ordinance held unconstitutional after boycott and NAACP protest.
1956 - Massive resistance to Supreme Court desegregation ruling called for by 101 Southern congressmen.
1957 - Congress approved first civil rights law for blacks. Governor ordered National Guard troops to prevent nine blacks from entering all-white high school in Little Rock; President Eisenhower had to send federal military troops to enforce court order that Guardsman be removed.
1960 - Sit-ins began February 1 when four black college students in Greensboro, N.C., refused to move from a lunch counter after being denied service; by 1961, more than 700,000 students, black and white, had participated in sit-ins.
1962 - 3,000 troops were required to quell riots after University of Mississippi accepted first black student.
1963 - 200,000 people participated in March on Washington, at which Dr. Martin Luther King gave his famous "I have a dream" speech.
1963 - President John F. Kennedy assassinated in November.
1964 - Omnibus civil rights bill barring discrimination in voting, jobs, discrimination, etc.; three civil rights workers reported missing in Mississippi, found buried two months later, 21 white men arrested, seven of whom an all-white federal court jury convicted of conspiracy only.
1965 - 34 dead in race riot in Watts area of Los Angeles.
1966 - First black U.S. senator in 85 years elected (Edward Brook, R-MA)
1967 - Race riots in Newark, N.J., kill 26, injure 1,500, with over 1,000 arrested. Race riots in Detroit killed at least 40, injured 2,000 and left 5,000 homeless; was quelled by 4,700 federal paratroopers and 8,000 National Guardsmen. Thurgood Marshall sworn in Oct. 2 as first black justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
1968 - Martin Luther King assassinated in April. Robert F. Kennedy assassinated in June.
1968 United States Gun Control Act of 1968 passed. Avowed anti-gun
journalist Robert Sherrill frankly admitted that the
Gun Control Act of 1968 was "passed not to control
guns but to control Blacks." [R. Sherrill, The
Saturday Night Special, p. 280 (1972).] (GMU CR LJ, p.
80) "The Gun Control Act of 1968 was passed not to
control guns but to control blacks, and inasmuch as a
majority of Congress did not want to do the former but
were ashamed to show that their goal was the latter,
the result was they did neither. Indeed, this law,
the first gun-control law passed by Congress in thirty
years, was one of the grand jokes of our time. First
of all, bear in mind that it was not passed in one
piece but was a combination of two laws. The original
1968 Act was passed to control handguns after the Rev.
Martin Luther King, Jr., had been assassinated with a
rifle. Then it was repealed and repassed to include
the control of rifles and shotguns after the
assassination of Robert F. Kennedy with a
handgun.... The moralists of our federal legislature
as well as sentimental editorial writers insist that
the Act of 1968 was a kind of memorial to King and
Robert Kennedy. If so, it was certainly a weird
memorial, as can be seen not merely by the
handgun/long-gun shellgame, but from the
inapplicability of the law to their deaths." (The
Saturday Night Special and Other Guns, Robert
Sherrill, p. 280, 1972)
1988 Maryland Fifth "Saturday Night Special" economic handgun ban
passes. Ban on "Saturday Night Specials," i.e.
inexpensive handguns, passes.
1988 Illinois Poor citizens singled out for gun ban in Illinois.
Starting in late 1988, the Chicago Housing Authority
(CHA) and the Chicago Police Dept. (CPD) enacted and
enforced an official policy, Operation Clean Sweep,
which applied to all housing units owned and operated
by the CHA. The purpose was the confiscation of
firearms and illegal narcotics and consisted of
warrantless searches and of a visitor exclusion policy
severely limiting the right of CHA tenants to
associate in their residences with family members and
other guests, tenants had to sign in and out of the
building, producing to the police or CHA officials
photo Id. Relatives, including children and
grandchildren, were not allowed to stay over, even on
holidays. CHA tenants who objected or attempted to
interfere with these warrantless searches were
arrested. The ACLU filed a lawsuit seeking
declaratory and injunctive relief on behalf of the CHA
tenants against the enforcement of Operation Clean
Sweep. The complaint was filed in the United Sates
District Court for the Northern District of Illinois,
Eastern Division, on Dec. 16, 1988, as Case No.
88C10566 and is styled as Rose Summeries, et al. v.
Chicago Housing Authority, et al. A consent decree
was entered on Nov. 30, 1989 in which the CHA and
CPD agreed to abide by certain standards and in which
the scope and purposes of such "emergency housing
inspections" were limited. (GMU, p. 98)
1990 Virginia Poor citizens singled out for gun ban in Virginia.
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of
Virginia upheld a ban imposed by the Richmond Housing
Authority on the possession of all firearms, whether
operable or not, in public housing projects. The
Richmond Tenants Organization had challenged the ban,
arguing that such requirement had made the city's
14,000 public housing residents second-class citizens.
[Richmond Tenants Org. v. Richmond Dev. & Hous. Auth.,
No. C.A. 3:90CV00576 (E.D.Va. Dec. 3, 1990).] (GMU,
1994 United States President seeks to single out all poor citizens
residing in federal housing for gun ban. The Clinton
Administration introduced H.R. 3838 in 1994 to ban
guns in federal public housing, but the House Banking
Committee rejected it. Similar legislation was filed
in 1994 in the Oregon and Washington state
1995 Maine Poor citizens singled out for gun ban in Maine.
Portland, ME, gun ban in public housing struck down on
April 5, 1995.