Prosecutors Against Gun Violence proudly announced the filing of their amicus brief this week in the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v City of New York case at the U.S. Supreme Court. In the brief, the prosecutors use arguments recycled from the Jim Crow era that were used to keep poor, ‘undesirables’ disarmed through a patchwork of state and local regulations.
Follow this link to read the brief.
The PAGV brief begins by dazzling readers with the group’s supposed bona fides.
…PAGV serves more than 62 million residents of 36 urban areas in 22 states across the country.
And PAGV is of the opinion that gun control laws that violate the Second Amendment and are rooted in racism “suit public safety needs.”
Commensurate with the weight of this responsibility, states retain “great latitude under their police powers to legislate as to the protection of the lives, limb, health, comfort and quiet of all persons.” Medtronic, 518 U.S. at 475 (quotation omitted); accord Gonzales v. Oregon, 546 U.S. 243, 270 (2006). State and local lawmakers discharge this duty by “carefully and thoughtfully creat[ing] their own framework of standards . . . to suit public safety needs.”3 These homegrown standards reflect “the great diversity in geography, population, culture, and tradition” of lawmakers’ constituents.4 They are not only “decisions by state and local authorities about how to best ensure public safety,”5 but also reflect “the will of their citizens” and symbolize “the core democratic principle that . . . elected representatives make those laws.”6
Back in the 1890s, state and local authorities “carefully and thoughtfully creat[ed] their own framework of standards … to suit public safety needs.” These were called “Black Codes” at the time, and later “Jim Crow Laws.”
These “homegrown standards” also “reflected the great diversity in geography, population, culture and tradition of lawmakers’ constituents.”
From “Jim Crow Laws” at History.com:
At the start of the 1880s, big cities in the south were not wholly beholden to Jim Crow laws and black Americans found more leeway in them.
This led to substantial black populations moving to the cities and, as the decade progressed, white city dwellers demanded more laws to limit opportunities for African Americans.
Jim Crow laws spread around the south with even more force than previously. Public parks were forbidden for African Americans to enter, and theaters and restaurants were segregated.
JIM CROW LAWS EXPAND
The turn of the century saw states across the south ratcheting up Jim Crow laws, affecting every section of daily life.
Segregated waiting rooms in professional offices were required, as well as water fountains, restrooms, building entrances, elevators, cemeteries, even amusement-park cashier windows.
Laws forbade African Americans from living in white neighborhoods. Segregation was enforced for public pools, phone booths, hospitals, asylums, jails and residential homes for the elderly and handicapped.
Some states required separate textbooks black and white students. New Orleans mandated the segregation of prostitutes according to race. In Atlanta, African Americans in court were given a different Bible from whites to swear on. Marriage and cohabitation between whites and blacks was strictly forbidden in most southern states.
Indeed, later in the brief, the PAGV attorneys continue digging the Jim Crow hole even deeper:
PAGV, along with New York law enforcement, strongly believe in the importance of vesting discretion with local decision-makers to regulate firearms, including requiring applicants to show a “proper cause,” “good reason,” or “justifiable need” to be allowed to carry concealed weapons in public.
“Good reason” and “proper cause” sound a lot like the literacy tests and poll taxes required of African-Americans who wanted to vote in the early 1900s.
From Clayton Cramer’s “The Racist Roots of Gun Control“:
The end of slavery in 1865 did not eliminate the problems of racist gun control laws; the various Black Codes adopted after the Civil War required blacks to obtain a license before carrying or possessing firearms or Bowie knives; these are sufficiently well-known that any reasonably complete history of the Reconstruction period mentions them. These restrictive gun laws played a part in the efforts of the Republicans to get the Fourteenth Amendment ratified, because it was difficult for night riders to generate the correct level of terror in a victim who was returning fire.  It does appear, however, that the requirement to treat blacks and whites equally before the law led to the adoption of restrictive firearms laws in the South that were equal in the letter of the law, but unequally enforced. It is clear that the vagrancy statutes adopted at roughly the same time, in 1866, were intended to be used against blacks, even though the language was race-neutral. …
Gun control advocates today are not so foolish as to openly promote racist laws, and so the question might be asked what relevance the racist past of gun control laws has. One concern is that the motivations for disarming blacks in the past are really not so different from the motivations for disarming law-abiding citizens today. In the last century, the official rhetoric in support of such laws was that “they” were too violent, too untrustworthy, to be allowed weapons. Today, the same elitist rhetoric regards law-abiding Americans in the same way, as child-like creatures in need of guidance from the government. In the last century, while never openly admitted, one of the goals of disarming blacks was to make them more willing to accept various forms of economic oppression, including the sharecropping system, in which free blacks were reduced to an economic state not dramatically superior to the conditions of slavery.
Indeed, gun control advocates like Prosecutors Against Gun Violence would never openly promote racist laws today. Yet they’re only too happy to proudly advocate laws that have the same effect of disarming blacks that the Jim Crow laws had a hundred years ago.
Shame on these modern-day advocates for racist restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms.
Why don’t they instead pursue changes “to more fully take advantage of the ideals voiced in the Constitution and Bill of Rights?“