New York’s Sullivan Act is one of the best examples of gun-control laws that put minorities at a disadvantage, and it has been widely copied. Passed in 1911, the law addressed what was considered a growing problem of gun ownership among minorities, immigrants, labor organizers, and anyone seen as a threat.
The law accomplished this by allowing majority-white police departments broad leeway to determine licensing requirements. Police departments can add their own requirements; even if applicants deemed undesirable checked all the required boxes, the law’s “good moral character” clause could be used as a catchall to deny them.
Reminiscent of practices any segregationist would appreciate, the NYPD License Division, with its perpetually white leadership and the blessings of the New York City Council, has used exorbitant fees, long English-only applications, expansive ID requirements, the need for applicants to take time off from work, and numerous other unconventional tactics to restrict license issuance. The NAACP and other civil-rights groups have denounced these impediments as unfairly putting blacks and other minorities at a disadvantage.
Organizations that support such discretionary licensing requirements, such as Brady United Against Gun Violence, seem to believe that the same police who allegedly beat, shoot, and asphyxiate people of color in the street would turn around and equitably issue them firearms permits. This makes no sense.
And what about background checks, the holy grail of the gun-control agenda? The public seems to have little idea of what goes into them. For example, the NYPD License Division’s background check includes marijuana offenses — and not just convictions, but mere arrests. The ACLU’s research shows that African Americans are 3.64 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession (in New York the figure is in the double digits). You would think that inclusion of such arrests on background checks would raise social-justice concerns.
There is a broad movement dedicated to reforming a racist justice system, yet the gun-control lobby doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo. Moreover, and perhaps most egregiously, peaceful protesters who came out to support the Black Lives Matter movement and were arrested for minor infractions stand to lose their gun licenses or their right to ever have one. Still, the gun-control lobby remains silent.
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. After all, groups like Everytown for Gun Safety were founded by Mr. Stop-and-Frisk himself, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. Like Bloomberg, most funders behind gun-control initiatives are wealthy whites who can afford to hire private security. But even if gun-control groups believe that minority groups shouldn’t be armed, why take the additional step of providing special privileges to the police?
– T.S. Furey in Gun Control’s Black Lives Matter Problem