The 4 Racist Defining Moments In Gun Control History

Gun control is all the rage nowadays, and there are reasons to see why. Not only is gun violence at an all-time high in America, but we're also pretty much one of the few places in the world where mass shootings occur at alarming regularity. It's so bad that The Onion can use the same article about it for years, and it'll still ring depressingly true.

But among that heated debate fiercely discussed on both sides, there's some pretty racist history underlying the modern gun control movement that isn't really talked about that often. For starters, much of America's gun control today was precisely informed in response to Black activists arming themselves against white supremacists, like ...

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4
The Mulford Act Was Drafted And Signed In Response To The Black Panther Movement

There's this common misconception among many people, liberals included, that all forms of gun control legislation have always been a net positive in the country, but this isn't exactly true -- or rather, it's a more complicated story than that. You see, white people are fine when they have guns but get a little too uncomfortable when Black people around them start having them. 

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Back in the '60s, the Black Panther party was getting a little too self-armed for the likes of the white people. The Black Panthers were highly educated on all matters of law and guns rights, which basically gave them a lot of free license to do things like neighborhood patrols to look out for potential abuse by cops and even helping Black people pulled over by cops by telling them their rights and making sure nothing goes awry. And if you're familiar with American cops at all, you know screwing-shit-up is pretty much on brand.

White people, primarily politicians, didn't like this and attempted to pass some gun control legislation to curtail it. Black Panthers responded naturally by storming the Capitol on May 2nd, 1967, fully armed, to protest these bills. As you can imagine, this went over swimmingly well with Ronald Reagan, who was governor of California at the time, who wanted to disarm Panther groups immediately and thus set in action the Mulford Act.

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The Mulford Act was the signature defining policy of the gun control movement. Written by Don Mulford and signed into effect by Ronald Reagan on July 28th, 1967, the bill basically disarmed the Black Panthers completely, accomplishing both the NRA and Republicans' goals at the time. 

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This was met with an intense backlash from Black activists, who saw it as a racially motivated political act, which is basically like accusing the sky of being blue. Ronald Reagan denied these claims, saying that white supremacist groups were also being targeted. Still, a letter from Mulford himself -- the dude the bill was named after -- to Reagan suggests otherwise, as Mulford talked about how the Black Panthers were "creating a serious problem." Given how racist politicians like Mulford and Reagan basically exacerbated police brutality against Black people, it's like complaining that firefighters putting out a fire is a "serious problem."

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The Mulford Act was just the beginning, as the Federal Gun Act was passed just a year after that, leading to a series of even stronger gun control bills that rippled throughout the country, forming the backbone of modern gun control to this day.

3
The NRA Used To Be Very Pro-Gun Control To Stop Black Activists

The National Rifle Association is pretty darn good at manufacturing their own PR and history, like being a group that has always been on the forefront of gun rights and protection against "government tyranny." Even though their membership numbers have been dwindling at hilariously fast rates and recently declared bankruptcy, they've been somewhat adept at lobbying against politicians whenever gun control issues crop up.

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The only problem is that they actually have been very pro-gun control since their inception, and it is only recently that they actually changed their attitude towards gun ownership. How did this happen? Well, racism, of course. It's always racism when it comes to white people afraid of minorities getting too uppity. 

National Rifle Association
"By 'Fight tyranny' we really meant it in more of a 'Display a lot of angry bumper stickers' kind of way."
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This goes way back to the early 20th century, starting in the '20s when the NRA actually wanted to push forward even more regulations for guns at the time. You see, the NRA pushed forward what they called "responsible gun ownership," which is a lot like "if some moron kills somebody, we don't actually want to be held responsible." They basically wanted things like concealed carry weapons to require a permit. This is in complete antithesis to the modern-day NRA that we all know and hate, but for a particular purpose.

The NRA's history has mainly been about damage control, like when Lee Harvey Oswald used a rifle supplied by an NRA mail-order to assassinate JFK, the NRA immediately stepped in to dispel negative PR. But the most significant key detail about their history happened in 1967 when the organization grew increasingly distrustful of Black Panthers, and so, alongside Don Mulford and Reagan, had a hearty helping hand in enacting the bill.

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It's not hard to see why an overwhelmingly white gun organization would give loud endorsements to a gun control bill largely aimed at an all-Black militia group. With the group growing increasingly armed, white paranoia settled in faster than a white woman calls the cops on a Black bird watcher, leading to the NRA supporting the very legislation that they would then denounce a year later.

It wasn't until 1971 when the feds raided Kenyon Ballew, a lifelong NRA member, on suspicion of hoarding a bunch of illegal guns and shot him, making him paralyzed for life, that the NRA finally decided that this whole "let the government take our guns'' thing maybe wasn't in their best interests after all. Shocker. The proceeding outrage led to a striking change in the group's attitude, helping form the modern "gubbermint tyranny!" NRA that you see to this day.

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The funny thing is, the Black Panthers basically said the same thing about needing guns to protect from government brutality, which the NRA cribbed completely, pretending that they had always been pro-gun rights. Seems like the second amendment only matters for white people.

2
It Stems Back All The Way To Slavery

You might think that gun control is a fairly recent phenomenon, as mass shootings with assault rifles tend to take up a lot of media noise, but it actually goes as far back as slavery.

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See, after the Civil War, the North had effectively told its Black soldiers that they were free to take their rifles home with them. This was entirely unprecedented in American history, as Black people were used to being, well, property, and not actual human beings with rights to things like land and guns. 

U.S. Army
Specifically, human beings who spent years held captive by people who were pretty worried about stuff like this regiment flag.
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As you can imagine, the south wasn't so kind on this front and actually implemented its own form of gun control via just taking that shit and letting Black people fend for themselves. This series of gun control bills swept the nation, primarily in the south, and were known as Black Codes. These Black Codes basically made it illegal for Black people, free or not, to own weapons, which meant that white supremacists and the KKK were given complete and total free reign to terrorize Black neighborhoods as they saw fit.

It wasn't until 1870 that Congress finally made it illegal to bar anyone from guns, white or Black, that Black people could once again pick up arms to secure basic human rights. But, as we all know, illegal or not, if white supremacists don't want Black people owning guns -- or being alive -- they will make it happen some way, as the laws actually empowered white terrorists more than Black people themselves. Like ...

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1
There Has Always Been Gross Hypocrisy With White Supremacy

You might be thinking, "Well, there was clearly racial intent behind a lot of gun control legislation, but that doesn't mean that only Black people were targeted," which is an innocent enough line of thinking, but the surprising reality is that, like always, white people were more often than not excused from such legislation entirely.

Back in the '40s, a shitton of lynching was happening in Florida, which, rightfully so, prompted Black people en masse to arm up to defend themselves against white supremacist mobs. Being entities of infinite wisdom and grace, the Florida courts decided that self-defense wasn't so good alluvasudden and effectively placed a ban on owning pistols and Winchester rifles without a permit.

Mike Kuhlman/Shutterstock
Once again, just when you start to gain some faith in humanity, here comes Florida.
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But that's not all; these laws were effectively off the books for white populations and pretty much exclusively enforced against Black people, which the courts themselves actually admitted to themselves. And when you have a legal court system basically going, "Yeah, we're racist as hell, whatevs," you know this isn't everyday racism, but advanced racism. 

And throughout the 20th century, the KKK did its very best to disarm Black people at every chance it could get. Yet, gun legislation was never effectively passed when these acts of terrorism occurred; only when Black people got too 'uppity' and took self-defense into their own hands did the State basically flip on the second amendment entirely. This is quite strange when considering that a bulk of gun crimes in the 20th century were committed wholly by white people. But whaddya know, racism gonna racism.

Top image: Golubovystock, Pratchaya Lee/Shutterstock