For years – for two centuries, in fact – gun control was a largely Right-wing, reactionary campaign issue, not a Left-wing one. The fact that it has now been adopted by Leftists is very revealing indeed.
Before the 1980s, Right-wingers and racists were the most vocal in demanding that the states in America should strictly circumscribe gun ownership. Where the revolutionary government of 1791 made the second amendment to the US Constitution, which insisted on the right of the citizenry to bear arms as a safeguard against tyrannical government, successive legislators and campaigners who were freaked out by the prospect of former slaves getting hold of guns called for a rethink of this fundamental liberty. So after theNat Turner rebellion of 1831, when a band of black rebels shot at white slave owners and freed their slaves, the state of Tennessee altered its constitution. Where once it had guaranteed that “the freemen of this state have a right to keep and to bear arms for their common defence”, post-Nat Turner it said “the free white men of this state have a right to keep and to bear arms for their common defence”.
Throughout the 1800s, states passed gun-control laws that were fundamentally racist. So, panicked by the prospect of more black rebellions against white landowners, the North Carolina Supreme Court passed a statute in 1840 that said: “If any free negro, mulatto, or free person of colour shall wear or carry about his or her person, or keep in his or her house, any shotgun, musket, rifle, pistol, sword, dagger or bowie-knife… he or she shall be guilty of a misdemanour, and may be indicted therefore.”
In the 1890s, Florida also passed race-specific gun-control laws. Then, in 1941, a judge in Florida’s Supreme Court called the laws into question when he overturned the conviction of a black man for carrying a handgun without a permit. He…