The Inherent Racism of Gun Control

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Writing for the Independent Institute’s Beacon, Anthony Gregory argues that the mechanics of gun control are implicitly racist:

Perhaps the most telling data concerns the racial makeup of who goes to prison for gun violations. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, for Fiscal Year 2011, 49.6% of those sentenced to federal incarceration with a primary offense of firearms violations were black, 20.6% were Hispanic, and only 27.5% were white.

This is how gun laws actually work—those caught violating them go to prison. For the mere act of owning an illegal weapon—not necessarily for using it, not for threatening anyone with it, not for being irresponsible with it—people who have harmed no one are locked up in prison for years at a time. As with the rest of the criminal justice system, particularly the war on drugs, these laws disproportionately harm the poor and minorities. That is the inescapable reality of gun control.

Gregory further argues that we’re not just talking gang members’ getting caught with weapons that they may have used or may intend to use for illegal purposes.  In poorer, more-dangerous environments good people have incentive to make provisions to protect themselves, and as with every other area of society in which the government erects barriers and imposes costs, people with lower income are less able to make sure they’ve got all of their Ts crossed.  That’s especially true when minorities are more likely to have some sort of criminal record.

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Murdering people is already illegal, and doing it on a large scale is among the most stunningly illegal things one can do.  Broadening the list of activities that are illegal (like owning a particular type of gun or carrying a gun on one’s person) may or may not make such killers unable to do what they want to do, but on a much larger scale, the laws will snag people who are innocent of any other crime.  Putting them on the list of society’s criminals will only harm their future prospects at the same time that it puts them in the company of actual criminals.

Even if one believes that the number of lives ruined through this unintended effect is worth the number of lives saved by a ban, one must take it into account.

(via Stephen Green)



  • Rhett Hardwick

    Isn’t this the way of all “controls”. Consider the number of guys on the “Sex Offender Registry” who are there because they were caught urinating in a rest area. (To be fair, to get “busted” for that, it is reasonable to suspect that there was also, at least, “attitude”)

  • Mike678

    People tend to throw the “racism” word around without understanding the meaning of the word. It’s not automatically “racism” (prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior) if prison populations are 50% Black 20% Hispanic and 30% White. It could be, but to jump to that conclusion just based on percentages ignores the behaviors / actions that gave us these ratios.

    A better title would be “Gun Control Laws disproportionately impact…
    This isn’t “racism.”

    • Justin Katz

      I know. There’s a bit of eye-catching irony in the title.

      • Mike678

        Does disproportionate impact = racism? I could make an argument that some could be caused by discrimination, but not all–or even most.

    • Rhett Hardwick

      I pointed out, on another board, that 50% of gun crimes were committed by 6% of the population (black males). Actually it is probably more like 2% because some are too young and violent tendencies tend to decrease with age. My comment was deleted on the other board because it was “racist”