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U.S. Founding Included Gun Control

For some, an objective review of history will be beneficial.

by
Howard Nemerov

Bio

February 8, 2012 - 11:18 am

In yesterday’s article, I mentioned that governments always want more gun control. One reader commented: “don’t know that ALL our past governments wanted more gun control. as a matter of fact, i don’t believe gun control was much of a big deal (knowing our country’s gun slinging past) until of late, historically speaking. [sic]”

Some well-meaning, pro-rights readers nevertheless need to review history, which brings us to today’s lesson.

I reiterate: Governments will always want more gun control, because there will always be this us/them bias that somehow pervades the human condition. That’s true even before America became…America.

Here’s some examples:

Joseph J. Ellis, in his George Washington biography His Excellency: George Washington, wrote about gun control attitudes during the Revolution. Presuming that patriotic fervor would provide plenty of enlistments for the Continental Army during the Revolution, Black slaves and freemen were not allowed to enlist. But once it became clear that there would not be enough volunteers, George Washington became more conciliatory and gave Blacks permission to join the army.

This is a key concept, because Washington hailed from Virginia, where a 1640 militia law excluded Blacks as an excuse to ban gun ownership: “All persons except negroes to be provided with arms and ammunition or be fined at pleasure of the Governor and Council.” This law was expanded in 1723 to include other people besides Blacks: “no negro, mulatto, or Indian whatsoever; (except as hereafter excepted) shall hereafter presume to keep, or carry any gun…”

Even after the Revolution, this desire to keep Blacks out of the military–and prevent Black gun ownership–persisted. For example, the Militia Act of 1792 allowed only whites to enroll:

[E]ach and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years… shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia…every citizen, so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock…

This all set the stage for Antebellum black codes, which further restricted firearms ownership for all but white Americans, which according to some states, were America’s only citizens.

From their inception, our federal and state governments promoted gun control as a way to control undesirables, in this case Blacks. And that’s why there will always be government-sponsored gun control, because there’s always somebody the government feels is a threat to its existence, as noted in yesterday’s piece.

(For more details, see 400 Years of Gun Control: Why Isn’t It Working? Also available in Amazon Kindle lending library.)

Former civilian disarmament supporter and medical researcher Howard Nemerov investigates the civil liberty of self-defense and examines the issue of gun control, resulting in his book Four Hundred Years of Gun Control: Why Isn’t It Working? He appears frequently on NRA News as their “unofficial” analyst and was published in the Texas Review of Law and Politics with David Kopel and Carlisle Moody.
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