Violence Policy Center: Reinstate the Black Codes?

Calls to limit the access of African-Americans to firearms specifically echo the "black codes" adopted immediately at the end of the Civil War. These laws were passed in southern states in response to the Thirteenth Amendment's outlawing of slavery, and were specifically engineered to circumscribe the civil rights and liberties of newly freed slaves and freemen. The codes assured the second-class status of African-Americans, and were a forerunner to decades of "separate but equal" segregation under Jim Crow laws -- which were only overcome during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Among the codes commonly passed were laws that forbid or restricted the ownership of firearms by African-Americans. The codes were "justified" with the explanation that African-Americans did not have the same rights as white citizens.

The Ku Klux Klan and similar groups were active in attempting to disarm blacks in the post-war South, and United States v. Cruikshank gave paramilitary racist mobs carte blanche to disarm African-American communities. This left them nearly defenseless to decades of lynchings, assaults, indignity, and, in several dozen instances, full-fledged "race riots" that are more accurately described as massacres. Most of these rampages occurred with the full knowledge of local and state governments. The 1898 Wilmington race riot was carried out with the full knowledge and indifference of both North Carolina Governor Daniel Lindsay Russell and President William McKinley.

One can only hope that Josh Sugarman, executive director of the Violence Policy Center, is completely ignorant of the many mob actions and the thousands of deaths that resulted from laws that stripped African-Americans of their rights and liberties. Considering his long-running and strident anti-gun advocacy, it seems likely that Sugarman and the organization are well aware of history but made a political calculation in asking that African-Americans be disarmed.

The goal of the Violence Policy Center in this report is the goal of the group in every report it has ever issued: an erosion of gun rights for all Americans, with the ultimate goal being the prohibition of all firearms save those under state control. Towards that totalitarian end, the VPC does not seem to have any qualms about advocating a return to racist policies that left African-American communities helpless targets for most of a century. Nor does Sugarman or his group explain how disarming law-abiding blacks will make them anything other than victims for those that refuse to follow existing prohibitions against murder.

The David Bohnett Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, and the Public Welfare Foundation were all contacted this week by Pajamas Media and asked whether or not they stood behind the Violence Policy Center's call to limit the rights and liberties of African-Americans.

Not one of these organizations has responded with a condemnation of the VPC's conclusions.