Racist Motivations vs. Racist Outcomes

It looks like this past week was a busy one for the gun control crowd, busy giving us insights into their thinking, and windows into their minds. Professor Adam Winkler has been on a book tour to promote “Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” in which he brings up the subject of many early gun control efforts having racist roots. This infuriates Ladd Everitt, who confronts Professor Winkler at one of his events:

This is another example of the gun control crowd failing to understand our positions, or even really grasp the core of what we argue. I don’t think anyone who’s an opinion leader in this issue, that has discussed the racist roots of gun control, has suggested that Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, the Brady Campaign, or any of its supporters, are pushing gun control because they are racist, or that their efforts are motivated by a desire to racially discriminate. All we’re suggesting is that the racist motivations of past gun control efforts should be acknowledged and openly talked about. That is the Professor’s position as well, and it is also mine.

But I will go slightly farther than perhaps Professor Winkler would be willing to go, and suggest that even today, gun control, in effect, can have racial consequences, even if it is not motivated by racial considerations per se. I will give you an example, in using the issue of “Florida Loophole,” in Pennsylvania. The City leaders have lamented that people in high-crime neighborhoods are being issued Florida licenses, presumably because they have been turned down for a license by the City of Philadelphia.

Pennsylvania law allows police to deny a license to “An individual whose character and reputation is such that the individual would be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety,” which the City of Philadelphia has interpreted quite broadly, even going to far as to suggest unpaid parking tickets are sufficient to deny permits under this clause. Philadelphia will also deny your license if you have ever been arrested, even if the arrest was minor and long ago. There is an appeal process to contest a license revocation, but it costs time and money. A typical suburban resident has sufficient access to the legal system to be able to successfully challenge an unfair denial, so suburban jurisdictions, even ones who probably would not issue licenses at all if they had a choice, tend to use this criteria fairly. Philadelphia routinely gets away with unfair denials because its residents are poorer, and don’t have the same access to the legal system. A Florida license, for which Florida only counts convictions, rather than arrests, is a cheaper alternative for being able to legally carry for self-protection. But City officials have been champing at the bit to get the “Florida Loophole” closed, leaving those residents with no recourse.

It’s worth noting that suburban applicants are going to tend to overwhelmingly be white and middle or upper class. City applicants stand  better chance than not of being African-American, given they are the city’s predominate ethnic group. It is outrageous to me that some Americans have better access to exercise their constitutional right to bear arms than other Americans. I have no doubt the motivation to close the “Florida Loophole” is not racial. Indeed, many proponents of closing the loophole are African-American, including Mayor Nutter and Commissioner Ramsey. But the end of result of what they advocate is that African-Americans in Philadelphia, who live in high-crime areas and who may be lower-income, will have less access to their constitutional rights than the white folks in the suburbs. This is what I mean when I suggest the law has racial implications, even if it is not racist in its motivations. The implication should concern any American who believes in the Bill of Rights, and equal protection under the law.

Ladd Everitt proposes we airbrush this from the debate, probably because it makes him uncomfortable. To be sure, I don’t think Everitt is a racist; i’m sure he’d be happy to disarm both black and white equally. But we don’t live in a country where a gun ban is possible anymore. Given that, I think it’s important to ensure that all Americans, regardless of color or income, have the same access to exercise their rights as everyone else. The Florida issue has uncovered a fundamental unfairness in the way Pennsylvania law is written, and how it is being implemented. It should be fixed. I’m willing to talk about the Florida issue as part of that solution, but I am absolutely not willing to airbrush the racial implications of the current status-quo. All law-abiding Pennsylvanians should have equal access to their right to carry a firearm for self-protection. I would like to think that’s a base principle we could all get behind, and leave the disagreement limited to whether the standard needs to be tougher, more lenient, or just less subjective.

Professor Winkler and I may be at opposite sides of that particular debate, but his willingness to take our side seriously, and make serious arguments in return, is a breath of fresh air in an issue dominated by the Ladd Everitts, Joan Petersons, and Abby Spanglers of the world. And that’s not even speaking of the boneheads on our “side.”

43 thoughts on “Racist Motivations vs. Racist Outcomes”

  1. Ladd Everitt and his stance on gun control is the equivalent of him standing shoulder to shoulder with the KKK on this issue. He might be uncomfortable with his allies, but there is such a thing as guilt by association.

    Ladd could have black friends, a Latino wife,an Asian uncle, and still, his stance has the moral equivalency of racism.

    1. I don’t really agree that his position is morally equivalent to racism. Granted, I agree Ladd is a loathsome character, and I would definitely agree that he holds certain prejudices about gun owners, but I’ve never bought into the notion that gun control is the moral equivalency to racism. You can choose not to be a gun owner. You can’t change what you were born.

      1. Ladd is in fact worse than just standing with the KKK. He is intentionally trying to disarm one racial group in the country, because that group is more vulnerable. When they are disarmed it will cause more crime harm than those groups less vulnerable. This is intentional. But he is in fact not racist. He will use the increase and crime and the fact that one race is disarmed to push to disarm all races, because it will be racist at that point that one race is disarmed when the others are armed. To fix this racism all will be disarmed.

        It is exactly how they used the old Jim Crow gun control laws to disarm the public in the 80’s. It used to be those laws were only enforced against blacks. Then they started enforcing them against everyone because to not do so would invite lawsuits against the racist laws.
        It worked once, he’s hoping it will work again.

  2. Associating present-day gun control with racism is bogus. The example given about Philadelphia residents and Florida permits is a stretch.

    I agree there’s nothing wrong with talking about the historical beginnings of the movement, but to pretend they have something to do with today’s world is as foolish and self-serving as pretending the 2A does.

    1. MikeB …. except those racist laws are still enforced and affected minorities disproportionally as was the intent. Winkler is the first and won’t be the last of people pointing out that Gun Control is Racist, in any of its forms.

    2. Do you consider affirmative action a legitimate response to disparate outcomes among racial groups? If so, you are a simple hypocrite. If not, then can Ward Connerly expect a check?

    3. You are sadly ignorant of the reality of modern day crypto-bigotry among people in power.

      In any polity where “may issue” licensing is in place (usually tied to a police chief’s opinion of whether someone is “suitable” or not) you will be able to find no lack of documentable cases where the police chief exercised his unspoken but obvious biases in the issuance of licenses.

      In Massachusetts, there was one chief who would never issue a license to a woman (the classic line that was read into evidence at the resultant hearing was, “What does a little lady like you need a gun for?”) Another chief, who was an elder in the Mormon church, approved only about 20% of applications, except that he approved 100% of applications from fellow Mormons.

      The famous Florida case in which a judge admitted that

      …the Act was passed for the purpose of disarming the negro laborers and to thereby reduce the unlawful homicides that were prevalent in turpentine and saw-mill camps and to give the white citizens in sparsely settled areas a better feeling of security. The statute was never intended to be applied to the white population and in practice has never been so applied.

      …occurred as recently as 1941, hardly a Reconstruction era abuse.

      You can take this to the bank: wherever licensing is subject to the opinion of someone on someone else’s “suitability,” rather than on clear lines of their objective record of convictions after the full working of due process, you will find bigotries in play, whether they are racism, sexism, nativism, or any other unfair bias you can name.

      1. “Another chief, who was an elder in the Mormon church, approved only about 20% of applications, except that he approved 100% of applications from fellow Mormons.”

        As someone who is a Mormon myself, reading this makes my blood boil. Why should a right be denied someone, because he isn’t of my faith? And what makes Mormons in particular so trustworthy?

        I would also add that this favoritism works both ways: before the Saints were forced West, a certain government (I can’t remember if it was Illinois or Missouri) decided that the “solution” to the mob violence was to disarm everyone. Since Mormons generally try to be law-abiding folk, they gave up their arms–and the officer who took the arms promptly gave them to the mob that was supposed to be disarmed as well!

        When it comes to gun rights, I don’t trust the opinions of government officials to judge who is “suitable” to own guns, or not.

        (Oh, and I would add that the blatant sexism mentioned in the previous comment also makes my blood boil. “What does a little lady like you need a gun for?” How about to blast a hole in any stalker intent on raping and murdering me, you creep?)

  3. I will disagree that there is no racist component with modern gun control. Case in point is the “challenge” that Broward County is threatening right now after Florida Law was given teeth to go after counties or cities that issued gun ordinances not allowed by the state. The number one complaint has been that a “liberal gun law is OK in the boonies but they have problems in “urban” areas with higher crime rate which need specific anti gun ordinances to keep people safe. Of course, once you look at what urban areas have higher crime rates, you will notice a distinct “tint” in the skin of the people that live there.

    1. That goes to the racial outcomes that I’ve mentioned. The people who advocate such things would be horrified if you suggested their motivation was based on race, but that’s what the practical effect of having different rules for inner cities as you have for suburbs is going to be.

      And even in some cases, if you have the same rule. For instance if your charge 1000 dollars for a license to have a gun, or carry a gun, that’s going to have a disproportionate effect on the poor, and since blacks are overrepresented among the poor, there are racial implications.

    2. Racism, or class warfare in a sublime fashion as so many times, only the elitists get to exercise their rights, e.g. NYC Robert DeNiro and only famous rich people get a concealed license. How about in Kalifornika, certain politicians get a concealed pistol license while the sheriff denies the larger percentage of average citizens. Geez, only people like his majesty Daley can have armed body guards eh?

      Whether it is the colour of your skin, or the supposed class you inhabit, it is still racism.

  4. Wham! Solid hit amidships.

    Wow. The anti-gunners are really sensitive about the racist roots of gun control.

    As I think about it, I can see why this meme scares the crap out of the anti-gunners. Among the strongest allies of the current gun-control movement have been the residents and politicians of large urban centers, which tend towards disproportionate black ethnicity, along with an understandable sensitivity towards racism. If this meme becomes more widespread the anti-gunners may find themselves abandoned by their allies, and the anti-gunners realize this threat.

  5. mikeb is is being reasonable, because if someone associated with gunowner advocacy had ever said anything that might be construed as racist, gun control advocates would NEVER point that out and try to imply a connection between racism and gunowner advocacy.


  6. Ladd Everitt has regularly played the ‘race card’ in his comments by making claims that firearm advocates are all ‘white militia guys’ who cannot support firearm rights for everyone, including minorities and women.

  7. Seriously, the racist roots of gun control isn’t common knowledge?

    I just thought that the control/democrats got the usual pass.

  8. Some years back a significant personality in Pennsylvania gun-rights circles confided to me that he never could support Vermont Carry (currently “Constitutional Carry), because “Pennsylvania has too many [n-words] and drug dealers, so it could never work here.” That in spite of his network (including their pet legislators) giving lip-service to it all the time.

    Make of that what you will about racism vis-a-vis firearms legislation. You will notice the Constitutional Carry is not even a twinkle in the eye of any Pennsylvania legislator — no matter what he/she said on the campaign trail.

    1. Our legislators have never been leaders on the issue. Even when the shall-issue movement got started, Florida took the plunge first. We don’t seem to have a political tradition in this state of seriously upending the status quo. Hell, we can even get a free market wine and liquor system, even though everyone seems to agree it would be better.

      1. Yeah I think PA is among the worst for liquor laws, and we still have a ton of DUIs, so you can see how well that works.

    2. The irony of that is that if a [n-word] is law-abiding, then no one should care whether or not they carry a gun; and any drug dealer is technically banned from carrying even in Vermont, because “Constitutional Carry” only applies to those who can legally own and carry a gun.

      Of course, such a law doesn’t apply to drug dealers–even ones in prison. Those types of people don’t hesitate to carry a gun when they can get access to them, and they have far more access to guns than people realize–even in prison. Ultimately, the law is primarily for the law-abiding; everyone else live by different (and usually far nastier) rules.

      Which, for me at least, is why I think anyone out of prison should be allowed to own and carry weapons: if someone is such a danger to society that they cannot be trusted with weapons, then they should not be trusted with freedom, either.

  9. This is just the classic intention vs outcome thing that’s so important for liberals. I can tell you from back when I was a liberal, the most important thing in the world for us was to have pure intentions in everything we did. You need to see your actions as compassionate, tolerant, and well-meaning. It’s not that the outcome doesn’t matter, but it’s psychologically less important that positive outcomes be generated than is it that positive intentions be used in attempting to generate them. Poor outcomes are subconsciously ignored or rationalized away, but the disconnect between intent and outcome causes terrible cognitive dissonance if the reality must be confronted and it’s pointed out that the outcome is actually the opposite from the intention. This usually about the time you see accusations of being “hurtful” “mean-spirited”. Because intentions are so important to liberals, on an emotional level they think you’re attacking their intentions rather than the actual outcome of their favored policies.

    It was this cognitive dissonance that eventually made me ditch liberalism and gun control. The psychological pretzels you have to contort yourself into when good intentions result in poor outcomes cause enormous mental stress and anguish. It’s just not worth it.

  10. Kinda nifty that Ladd does admit that Gun laws do discriminate against blacks and minorities…but of course they aren’t racist.

    Odd that here in Massachusetts the more lilly-white the population the less likely the police will hassle you when requesting a gun permit.

  11. I feel like chiming in here, with personal experience. I used to teach Florida permit classes (still have NRA certs, just do not want the exposure). I work at an FFL (and have on and off for several years). On the border of the ghetto. Most of the shops customers are Black or Hispanic, most are decent people (the non decent ones generally wind up kicked out or denied). Entirely too many have been denied permits from Philly for such brutal crimes as: unpaid parking tickets, underage drinking (not DUI) and the ever popular “who the hell knows?” All but a VERY few have gone through PICS without a problem (when they have a permit).

    From where I stand, yea, Philly is essentially denying a right to people capriciously, and those hit hardest by it seem to be the poorer folks (white, black, whatever). Is it racist? I don’t know, but it is arbitrary and ya gotta wonder if it is legal…

  12. It’s kinda funny how you turned the ‘disparate impact’ argument into a powerful asset for us gun nuts! Hey, if we have to live with its iron fist hovering over employers, standardized testing, college admissions, and its influence over just about every business decision, we might as well profit from it ourselves!

    Take that panty-waists! Bwahahahahahahahaha!

  13. I’m not impressed with Winkler’s misreading of my research concerning racial motivation in his book. Or rather, I’m impressed at how carelessly he seems to read.

  14. Whites who travel in Philadelphia have very good reason to get permits. They are likely to be targeted by blacks in racially motivated crimes.

    1. There’s also a very good reason for blacks in Philadelphia to get permits: too many blacks are the victims of black-on-black crime.

  15. Ladd Everitt, Joan Peterson, and Abby Spangler are racists. They don’t think they are but lots of Southerners in the 50s thought they weren’t racists even though they supported clearly racist social conventions and laws.

  16. The left’s hypocrisy really knows no bounds. If neutral hiring criteria produce a workforce that has fewer minorities than the national average, they cry raaaaaaaaaacism! But they refuse even to discuss the disparate impact of their anti-RKBA policies on minorities.

    This rhetorical incoherence is yet another reminder that the left is not interested in either individual liberty or collective public policy. They are interested in only one thing: control.

  17. The term “Saturday night special” is racially loaded. I haven’t heard it in a while.

  18. The funny part about this is that its ADAM WINKLER. He’s one of them. He filed an amicus in the Heller case on the Anti side.

    His Amicus claimed that Regulated Militia in the 2A means that the government can regulate all aspects of guns, the 2A only applies to the militia and not you and I, and that since governments have abused the 2A for so long that we have lost the protection of “shall not be infringed”

  19. This is not unique to Pennsylvania. This was written a few years ago, but it brings out some more history on the subject:

    Ewin Barnett’s letter to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch “star” reporter, Peter Shinkle, in response to an article of 10/25


  20. They’ll tell themselves they’re not racists, they’re anti-criminal. But they prejudge based on race and apparent class

  21. Sorry guys, but the historical associations matter. It demonstrates a core ethic that is common to modern gun controllers and old timey KKKers: the idea that one small group has the right to use government to force others to become victims of terror, crime, and pillagry. This is the thinking of fascists of any type, of any era, and it needs to be shown for what it is, and that it is completely and totally un-American.

  22. I will hold that gun control is the moral equivalent of racism. While I can choose not to own a gun, I am still subject to the effects of gun control. Someone else might wish to make a choice I decide against, but they should have the freedom to choose. Gun control takes that choice away. I am not a racist, nor am I a minority, but racism still affects me through affirmative action.

  23. To Sebastion- While I’m certain that most gun control advocates
    are not about racism, the cold fact is that gun control in the south was exactly that. Check out the NY State Sullivan act.
    It was passed to keep the flood of East European and Mediteranian imigrants disarmed. IE Poles, Russians, Jews, Italians and Greeks.

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