Last night’s Democratic presidential debate featured plenty of support for stricter gun control, to nobody’s surprise. Even Bernie Sanders, who opposed the Brady Act, started backpedaling on his record and said he supported the prosecution of gun manufacturers.
By this point, everyone assumes that Democrats are anti-gun. But why should they be? Stricter gun control would rely on police for enforcement and — as progressives know too well — police tend to target minorities. Far from their dream of a gun-free America, progressives would wake up to the nightmare of more black men prosecuted for non-violent “crimes.”
Recent gun-control initiatives may lack racist intent, but they nevertheless inflict racially disparate consequences. New York implemented its stop-and-frisk policy, which enabled the New York Police Department to harass and profile people of color, in the name of getting weapons off the streets.
There are similar disparities on a national level. Anthony Gregory of the Independent Institute notes that in 2011, “49.6 percent of those sentenced to federal incarceration with a primary offense of firearms violations were black, 20.6 percent were Hispanic, and only 27.5 percent were white.”
When the act of merely possessing a firearm is a crime, police must use their judgment to decide who “looks dangerous.” Unsurprisingly, this leads to the racial profiling of young men in poor neighborhoods—those who look like gangsters to the subjective eyes of an officer.
While stricter gun control would be universal on the books, district attorneys are much less likely to prosecute whites for possession because of the Second Amendment culture that is often associated with rural and suburban towns. Michelle Alexander gave a great anecdote about this selective enforcement bias in her book The New Jim Crow:
“I had an [assistant U.S. attorney who] wanted to drop the gun charge against the defendant [in a case which] there were no extenuating circumstances. I asked, ‘Why do you want to drop the gun offense?’ And he said, ‘He’s a rural guy and grew up on a farm. The gun he had with him was a rifle. He’s a good ol’ boy, and all good ol’ boys have rifles, and it’s not like he was a gun-toting drug dealer.’ But he was a gun-toting drug dealer, exactly.”
Liberals should look themselves in the mirror before demanding stricter gun control. Far from an antiquated conservative cause, gun rights protect minorities from both police harassment and the dangers that lurk in high-crime neighborhoods where calling 911 won’t do much good.