The Racist Reality of Gun Control

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Handguns at a gun store in Uniondale, N.Y., in 2013. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Exorbitant fees, draconian laws, and more combine to disadvantage minorities the most.

Gun control disproportionately impacts the poor and minorities and puts them at greater risk of prosecution. So why is it that progressives, who like to think of themselves as champions of the “people,” are always pushing for stricter gun-control laws?

In January 2016, New York mayor Bill de Blasio created “Project Fast Track” to aggressively pursue all firearms cases in New York. Defendants in that court are overwhelmingly young black males who are charged with simply possessing an illegal firearm — not using it or committing any violent crime. The majority in these cases have never been convicted of a felony.

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It’s a local snapshot of a broader picture. Nationally, while black Americans amount to only 13 percent of the population, they receive 51 percent of all felony firearm-possession convictions. A number of these cases may in fact be connected to more nefarious criminal activity. And given the crime wave sweeping U.S. cities, prosecutors should be pursuing violent crimes wherever they can.

But minorities and those living in poor areas are much more likely to experience crime, especially violent crime, compared with their fellow citizens. These individuals are in particular need of the ability to defend themselves, and they have the same right to do so as someone living in a safe, upper-class suburb; and yet gun-control laws eviscerate this right for vulnerable Americans in several ways.

First, gun control operates as an economic barrier for many poor Americans. Buying a firearm is expensive and is made even more expensive when cities enforce stringent restrictions, especially extensive transfer and background-check fees.

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The federal government has made it almost completely illegal to buy a gun except through a licensed firearms dealer. These dealers charge a fee to perform the federally mandated transfer — fees paid by the buyer.

In some places, those transfer fees are very costly. A new, entry-level handgun typically costs less than $200. But in Dallas, Texas, it will cost you about $25 more to have a dealer complete the federally mandated firearm transfer. In Washington, D.C., it will cost you $125 — or more than 60 percent of the cost of the actual gun. For many, these fees put a lawful purchase beyond reach.

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Even if a disadvantaged individual could afford the gun itself, the financial barriers don’t end there.

New York City requires you to have a permit simply to keep a firearm in your home. Many states effectively prevent you from carrying that firearm outside your home. Either those states make the permits nearly impossible to get, like New York’s “may issue” permit system that is currently under review by the U.S. Supreme Court, or the state makes it so costly as to prohibit most people from affording the permit — a California carry permit, if you can get it, will cost around $300, and you must renew it every two years.

In addition, gun-control laws are not equally enforced in upscale neighborhoods. No one strolling through Beverly Hills or down 5th Avenue in New York is worried about being searched for a firearm. We all know where those “stop-and-frisk” pat-downs are more likely to take place, and for whom. And those are the individuals in de Blasio’s “Project Fast Track.”

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To be clear, this disparity is not new.

The entire history of gun control has been hellbent on depriving minorities of their rights. Before the founding of the United States, some colonies prohibited freedmen, slaves, and indentured servants from possessing firearms. Others prevented Catholics from gun ownership. Massachusetts prohibited gunsmiths from repairing or selling firearms to Native Americans.

Despite being lauded as a progressive necessity, gun control, at its core, has always been discriminatory against ethnic, political, and religious minorities, as well as the poorest members of our society.

Gun control, further, does not make dangerous neighborhoods safer. Instead, it forces the disadvantaged to choose between abiding by gun-control laws or defending their own families.

The solution is for the government to stop making it so difficult and so expensive for people to defend themselves.

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We must recognize that all Americans have an equal right to defend themselves, regardless of race or income.

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