Protecting constitutional rights has been a banner carried by political progressives. Voting rights for women took center stage in the early part of the 20th century. It was to be followed several decades later by finally securing voting rights for minorities. It had actually been the law of the land since five years after the Civil War, but unethical practices had kept it from being universal.
But now the children of these civil rights champions have made a 180-degree turn against the civil right to bear arms as protected by the 2nd Amendment.1 During the January 14 edition of the O’Reilly Factor (Fox News), John Stossel reported his experience attempting to purchase a gun in New York City. The deliberately restrictive process was strikingly reminiscent of some of the tactics used to prevent black Americans from exercising their right to vote.
Parallel Methods for Disenfranchising Law-Abiding Voters and for Disarming Law-Abiding Citizens
Final guarantee of the right to vote for all U.S. citizens was a painfully slow process. It took another ninety-four years after the 15th Amendment was adopted in 1870 before the 24th Amendment was ratified making poll taxes and similar discriminating taxes unconstitutional.2
The second amendment concerning the right to bear arms was passed 222 years ago along with its fellow amendments in the Bill of Rights. This amendment is seeing increased attempts to curtail its practice.
Following are descriptions of the unethical methods used to prevent blacks from voting in the South (taken from www.civilrights.uslegal.com). After each is the hurdle John Stossel ran into in his attempt to purchase a gun (in italics).
1) Literary tests- where “some jurisdictions adopted a ‘reasonable interpretation’ clause’ which effectively ensured that whites passed and blacks failed.” The 50-page procedure required Stossel to answer questions which included obscure weapons terms which had no relevance to the application (e.g.”dirk,”stiletto,” and “gravity knife”).
2) Poll tax- “a flat fee required before voting; it was often levied as high as $200 per person.” This amount would be equivalent to $1000 today. It effectively wiped out a black person’s chance of voting. Stossel on the required fee: “I can afford the $430 application fee, but there are poor people who can’t afford that and can’t afford to take the time off from work to apply.”
3) “Grandfather clause”- this was an arbitrary law which by its definition made it impossible for blacks to qualify. The civil rights web site said: “that those who had enjoyed the right to vote prior to 1866 or 1867 or their lineal descendants would be exempt from educational, property, or tax requirements for voting. Because former slaves had not been granted the right to vote until the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified in 1870, these clauses effectively excluded blacks from the vote.” While not a legal parallel, it was similar in its impudence. Stossel was denied a gun because he could not present a “special need” for having one. He produced copies of death threats against him, but they were discounted because he had not reported them to the police.
That last excuse used by Big Brother typifies the growing lack of respect for the individual. It should serve as a warning to us: Be wary of any government which demands proof of a “special need” for a constitutional right to be in force.
1 – Amendment II reads: “”A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Recently, “The Court continued to strengthen the Second Amendment through the 2010 decision in McDonald v. City of Chicago (08-1521). The plaintiff in McDonald challenged the constitutionally of the Chicago handgun ban, which prohibited handgun possession by almost all private citizens. In a 5-4 decisions, the Court, citing the intentions of the framers and ratifiers of the Fourteenth Amendment, held that the Second Amendment applies to the states through the incorporation doctrine.” From www.law.cornell.edu
2 – Amendment XV,ratified Feb. 3, 1870, Section 1: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude—“ and Amendment XXIV, ratified 1/23/1964, Section 1: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay poll tax or other tax.” from www.archives.gov