Why Do Blacks Advocate Gun Control?

A quirky aspect of U.S. “racial” classification for the past century has been its increasing alignment with left versus right political ideologies. For example, the “left” claims to oppose “racism” (mistreatment), but does so by imposing harsh racialism (involuntary “racial” classification). Strange.

Even stranger, a loyal African American nowadays is expected to be liberal or progressive. This means that you must be in favor of legal abortion, same-sex marriage, and amnesty for undocumented immigrants. You must accept global warming and evolution. You must oppose unfettered capitalism, organized religion, and guns. On the other hand, if you are a disloyal Black conservative, you are expected to be in favor of unregulated business, Judeo-Christian values, and armed citizens. You must reject global warming and evolution. And you must oppose abortion, same-sex marriage, and illegal aliens.

Of course real people are not that easy to pigeonhole. Many informed Americans accept natural selection as the driving force behind biology, and the obvious fact of measurable global warming, while at the same time opposing socialism and favoring capitalism and armed citizens. And many illegal immigrants are religious. In reality, the left versus right dichotomy is a caricature. It is quirky for everyone. But the strangest twist is the one that we examine here today: modern-day Black political opposition to guns in the hands of citizens.

Opposition to armed citizens is a litmus test of Black allegiance today. The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People) opposes civilian gun ownership. African-American politicians vilify the NRA (National Rifle Association) as a racist organization. And mainstream news media concoct videos falsely portraying the Tea Party as “racist” because some members (whatever their “race”) support the Constitution’s second amendment.

Laws to Disarm African Americans

In reality, throughout history U.S. gun laws have been aimed at ensuring that Blacks are defenseless while Whites are armed.

During slavery, legislators reasoned that if African Americans were allowed to own guns, it would be impossible to keep them in chains. And so, Whites were encouraged (in some counties required) to carry guns while Blacks (even free ones) faced prison or the gallows if caught with firearms.

After slavery, U.S. mainstream society feared that armed Blacks would rise up to defy the Klan and oppose the state-sponsored terrorism of the Jim Crow era. Hence, in order to keep guns out of the hands of Blacks, laws were passed that only each local sheriff’s White cronies were allowed to own guns.

Even today, Black families on average have less money than Whites. Consequently, those who want to defend themselves are forced to buy lower-quality cheap handguns. Politicians today outlaw so-called “Saturday night specials”, precisely in order to keep firearms out of Black hands.

An important court challenge to enforcing laws forbidding Blacks from having guns has been deciding whether a defendant is White or Black. Although few Americans like to admit it, the simple fact is that most Americans are of mixed Afro-Euro ancestry.

Most Americans Have Mixed Ancestry

Let me explain. One-third of non-Hispanic White Americans carry DNA markers showing traces of ancestors brought from Africa during or after colonial times. [See Afro-European Genetic Admixture in the United States, especially the scatter diagram labeled, “Afro-European Genetic Admixture as a Function of Ethnicity”.] This comes to 66 million people. In addition, virtually all Hispanics (50 million) and Blacks (38 million) carry both European and African markers. (Most Hispanics have Native American admixture as well.) Finally, other census “races” (24 million), including Asian-Americans and Native Americans are also of mixed ancestry. This adds up to 178 million mixed-ancestry Americans out of a population of 309 million. [See Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin: 2010.]

That is not to say that Whites are a minority, of course. According to the 2010 census, nearly three-fourths of Americans (including most Hispanics) self-identity as solely White. But the census reflects identity politics, not DNA. Unlike the census, anti-gun laws could never be based on “racial” self-labelling; otherwise anyone could gain the right to own a gun by simply declaring, “I have decided to be White from now on.”

Example Court Cases

The following four court cases exemplify the workings of America’s laws against armed Blacks. In the first case, a court ruled that a White defendant was secretly Black because he had a distant African ancestor, thus making his gun ownership a crime. The second convicted a gun owner because of his dark appearance. The third ruled that a gun-owner was secretly Black based on the testimony of an expert witness. Finally, the fourth reveals the racist roots of today’s “may issue” laws, with the tale of a Florida sheriff who overstepped his authority.

State v. Dempsey, 1849 NC — A One-Drop Rule

Whitmell Dempsey, Jr. of 1849 North Carolina was of European appearance, although some said that he had Black ancestry. Like many men of that place and time, he supplemented his family’s diet by shooting squirrels, rabbits, woodchucks, and such. He was charged with violating Chapter 30 of the North Carolina act of 1840, which made it a misdemeanor for: “any free negro, mulatto, or free person of color, to carry about his person or keep in his house any shotgun or other arms, specified, unless he obtain a license from the county court.”

At trial, the prosecution argued that Dempsey was a White-looking Black man. Dempsey argued that he was legally White despite having a trace of African ancestry. The North Carolina act of 1777 defined as White anyone of less than one-eighth Negro blood. According to trial testimony, only one of Dempsey’s sixteen great-great-grandparents had any Black ancestry at all. This individual married a White woman and had a red-haired blue-eyed son named Joseph (at most 1/2 Black, although probably much less). Joseph married a White woman and had a European-looking son named William (1/4, at most). William married a White woman and had a son named Whitmell (1/8, at most), who was the defendant’s father. And so, Whitmell Jr. the defendant had at most 1/16 Black ancestry. Therefore the defense argued that the defendant fell within North Carolina’s legal definition of a White man. The jury convicted Dempsey anyway and he appealed.

The Supreme Court of North Carolina, Justice C. J. Ruffin presiding, upheld Dempsey’s conviction. Ruffin used recursive logic to rule that the defendant’s own testimony had convicted the man. Dempsey had admitted that his great-grandfather had been more than one-sixteenth Negro and, by law, this made the ancestor legally Black. Dempsey’s grandfather thus had a Black father, and so, being half Black, he was also legally Black as well. Following the same rationale, Dempsey’s father was also half-Black, hence Black, and so was Dempsey. This despite the fact that the man and and his parents were physically White. Dempsey’s owning a gun was a crime because a distant ancestor had some Black ancestry.

State v. Chavers, 1857 NC — Appearance

Eight years later, the trial of William Chavers hinged on a different argument. The defendant was indicted for carrying a shotgun in violation of section 66 of chapter 107 of the Revised Code then in effect. Section 79 of that chapter stated that “all free persons descended from negro ancestors to the fourth generation inclusive, though one ancestor of each generation may have been a white person, shall be deemed free Negroes,” thereby defining White as anyone with less than one-eighth Negro ancestry. Nevertheless, instead of presenting genealogical evidence the prosecution relied on testimony that the defendant’s father was a man of dark complexion and kinky hair. The trial judge instructed the jury that the defendant was Black within the spirit of the law:

Can it be then, that a remove by one generation has the effect, in law, of turning a half negro into a free white man in spite of the color of his skin or the kinking of his hair? It seems to me both unreasonable and absurd.

But the state appeals court overturned Chavers’s conviction. They ruled that the law clearly defined someone with seven White great-grandparents like Chavers as legally White. Chavers was allowed to carry a gun because he was legally White, even though his father looked Black.

State v. Jacobs, 1859 NC — The Expert Witness

Two years later, Asa Jacobs pleaded not guilty of violating the gun-control laws because he too was White. As in the previous case, the prosecution did not try to prove the man’s Blackness by computing his blood fraction as the statute specified. Instead, they called in an expert witness—a forensic expert in the science of “race.” The court accepted the witness, a Mr. Pritchett, when he qualified himself as a “race” expert by testifying under oath:

that he was a planter, an owner and manager of slaves, and had been for more than twelve years, that he had paid much attention to and had had much observation of the effects of the intermixture of negro or African blood with the white and Indian races, and that from such attention and observation, he was well satisfied that he could distinguish between the descendants of a negro and a white person, and the descendants of a negro and Indian; and further, that he could therefrom, also say whether a person was full African or negro, or had more or less than half negro or African blood in him, and whether the cross or intermixture was white or Indian blood.

Once the court had accepted him as an expert witness, Pritchett the expert turned his gaze upon Asa Jacobs and opined that the man had at least the statutory one-eighth African blood fraction in him. Without further ado, Jacobs was convicted. The conviction was upheld on appeal.

Watson v. Stone, 1941 FL — Cronyism

Young Americans today, who see “racial” classification as a form of self-label or voluntary group membership, are amazed at the contortions that the justice system twisted itself into in order to decide whether someone was White (and could legally carry a gun) or Black (and could not). Legislators during the Jim Crow era felt the same way.

To simplify things (and to evade the disapproving eye of the federal government), around the turn of the 20th century states across the nation solved the confusion by adopting “may issue” laws. Such laws delegated “racial” classification to county sheriffs. You could carry a gun if your local sheriff approved. If he did not, your being armed was a crime. It was a universally known but unwritten rule that sheriffs were to deny approval to all Blacks and grant approval to all Whites. But unwritten rules are eventually forgotten. By the middle of the 20th century, some sheriffs thought that they could legally approve their own cronies and deny guns to everyone else, Black or White.

The misunderstanding came to a head when Watson (a White citizen) was denied a gun permit by Stone (a Florida sheriff). Despite being rejected for a permit, Watson kept a gun in his car’s glove compartment anyway. He was arrested and convicted of carrying a gun without a license. He appealed on the grounds that he was White, and that Sheriff Stone thus lacked authority to deny him the right to be armed. The Florida Supreme Court agreed, overturned his conviction, and rebuked the sheriff. In his 1941 decision, Florida Supreme Court Justice Rivers H. Buford (1878-1959), ruled that:

I know something of the history of this legislation. The original Act of 1893 was passed when there was a great influx of negro laborers in this State drawn here for the purpose of working in turpentine and lumber camps. The same condition existed when the Act was amended in 1901 and 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.


For four centuries, U.S. gun-control laws have been explicitly designed, implemented, and enforced to disarm African Americans and leave them defenseless against armed Whites. Nevertheless, many of today’s politically active African Americans clamor for even more prohibitions against being armed. Consequently, thousands of legally disarmed African Americans are slaughtered every year by armed thugs who laugh at gun-control laws.¬†What is behind such a historically ignorant, self-destructive political stance? I have no clue.

The only possibility that comes to mind would be Black internalization of White-on-Black contempt. Sort of the way that many Black highschoolers disdain academic excellence as “acting White”. It is possible, I suppose, that many African American adults disdain armed self-defense as also “acting White”. But this is just a guess. As I said, I have no clue.

For another summary of this topic, see Clayton Cramer’s The Racist Roots of Gun Control.

For an outstanding video of the topic, see the JFPO film, No Guns for Negroes

For details of the above court cases (and over 200 more), see my own doctoral dissertation, Legal History of the Color Line.

Next Time: How to Stop a Mass Shooting


Frank W. Sweet is an NRA-certified firearms instructor who teaches the safe and effective use of handguns for self-defense. He was awarded an M.A. in Civil War Studies in military history from American Military University in 2001. He is the author of Legal History of the Color Line (ISBN 9780939479238), Six Gems of Forgotten Civil War History (ISBN 9780939479023), and of numerous published historical essays. To receive a schedule of his firearms training courses, email to fwsweet@ccwvslaw.org. The information above should not be construed as legal advice.

2 Responses to “Why Do Blacks Advocate Gun Control?”

  1. A.D. Powell Says:

    Frank, most “African Americans” know next to nothing about the history you cite. They know there was slavery a long time ago and they believe certain myths like “rape,” House slaves” and “Willie Lynch.” Hardly any of them live in fear of the Klan or other white supremacists. They do live in fear of black criminals, especially young males from the underclass.

    Fox Butterfield argues that black male criminal violence in rooted in the aping of the Southern white male tradition of “honor,” which demanded that all “disrespect” be punished:


  2. Frank W Sweet Says:

    I have ordered a copy of the book.

    Judging solely by the book’s blurb, I am concerned that the author may possibly conflate two different kinds of “violence”: (1) The “monkey dance”, where young males puff out their chests, strut about, and threaten mayhem in defending their sacred honor (like dogs snarling at each other), and (2) “Predation”, where amoral hunters methodically stalk and calmly strike their prey in order to make a living as professional criminals (like dogs silently and cheerfully tearing a calf to shreds). The two kinds of “violence” spring from different roots, with different immediate triggers, and demand different solutions.

    I shall let you know when I have read the book.