Latino Congressional members joined a sit-in to push the GOP into a vote on gun control legislation that expands the use of “terrorist” lists. While getting a handle on our violent gun culture is important, Latinos should also understand that these kinds of lists have historically been used to target vulnerable communities, such as Latinos and African-Americans.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) cannot in any way be argued to be a puppet of the gun lobby or the National Rifle Association (NRA), and they stand against the use of these watchlist systems as a means to achieving gun regulations for good reason.
In a letter sent to the Senate on these watch lists, the ACLU argues that the “government applies the watchlists in an arbitrary or discriminatory fashion, particularly against American Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities.”
These kinds of gun control laws have historically been strongly influenced by racism against the black community and against Latinos.
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The origins of gun control in California, for instance, were encouraged by anxiety over Mexican-Americans and Chinese-Americans at the beginning of the 20th century, and gained renewed vigor when the Black Panthers used guns to defend their communities against the strong arm tactics of the police departments.
The Mulford Act, signed by Governor Ronald Reagan, said famously that the act “would work no hardship on the honest citizen”, implying that the defense of black communities against racist police officers had no legitimacy in the “honest” world of white society.
Gun-permitting processes in the South were used to disarm black communities who used firearms to defend themselves against the Ku Klux Klan. Indeed, the origin of gun control in this country is a direct descendant of slavery and the fear that subjugated classes would use them to rise up against the ruling classes.
There's been a history of an unholy alliance between gun control and racism in America, and Latinos should be wary of any designs to use watchlists to disarm Americans. These watchlists will inevitably target the most vulnerable among us. For instance, our fear of terrorism prompted Newt Gingrich to call for a new House Un-American Activities Committee, harkening back to the legacy of McCarthyism that targeted people for their political views.
This in no way means we should not work harder at ensuring that guns do not get into the hands of violent people. Some states such as Arizona allow private party transfers without a background check and these guns are regularly advertised on websites connecting buyers and sellers. This loophole has no business existing in our current laws.
Also, studies have shown a strong connection between gun violence and domestic abuse. Addressing our national character in how we deal violence against women would greatly improve how we manage gun violence.
Using watchlists designed in the age of the “war on terror” is a poor vehicle for gun control and should not be further expanded under any administration. Using “terrorism” to scare us into supporting these watchlists is low hanging fruit and pushes the boundaries of racism usually reserved for racially tinged appeals, like the Willie Horton ad.
We are better than that and minority Democrats, of all people, should know better than to use these buttons, despite their honorable cause.
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