Speaking Of Jim Crow Relics

The weekly compilation from the Brady Campaign had an attack on the filibuster. Quoting former President Obama, it was called a “Jim Crow relic”.

This week, President Obama called for the elimination of the filibuster: an arcane rule in the Senate that requires a supermajority of 60 votes, instead of 51, to pass nearly any bill. Our movement knows all too well the dangers of this rule. It’s what stopped Congress from passing lifesaving gun reform legislation following the Sandy Hook massacre.

They were 54 votes in favor and 46 against — clearly a simple majority! But the 60-vote rule stopped Congress from acting  even after 26 students and educators were shot and killed. 

Enough is enough. Why do we need a 60-vote threshold to pass a bill that will save American lives? Fifty-one is the majority, and 51 is fair.

We’re not asking for a lot. We’re simply calling for a simple majority vote — fair and square — to pass lifesaving, evidence-based policy solutions to end gun violence. There’s no excuse for senseless gun violence, especially when legislative solutions have been sitting before Mitch McConnell and the U.S. Senate for over 500 days!

We need to let every Senator know that #51IsFair and gun violence is a national emergency.

Actually, the filibuster and its use in the US Senate predates both the origin of Jim Crow laws and the Civil War. According to a history of it as published by the Senate, unlimited debate was allowed in both the House and Senate. The growth in the number of representatives saw it discontinued in the House but unlimited debate continued in the Senate. Its use to block bills came to the forefront in the 1840s when unlimited debate was used to block a banking bill. The concept of cloture or the ending of unlimited debate by a vote only came into existence in 1917 at the urging of President Woodrow Wilson.

The history of Jim Crow laws and black codes began in 1865 with the adoption of the 13th Amendment which ended slavery and involuntary servitude in the United States once and for all. The black codes were laws enacted at the state and local level which restricted former slaves as to where, when, and how they could work and also restricted their compensation. It served to put many blacks into indentured servitude.

Jim Crow laws were a follow-on that served to enforce segregation, to ban inter-racial marriage, to keep blacks disenfranchised, and, for the purposes of my discussion here, disarmed.

Historians like Clayton Cramer and legal scholars like Dave Kopel and Robert Cottrol among others have shown how many gun control laws were aimed at keeping blacks unarmed and vulnerable.

Let’s talk about two of those Jim Crow relics that I’ve written about in the past. The first from Florida and the second from my home state of North Carolina.

After armed black men using their Winchester repeating rifles prevented a lynching in Jacksonville, Florida, the Florida legislature enacted a law that required a permit for Floridians to carry a handgun or a “Winchester rifle or other repeating rifle.” It was the first law nationwide that treated repeating rifles differently than any other firearm. It was the antecedent to modern day “assault weapons” (sic) bans in states like California and New York (among others).

One need only look to the official proclamations of the Democratic Party and their standard bearer Joe Biden to see that support for such Jim Crow relics as a ban on repeating rifles lives on. In their ideological blindness, neither the Democrats nor the Brady Campaign suffer any cognitive dissonance in pushing Jim Crow originated gun control while attacking the filibuster as a “Jim Crow relic”.

I have written often on this blog about North Carolina’s pistol purchase permit and its role in perpetuating white supremacy in the early 20th century. It was enacted in 1919 soon after a race riot in Winston-Salem. There was a great fear of black veterans returning from World War One. The co-primary sponsor of the bill was Sen. Earle A. Humphreys (D-Goldsboro). Humphrey just happened to be the brother-in-law of US Sen. Furnifold Simmons who was the architect of the Democrat’s white supremacy campaign. The goal was to make it difficult if not impossible for blacks as well as Populists and union organizers to be armed outside the home.

Every time in the last decade a repeal of the pistol purchase permit system in North Carolina is tried, it ultimately fails. Part of that failure is due to recalcitrant sheriffs who don’t want to give up the power or money and the obsequious nature of Republicans towards law enforcement. The other part is due to the unified nature of Democrats and the gun control lobby in opposition. That includes the Brady Campaign. Current Brady Campaign President Kris Brown characterized the repeal effort as rolling back “our decades of a lifesaving policy requiring a background check and a “permit to purchase” for every handgun sale.”

She was wrong. It was an effort to rid the state of the then-98 years of institutionalized racism in the form of a Jim Crow law to keep blacks unarmed and subservient.

It is the height of hypocrisy on the part of the Brady Campaign to rail against the filibuster as a “Jim Crow relic” because it stood in their way of enacting a gun control law. A law that had its very antecedent in a Jim Crow law meant to make it “safer” for racists to lynch innocent blacks.

To be honest, when have politicians or the gun control industry let a little thing like hypocrisy ever get in the way of their pursuit of power.

The answer is never.


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