Kopel: "The Klan's Favorite Law"
Dave Kopel's latest is an article in Reason entitled "The Klan's Favorite Law: Gun Control in the Postwar South." A few excerpts:
After the Civil War, the defeated Southern states aimed to preserve slavery in fact if not in law. The states enacted Black Codes which barred the black freedmen from exercising basic civil rights, including the right to bear arms. Mississippi's provision was typical: No freedman "shall keep or carry fire-arms of any kind, or any ammunition."
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The Special Report of the Anti-Slavery Conference of 1867 complained that freedmen were "forbidden to own or bear firearms and thus.rendered defenseless against assaults" by whites. Or as a letter printed in the Jan. 13, 1866 edition of Harper's Weekly observed: "The militia of this county have seized every gun found in the hands of so-called freedmen in this section of the county. They claim that the Statute Laws of Mississippi do not recognize the Negro as having any right to carry arms."
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Congress' "Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction" set forth the factual case for the need for a 14th Amendment to protect the liberties enumerated in the federal Bill of Rights. At the Committee's hearings, General Rufus Saxon testified that all over the South, whites were "seizing all fire-arms found in the hands of the freedmen. Such conduct is in clear and direct violation of their personal rights as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, which declares that 'the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.'"