Even the briefest peek into history reveals an overwhelming truth. Since the beginning of civilization, the politically powerful have always sought to control and disarm their opponents, usually because of their race, religion, or social status. America is no different. Today, we just call it gun control.
While there has been a lot of discussion about the Supreme Court’s recent decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, there is an interesting fact that many don’t know. New York’s discretionary (and unconstitutional) carry law at issue in the case was originally passed in 1911 as the Sullivan Act, or the Sullivan Law. The act was named for New York State Senator Timothy Sullivan, a well-known and deeply corrupt politician and Irish gangster.
Beyond the corrupt intent of making criminals’ work easier by disarming peaceable New Yorkers, the law was specifically used to target Italian immigrants. It was passed during a wave of anti-Italian sentiment from Irish and Jewish populations in the city.
But this is nothing new.
In the Supreme Court’s NYSRPA v. Bruen majority opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas (the descendant of a freed southern slave) recounts how the antebellum South regularly prevented freed slaves from possessing arms, and how the Supreme Court in 1857 supported that practice:
“Writing for the Court in Dred Scott v. Sandford, Chief Justice Taney offered what he thought was a parade of horribles that would result from recognizing…