An Open Letter to State Representative Peter Groff
April 20, 2001
Dear Senator Groff,
I would first like to salute you for your hard work in advocating legislation to curb racial profiling. I know you didn't end up with as strong a bill as you would have liked, but I expect your efforts will result in positive change. I witnessed racial profiling, and got threatened with arrest for questioning the officers involved, so I know it's a problem, even though I haven't personally been the target. "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," as King said. I appreciate your sense of justice and your dedication to civil rights.
I am confused, then, by your support of legislation (introduced April 19) to strip lawful adults ages 18-21 of their right of self-defense.
As I'm sure you're aware, the first gun control laws in America were overtly racist, passed in the south to strip blacks of their ability to defend themselves against violent bigots. Indeed, part of the animus behind the Fourteenth Amendment was to restore the right to bear arms to black people. Before the NAACP became so tightly wed to the Democratic party, it encouraged its members to carry arms for personal protection.
Yet is it substantively different to discriminate against lawful adults based on their age, rather than on the basis of their skin color? An 18, 19, or 20 year old can go to Kosovo to drive tanks and carry fully automatic (real) assault rifles, come home and get married, have children, sign contracts, buy a house, and vote, but these same Americans may be stripped of their right to defend their families against violent criminals? The Colorado Constitution says the right of NO PERSON to keep and bear arms shall be called in question. It does not allow discrimination against legal adults on the basis of age.
I encourage you to consider how arbitrary "victimless crime" laws impact the issue of racial profiling. Who do you think is more likely to be targeted by police for buying a defensive gun: a black young adult in the city or a white guy in the suburbs?
It is an unfortunate carry-over of America's racist past that some black communities continue to be plagued by a lack of opportunity and by gang violence. The African American community suffers a disproportionate level of gun violence.
It is my belief that gang violence is fueled both by ill-advised economic policies that prevent more rapid economic development of disadvantaged communities, as well as by drug prohibition, which is inherently violent. I look forward to working with you to solve some of these underlying social problems, rather than wasting our time trying to address the symptoms.
Until some of those more fundamental problems are addressed, gun prohibitions will fail to prevent gang violence just as drug prohibitions have failed to prevent it. Until we reach deeper solutions, it is especially important that blacks living in high-crime areas be able to retain their rights of self-defense. In his study of concealed carry laws, Professor John Lott found that "blacks benefit more than any other group from concealed-handgun laws" (More Guns Less Crime 68).
I am a Libertarian, and you are a civil libertarian. I think, then, that we have much in common. I would very much like to read and publish your reply to my letter, as I believe it would foster better understanding and continued dialogue.