Want to pass real gun reform? Give more law-abding Black people guns | Michael Coard

Gun Rights

On May 3, Republicans in the state House did something that was good or, better stated, did something that was not too bad in the move toward sensible gun control in the Commonwealth.

I say “not too bad” because they could’ve and should’ve done much more. But considering who we’re dealing with, I’ll take what I can get.

Here’s the pertinent background: On April 26, the state House Judiciary Committee — correction, the Democratic members in the state House Judiciary Committee — passed HB338, sponsored by Rep. Ben Sanchez, D-Montgomery, to require owners to report missing firearms; HB714, sponsored by Rep. Perry Warren, D-Bucks, to require purchasers to submit to background checks on every firearm; HB 731, sponsored by Rep. Darisha Parker, D-Philadelphia, to require owners to store firearms safely, and HB1018, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer O’Mara, D-Philadelphia, to allow police and loved ones to petition a judge to hold a hearing to temporarily disarm a legal firearm owner who is in mental crisis.

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Predictably, the Republicans on the committee rejected those bills as the Dem members had initially drafted them. Just as Gene Wilde said in the 1971 classic Willy Wonka film, those GOPers said, “You get nothing! You lose! Good day, sir!”

But the reality is that it’s not just the Democrats who lose.

It’s also, as documented by CeaseFirePa, the 1,600 Pennsylvanians who die each year from gun violence who lose and the 3,000 Pennsylvanians who are injured each year from gun violence who lose. 

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Those four bills as initially drafted are reasonable and not intrusive approaches to ending the horrific and widespread scourge of unnecessary deaths and injuries from firearms.

Despite Republican committee members’ April 26 rejection of those bills, something surprising — shocking actually — happened on May 3 when they decided to approve those bills.

But there’s a “but.” And the “but” is they added amendments. 

In regard to HB 714, there are two amendments targeting immigrant human beings by requiring U.S. Immigration and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office to be notified if those persons fail a background check not because they are criminals or are mentally unstable but because of their immigration status.

Hmm, I wonder if the Republicans who offered these amendments were thinking about white European immigrants or Brown/Black Mexican, Latin American, Haitian, and African immigrants. Take a guess.   

In regard to HB 1018, there’s an amendment to create a harsh penalty for anyone who files a false “red flag” report. But that’s totally unnecessary because Pennsylvania already has a felony perjury (18 Pa.C.S. 4902) charge, a misdemeanor unsworn falsification (18 Pa.C.S. 4904) charge, and a misdemeanor filing false police report (18 Pa.C.S. 4906) charge on the books.

Why are those Republicans unnecessarily more concerned about punishing the reporter of the potential mass murder shooting as opposed to stopping the possible mass murdering shooter?

Now it’s up to the full House to vote on the four bills as amended, followed by Senate consideration.

Although those bills, even as amended, are not too bad under the circumstances, I have a much better idea to guarantee immediate Republican passage of the best and strongest gun control laws in the history of this Commonwealth.

And here it is: Black men who are legally authorized to purchase firearms and legally authorized to “open-carry” firearms should legally hold regularly scheduled nonviolent gun rights marches and rallies in Harrisburg featuring thousands of armed “open-carry” Black men.

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That would bring about sensible and substantive gun control laws in Pennsylvania quicker than Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday pulled their firearms during the 30-second Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.  

You don’t believe me? Well, consider what the Republican-controlled legislature in California did almost 56 years ago to the very day on May 2, 1967 after legally authorized Black men had armed themselves and legally held a nonviolent march and rally there.        

On that date, approximately forty legally armed Black Panther Party (BPP) members and supporters peacefully marched to the California State Capitol in Sacramento where co-founder Bobby Seale read a prepared statement opposing a gun control bill proposed by Republican Assemblyman Don Mulford, an otherwise pro-gun politician.

That bill was introduced on April 5, 1967 after several legally armed BPP members — who two months earlier were serving as bodyguards for Betty Shabazz while escorting her through the San Francisco airport after Malcolm X had been assassinated- were confronted by police at that airport for legally carrying weapons.

That bill, which was soon signed into law by Republican Gov. (and later President) Ronald Reagan, another otherwise pro-gun politician, criminalized for the first time in California history the carrying of loaded firearms in public.

Oh, by the way, for the first time in its entire existence since it was founded in 1871, the NRA supported a gun control bill. Yes, the NRA enthusiastically supported passage of that California law to disarm legally armed Black men..

From the West Coast to the East Coast (and also from the North to the South), racism is the only thing that can persuade Republicans to immediately pass undiluted, sensible, and substantive gun control laws.

It was true 56 years ago in the West. And it’s still true today in the East.

Surprise. Surprise.

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