Gun Control and Public Safety

LDF has long supported gun control — before the Supreme Court, and with federal, state, and local policymakers.

In the U.S., a cruel indifference to life — especially the lives of Black people — has normalized what should rightly be understood as a crisis of gun violence, which endangers a disproportionate number of members of the Black community. According to the Department of Justice, in fact, “U.S. residents are 128 times more likely to be killed by everyday gun violence than by international terrorism; Black people specifically are 500 times more likely to die this way.”

Compounding this threat, white nationalism and other forms of white supremacy have continued to inspire racialized shootings targeting communities of color. These hate crimes, too, have all too often been normalized as just another part of the country’s broader epidemic of gun violence. According to an NBC News report, Black Americans “have been the most frequent victims of hate crime in every tally of bias incidents generated since the FBI began collecting such data in the early 1990s.” Anti-Black hate crimes rose nearly 40% in 2020, compared to 2019, according to a CNBC report. Many of these hate crimes involve firearms, and many of these horrific incidents have results in scars — physical, psychological, and spiritual — that will forever affect individuals, families, and even entire communities. 

Hate crimes and acts of violent extremism have a toxic influence on the targeted communities. This is true not only for the most immediate victim of a particular crime, but also for that person’s entire community. As many experts on violent extremism have attested, that is the very purpose of these acts: to threaten, to intimidate, and to terrorize. The message, sent not only to the individual victim but to every member of a historically vulnerable community, is one of fear and hatred. And like all forms of terrorism, it tears apart the social fabric that a democracy cannot exist without.

No one should be afraid to walk down the street, enter their place of worship, or otherwise gather with members of their community out of fear that they will be gunned down by a white supremacist. No one should wonder if a stray bullet will turn a normal errand into an unfathomable tragedy. Yet it is increasingly common for massed groups of heavily armed individuals to engage in “open carry” by invading public spaces occupied by unarmed members of the community. The basic human right to live free from fear is directly threatened when hate-fueled individuals have easy access to firearms. For the sake of Constitution, the rule of law, civil rights, and racial justice, it is time for political leaders to act.

Hundreds of people participate in March for our Lives against gun violence downtown on June 11, 2022 in Los Angeles, CA. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Reasonable restrictions on the right to publicly carry a firearm have deep roots in the American tradition. More than a century ago, the Supreme Court observed in Robertson v. Baldwin, (1897) that the Second Amendment right to bear arms “is not infringed by laws prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons.” The Court confirmed in District of Columbia v. Heller (2021) that the right to carry firearms is “not unlimited,” but rather incorporates the limitations embedded within the “historical understanding of the scope of the right.” 

We call on Congress to act swiftly and to immediately pass common-sense safety legislation that keeps Black communities and all communities safe without increasing criminalization or criminal penalties where such efforts tend to disparately impact communities of color. Policies that drive mass incarceration will not address the root causes of violence that are impediments to community safety. Legislation must also not stigmatize people with mental illness and must ensure schools have the necessary resources to support safe and healthy learning environments, rather than expanding the presence of school-based law enforcement which disproportionately harms Black students and students with disabilities. Before another life is needlessly lost, before another community is gutted and wrecked by preventable gun violence – we call on our national leaders to act.

Before another life is needlessly lost, before another community is gutted and wrecked by preventable gun violence – we call on our national leaders to act.

New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen

Decided: 6.23.2022

LDF and the National Urban League filed an amicus brief in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, the Supreme Court case decided on June 23, 2022, that declared New York State’s gun safety law unconstitutional. Our brief emphasized the importance of public-carry limitations and concealed-carry restrictions. The lifesaving impact of concealed-carry restrictions is especially important for Black people—and specifically young Black men, who are disproportionately likely to die from gun violence. Laws that limit concealed-carry licenses to persons with a demonstrable, non-speculative need for imminent self-defense may also prevent violent disputes from escalating into deadly encounters. In street encounters, white persons who have biased-based fears and with concealed-carry weapons pose a significant risk of shooting to Black people and other people of color. 

March for Our Lives against gun violence in Los Angeles, CA on June 11, 2022 (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)