Op-Ed: Why former slave states became the foundation for American gun culture
A few months after the shooting at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church, South Carolina’s first African-American lawmaker, John Conyers, penned an op-ed in The Washington Post in defense of his state’s constitutional right to bear arms. “The right to bear arms is justly a right that has a long and proud tradition,” he argued, “and nowhere in the United States does state-level regulation of the types of weapons carried by law-abiding South Carolinians exist more systematically and openly than in South Carolina.”
The state did not only offer Conyers the opportunity to defend its right to keep and bear arms, it also made him its first official black lawmaker. A year later, the legislature’s decision to pass gun laws—including a prohibition on public-opinion polls in political campaigns, a ban on sales of semiauto rifles, and the approval of gun club member and retired Marine John Duncan’s lobbying of legislators for a tax-free hunting license, all on the condition of private gun ownership—would come as a complete surprise to most Americans.
South Carolina’s new laws were a direct response to the Charleston shooting and the shooting of six people in Dayton, Ohio. The two incidents resulted from the same gun control–lobbying conspiracy, but it wasn’t until the Charleston shooting that the gun culture exploded.
A decade earlier, on the heels of the 1993 Port Arthur massacre that killed eight people in Australia, in which a man fired 40 shots into a bar patron in an attempt to steal his pistol—only to later claim it was “for target practice”—a group of anti-gun activists began a campaign in the United States to convince Americans that gun-control laws were nothing more than a way for politicians to limit the rights of law-abiding citizens.
These men and women,