From the late 1890s through the mid-1960s, African-American citizens in the Deep South were systematically and egregiously denied their voting rights through the administration of so-called “literacy tests.”
It took an act of Congress and some Supreme Court rulings to abolish this despicable form of bigotry. But apparently history is lost on Congressman Bobby L. Rush, who represents the 1st District of Illinois.
Astonishingly, this black congressman has introduced a gun control measure that would, among other things, require potential gun owners to first apply for a firearm license and before that license would be issued, they would have to present “a certificate attesting to the completion . . . of a written firearms examination.”
Rush represents the home district of President Obama, who insists that he supports the Second Amendment and the individual right to keep and bear arms.
Except, that is, Obama doesn’t support legal concealed carry, for which millions of law-abiding American citizens are now licensed, and he is on record supporting resurrection of the ban on so-called “assault weapons” even though millions of these are owned by people who have harmed nobody.
Rush has named his legislation in memory of a courageous Chicago teen who shielded a classmate from gunfire aboard a bus in May 2007. Blair Holt died from the wound he suffered, and only a fool would dismiss his sacrifice as anything but heroic. We all are diminished by his loss.
But Rush’s legislation is not the stuff of heroism. Rather, it is the stuff of hypocrisy.
One should not be required to obtain a license or pass a government-administered test to exercise any constitutionally-protected civil right. If the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s taught us anything, it is that all civil rights are sacred, one is no less important than another, and all of them are worth defending because a threat to one puts all rights in peril.
Rush would demote the Second Amendment right to the rank of a privilege that can be regulated by government. He is, after all, from Chicago, home of a Draconian gun ban law that gun control extremists consider “reasonable.”
He would make the entire country like Chicago – and while that may square with anti-gun demagogues such as Mayor Richard Daley, it will not pass muster in places such as Missoula, Mont.; Cheyenne, Wyo.; Boise, Idaho; Flagstaff, Spokane, Wash. or just about anyplace else west of the Mississippi River or south of the Ohio River.
Perhaps Rush would like to see African-American citizens face this new test at the hands of some aging bureaucrat who remembers the “good old days” when his grandpappy was a Grand Dragon in the Klan and everybody in the county knew it.
Suddenly, if you’re black, this written gun safety test doesn’t sound so hot, does it?
Each of us has a stake in America, and it requires that we protect everyone else’s civil rights as zealously as we guard our own.
The Bill of Rights is an all-or-nothing package, not a smorgasbord from which to select the rights we defend and those we dump in the trash. If Rush can’t understand that, then perhaps it is time for literacy tests for politicians.
Dave Workman is senior editor of Gun Week (www.gunweek.com), a newspaper owned by the Second Amendment Foundation in Bellevue, Wash.