The Battle over Gun Control: The Black Community Has the Greatest Stake in the Outcome of the Gun Control Debate
In an effort to curb gun violence, black elected officials and organizations are using political muscle to push for gun control legislation.
The battle, being waged on both the federal and state levels, could lead to a political showdown this Congressional session between gun control advocates and opponents. President Bill Clinton says he will sign a gun control act if one is passed.
State actions have led the effort. Last March, Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder signed legislation limiting the state's residents to one handgun purchase a month, starting July 1. Previously, there was no limit on gun purchases. Wilder had spent months shoring up votes for the bill, which was opposed by the National Rifle Association. Ronald Hampton, director of the National Black Police Association, which supports gun control efforts, said that the law enforcement community and city officials of Washington, D.C., had long argued that the city's high crime rate was aggravated by the absence of gun control laws in neighboring Virginia.
Nationally, the NAACP has launched a campaign to push for enactment of the so-called Brady bill. The bill was named for James S. Brady, former press secretary to President Ronald Reagan, who was wounded in the 1981 assassination attempt against the President Brady and his wife, Sarah, are the best-known advocates of gun control. Last March, the NAACP joined with the Bradys to urge Congress to pass the bill. The bill includes a mandatory five-day waiting period for handgun purchases, allowing police to do background checks. Wade Henderson, director of the NAACP's Washington bureau, says, "Civil rights also includes the right to be safe in your community. Those other rights become secondary if you don't have the first right - the right not to be harmed."
Henderson adds that the black community must take the lead on an issue that disproportionately affects black youth. …