Last Updated: Friday, 12 May, 2000 18:30

This document was originally found on Eclipse's RKBA links page.
It is offered here as research and background material.


Firearm Bans in the United States

1870 Tennessee
First "Saturday Night Special" economic handgun ban passed.
In the first legislative session in which they gained control, white supremacists passed "An Act to Preserve the Peace and Prevent Homicide," which banned the sale of all handguns except the expensive "Army and Navy model handgun" which whites already owned or could afford to buy, and blacks could not.
("Gun Control: White Man's Law," William R. Tonso, Reason, December 1985) Upheld in Andrews v. State, 50 Tenn. (3 Heisk.) 165, 172 (1871) (GMU CR LJ, p. 74)

"The cheap revolvers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were referred to as `Suicide Specials,' the `Saturday Night Special' label not becoming widespread until reformers and politicians took up the gun control cause during the 1960s. The source of this recent concern about cheap revolvers, as their new label suggest, has much in common with the concerns of the gun-law initiators of the post-Civil War South. As B. Bruce-Briggs has written in the Public Interest, `It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the `Saturday Night Special' is emphasized because it is cheap and being sold to a particular class of people. The name is sufficient evidence -- the reference is to `niggertown Saturday night.'"
("Gun Control: White Man's Law," William R. Tonso, Reason, December 1985)


1879 Tennessee
Second "Saturday Night Special" economic handgun ban passed.
Tennessee revamped its economic handgun ban nine years later, passing "An Act to Prevent the Sale of Pistols," which was upheld in State v. Burgoyne, 75 Tenn. 173, 174 (1881). (GMU CR LJ, p. 74)

1882 Arkansas
Third "Saturday Night Special" economic handgun ban passed.
Arkansas followed Tennessee's lead by enacting a virtually identical "Saturday Night Special" law banning the sale of any pistols other than expensive "army or navy" model revolvers, which most whites had or could afford, thereby disarming blacks. Statutewas upheld in Dabbs v. State, 39 Ark. 353 (1882) (GMU CR LJ, p. 74)

1893 Alabama
First all-gun economic ban passed.
Alabama placed "`extremely heavy business and/or transactional taxes'" on the sale of handguns in an attempt "to put handguns out of the reach of blacks and poor whites."
("Gun Control: White Man's Law," William R. Tonso, Reason,December 1985)

1907 Texas
Fourth "Saturday Night Special" economic handgun ban.
Placed "`extremely heavy business and/or transactional taxes'" on the sale of handguns in an attempt "to put handguns out of the reach of blacks and poor whites."
("Gun Control: White Man's Law," William R. Tonso, Reason, December 1985)

1941 Florida
Judge admits gun law passed to disarm black laborers.
In concurring opinion narrowly construing a Florida gun control law passed in 1893, Justice Buford stated the 1893 law "was passed when there was a great influx of Negro laborers in this State....The same condition existed when the Act was amended in 1901 and the Act was passed for the purpose of disarming the Negro laborers....The statute was never intended to be applied to the white population and in practice has never been so applied...". Watson v. Stone,148 Fla. 516, 524, 4 So.2d 700, 703 (1941) (GMU CR LJ, p. 69) [emphasis added].

1988 Maryland
Fifth "Saturday Night Special" economic handgun ban passes.
Ban on "Saturday Night Specials," i.e. inexpensive handguns, passes.
1988 Illinois
Poor citizens singled out for gun ban in Illinois.
Starting in late 1988, the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) and the Chicago Police Dept. (CPD) enacted and enforced an official policy, Operation Clean Sweep, which applied to all housing units owned and operated by the CHA. The purpose was the confiscation of firearms and illegal narcotics and consisted of warrantless searches and of a visitor exclusion policy severely limiting the right of CHA tenants to associate in their residences with family members and other guests. Tenants had to sign in and out of the building, producing to the police or CHA officials photo Id. Relatives, including children and grandchildren, were not allowed to stay over, even on holidays. CHA tenants who objected or attempted to interfere with these warrantless searches were arrested. The ACLU filed a lawsuit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief on behalf of the CHA tenants against the enforcement of Operation Clean Sweep. The complaint was filed in the United Sates District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, on December 16, 1988, as Case No. 88C10566 and is styled as Rose Summeries, et al. v. Chicago Housing Authority, et al. A consent decree was entered on November 30, 1989 in which the CHA and CPD agreed to abide by certain standards and in which the scope and purposes of such "emergency housing inspections" were limited. (GMU, p. 98)

1990 Virginia
Poor citizens singled out for gun ban in Virginia.
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia upheld a ban imposed by the Richmond Housing Authority on the possession of all firearms, whether operable or not, in public housing projects. The Richmond Tenants Organization had challenged the ban, arguing that such requirement had made the city's 14,000 public housing residents second-class citizens. (Richmond Tenants Org. v. Richmond Dev. & Hous. Auth., No. C.A. 3:90CV00576 (E.D.Va. Dec. 3, 1990).) (GMU, p. 97)

1994 United States
President seeks to single out all poor citizens residing in federal housing for gun ban.
The Clinton Administration introduced H.R. 3838 in 1994 to ban guns in federal public housing, but the House Banking Committee rejected it. Similar legislation was filed in 1994 in the Oregon and Washington state legislatures.

1995 Maine
Poor citizens singled out for gun ban in Maine.
Portland, ME gun ban in public housing struck down on April 5,1995.


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