This paper looks at debates about crime in this earlier period to understand some of the limits of the modern gun control movement. In the 1960s and 1970s, conservative groups organized to block many federal and state-level laws that restricted firearms. However, the gun control movement also had important internal divisions that limited its political effectiveness. During the War on Crime, some civil rights activists linked gun violence with declining schools, housing segregation, and police brutality. Many conservative whites, meanwhile, wanted law enforcement to control what they saw as black criminality. While some feminists wanted to limit guns to promote women’s right to travel outside the home, many mothers used the moral authority of the home to try to keep guns out of children’s hands.
These groups all wanted to use the law to reduce the threat of firearms, but differences in their race, gender, class, and ideology fragmented their alliance. While conservative opposition undeniably kept gun laws weak, divisions among gun control activists also hurt their cause.
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