US Supreme Court overturns New York's racist gun law

The US Supreme Court deserves credit for overturning New York's racist Sullivan Act, a law passed in 1911 for the purpose of, among other things, disarming Italian immigrants. A New York judge depicted the first person convicted of violating it, Marino Rossi, as "your kind" and characterized Italians as having an "irascible nature" and also being a major source of crime. "It is unfortunate that this is the custom with you and your kind, and that fact, combined with your irascible nature, furnishes much of the criminal business in this country." The New York Times celebrated this "warning to the Italian community," which it called both "timely and exemplary."

"Big Tim" Sullivan was himself a criminal whose career included membership in Boss Tweed's infamous Tammany Hall. He was involved in prostitution, extortion, and unlawful gambling activities, and he also managed to die of syphilis. His approach to election fraud appeared in the movie Gangs of New York, where men who had already voted went to the barber to have their beards or mustaches removed so they could vote again. New York's current governor is nonetheless trying to defend a racist law enacted by a felon who would today be banned himself from possessing any firearms, and whose target consisted of Italians and quite probably rival criminals.

Now that this racist law has been overturned as unconstitutional, of course, every single person who has ever been convicted of violating it should have his or her conviction vacated and perhaps seek legal advice as to whether New York can be sued for violating his or her constitutional rights under color of law. While I cannot give legal advice, there are plenty of lawyers who can, and everybody convicted of violating the Sullivan Act should contact them. It is also to be noted that the USSC ruled in Murdock v. Pennsylvania that the government cannot license a constitutional right, and this argument should be used wholesale against states that require any kind of license or firearm owner identification card to purchase or own a firearm. While Murdock v. Pennsylvania related to exercise of the First Amendment, the court also made it clear that "a State may not impose a charge for the enjoyment of a right granted by the Federal Constitution" and gun licensing and registration laws do exactly that.

Civis Americanus is the pen name of a contributor who remembers the lessons of history, and wants to ensure that our country never needs to learn those lessons again the hard way. He or she is remaining anonymous due to the likely prospect of being subjected to "cancel culture" for exposing the Big Lie behind Black Lives Matter.

Photo licensed, CC BY-SA 3.0.

If you experience technical problems, please write to