Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Forfeiture, Racism, and Gun Control

Jerry Stratton, February 15, 2005

Dave Kopel writes on Reason about gun control in the post-war south. Among the things he says, he writes:

Under the Mississippi law, a person informing the government about illegal arms possession by a freedman was entitled to receive the forfeited firearm.

Forfeiture like this has been used for centuries, since at least the witch trials of the 16th and 17th centuries, to hinder the defense of the innocently accused, and to encourage their persecution.

Today, we do the same thing to those accused of drug crimes, who are disproportionately minority. The agencies that make the stop--often, there is not even enough evidence to make an arrest--get to keep the money and things that they took from the victim. And where the victim, if arrested, is technically entitled to a presumption of innocence, meaning that the state has to prove that they are guilty, their assets have no such presumption. The assets are presumed guilty, and it is up to the victim to prove that the assets are not guilty.

Of course, the less money that the victim has, the more likely it is that they won’t be able to afford to go to court to prove that their money is innocent, because their money has been taken by law enforcement. As Peter McWilliams writes in “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do”,

If you are arrested for a crime involving drugs, it will be harder for you to obtain the services of an attorney than if you had been arrested for a less serious charge such as, say, murder. If an attorney takes your case for a drug charge and you are found guilty, the attorney may be forced by the courts to give the law enforcement agencies making your arrest all the money you’ve paid to the attorney. It’s part of the asset forfeiture law. Consequently, criminal attorneys are hesitant to take on drug cases. Murderers, rapists, and robbers are getting better legal representation than druggies.

Seizing the firearms of blacks in the south served to make them even more vulnerable to violent racist attacks as well as to encourage others to turn them in. Forfeiture always seems to end up serving evil.

  1. <- MP3tunes.com
  2. Hunter Thompson ->