Uncivil Society: Jim Crow’s Nullification of Second Amendment Rights

 “The Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms.”  –Samuel Adams

Gun Control Is Victim Disarmament

Let us return to those racist days of yesteryear, back when we had 100% gun control—in the Black Community, courtesy of Jim Crow.  Once upon a time, no African-American citizens were allowed to own guns.  If you were “colored” and living in a Jim Crow “may-issue” state (a state in which a government official, such as a sheriff, gets to decide whether or not a citizen may be issued a gun permit), chances were slim-to-none that a Black American was going to be allowed her or his civil right to carry a concealed weapon.  There would also likely be a high tax placed upon the purchase of any firearm in order to ensure only wealthier Whites would be easily able to afford firearms.

Victim Disarmament Was & Is Racist

How did all this gun control actually work? Did it function to help Blacks to be safer?  The answer to this question is, without doubt, a resounding no.  Gun control in the Black Community, under Jim Crow, succeeded only in making African-Americans helpless when faced with violent, or even deadly, situations of assault by Ku Klux Klansmen or other racist groups or individuals.  So why should the gun control laws of today help Blacks, or any other Americans, who are faced with violence or deadly force by villains?

Dr. King’s Firearms

In 1956, Martin Luther King Jr., an African-American pastor and a member of the Republican Party, applied for a concealed-carry permit in Alabama.  He was receiving, at the time, many death threats against himself and his family.  Of course, since Alabama was a Jim Crow “may-issue” state, and the original intent of gun control laws was to keep Blacks disarmed, Dr. King was not given permission to procure a gun permit.  He did, however, maintain a private arsenal of guns in his home.

The Second Amendment Is a Civil Right 

Dr. King, although he believed in non-violent confrontation with the authorities during protest marches, did take seriously the responsible defense of himself and his loved ones as a civil right guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the Constitution.  Indeed, Second Amendment rights were among those being demanded by Black Americans during the Civil Rights Movement.

The Black Panthers Speak Out

Eleven years after Dr. King applied for a license to carry a concealed weapon, on May 2nd, 1967, the Black Panthers’ invasion of the California Statehouse is what launched the modern gun-rights movement.  Twenty-four young African-American men and six African-American women bearing arms–.357 magnum revolvers, 12-gauge shotguns, and .45-caliber pistols, to be exact–climbed up the steps of the California Capitol.  Then, a man named Bobby Seale began to read from a prepared statement:

“The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense calls upon the American people in general and the Black People in particular to take careful note of the racist California Legislature now considering legislation aiming at keeping Black People disarmed and powerless at the very time that racist police agencies throughout the country intensify the terror, brutality, murder and repression of Black People. . . .  Vicious police dogs, cattle prods, and increased patrols have become familiar sights in Black communities. . . .  The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense believes that the time has come for Black People to arm themselves against this terror before it’s too late.”

Bobby Seale then opened the door, and the Black Panthers walked into the state’s most important public building, carrying loaded guns.  There was nothing to stop them.  They were arrested on a technical violation of law for disrupting a State Assembly proceeding, since, at the time, there was no statute in California against the bearing of arms.  But despite the arrest, or perhaps because of it, membership in the Black Panther Party, and Black gun ownership in general, soared nationwide after the highly publicized incident.

California Goes Jim Crow

In response to the event, California passed the Mulford Act, with the intent to prevent Blacks from carrying guns in public.  As a result, all Californians were banned—and are to this day–from the public carrying of firearms anywhere within the state.  It is interesting to note that California still has on the books its Jim Crow “may-issue” law with regard to the issuance of concealed-carry permits within the state.  In other words, since there is no objective standard by which a California citizen can earn a concealed-carry permit in the state, a racist sheriff can still deny a concealed-carry permit to an African-American applicant merely out of caprice (unlike, for example, the more racially enlightened “shall-issue” states, such as Texas).

Today, in California as well as in several other states, an increase in taxes on firearms and ammunition is in the air.  Of course, the effect of the new legislation will be to make it more difficult for the poor, including a disproportionate number of African-American citizens, to be able to practice self-defense, a clear violation of the Equal Protection Clause under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.  States like Texas and Florida are much fairer to poor and minority groups with respect to protecting their civil right to own and operate a firearm.  In California, Jim Crow abides.

Chicago versus Houston 

One of the most dangerous places to live nowadays is Chicago.  Chicago has a murder rate by gun that is fifteen times that of Houston, and it is not much bigger than that city.  (There were 2,988 gun deaths in Chicago, in 2015, and there have been 3,532 gun deaths between January 1st and October 23rd of 2016.).  Of course, the reason for this is that Houston provides over 1,600 locations where its citizens can buy guns in order to arm themselves against gangsters, hoodlums, and home invaders.  Chicago, on the other hand, provides absolutely no place to purchase firearms within the city limits; and Chicago also has corrupt leaders who would rather tolerate the deaths of African-Americans than allow these Americans easy access to their Constitutional civil right of self-defense.  The situation in Chicago is dire.

Perhaps the city of Chicago or the State of Illinois could negotiate to purchase cheap weapons and ammo from a gun buy-back program in Los Angeles and offer them to the citizens of Chicago at cheap, affordable prices.  If the leadership of the city could learn to care more about helping victims than protecting criminals, such firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens could save the lives of many.

Guns Save Innocent Lives

We must always remember that it is  criminals that murder people; not guns.  Firearms save more innocent lives in the United States each year than they take.  Incidents of defensive gun use in America number close to three million a year on average, and 400,000 of those incidents involve situations where defenders report that not having guns would have likely ended in their deaths.  It bears repeating: Guns save lives.

Poor People Deserve Their Rights

Freedom and civil rights for poor and minority groups are in great jeopardy in states like California, Illinois, and New York.  In these states, and others like them, civil rights for all Americans, under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, are scoffed at by lawmakers and are, in particular, denied to those individuals of color and lower income.  This is immoral and should not be the case in America today: Is this not the land of the free?

Let Freedom Ring

Let us make certain that freedom does not die in America.  In America, the police are not the only ones who are supposed to have the privilege of carrying guns.  America is not a police state. Not yet, at least.  But our Constitution is not a passive birthright; it is something we must actively work to preserve, if we wish for our children and our children’s children to know the joy of independence and the pursuit of happiness.  “And when this happens,” according to Dr. King, “when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, Black men and White men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last!  Free at last!  Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’”

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com

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