John Bender writes: Several people have done a splendid job of documenting the racist history of gun control laws. But there is little being written about the role guns played in securing the victories Blacks achieved in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. This month we will examine some of the cases where Blacks used their Second Amendment right to own and carry guns to advance the cause of securing their other civil rights.
In Monroe, North Carolina, in 1958, Mr. Robert Williams reopened a local chapter of the NAACP. He enlisted the help of Dr. Albert Perry, a physician and leader in the Black community. These two men created an active and robust local chapter of the NAACP and worked for equal rights for the Black population.
However, Monroe was KKK country. The Klan included in its membership the sheriff, most police officers, several judges and every elected official in the county. As the Black population grew more organized the Klan became more brutal.
Mr. Williams was a former U.S. Marine who understood that force must be met with force, so in 1960 he turned to the nation’s oldest civil rights organization for help. He applied to the National Rifle Association for a local charter. The NRA issued him the charter and supplied firearms training material.
Officially sanctioned as the Monroe NRA Rifle Club Mr. Williams recruited other Black veterans. The group armed themselves and started training with their guns. This further infuriated the Klan but it also inflamed the white liberals who had previously supported Mr. Williams and Dr. Perry.
The liberals were no more interested in seeing Black men exercising their Second Amendment rights than the Klan was. The White liberals were only interested in the Black population attaining some rights, not in securing the full rights afforded all free men by their creator.
The Klan was quick to recognize that the Blacks no longer enjoyed the support of the White liberals and increased their harassment of the Black community. Armed Klansmen regularly drove through the Black section of town shooting into homes and shooting at anyone unfortunate enough to be out after dark. Frequently, these drive-by shootings were preceded by a police patrol car that scouted targets for the Klan.
Unable to disband either the local NAACP branch or the local NRA branch, the Klan decided to mount a full, armed assault on Dr. Perry’s home. They thought they could bring down the groups by eliminating their most influential leader.