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Do Black People Have Equal Gun Rights?

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cookeFor centuries, firearms have been indispensable to black liberation: as crucial a defense against tyranny for Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. as for Sam Adams and George Washington. 

For the New York Times, Charles W. Cooke writes: Conventional wisdom holds that firearms are the preserve of conservative white men. You would never know this at my local shooting range, which negores-guns-bookhappens to be in a majority African-American area, and has a clientele that reflects that fact. There, as a white man, I’m often in the minority; just one more guy who likes to fire weapons — another person to chat to and share stories with. It is, I’d venture, how things should be.

[Check out Nicholas Johnson’s book “Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms” at Amazon]

By rights, the Second Amendment should serve as a totem of African-Americans’ full citizenship and enfranchisement.

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“A Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give.”emily-gun

— Ida B. Wells

[Order Emily Miller’s bookEmily Gets Her Gun” from Amazon]

For centuries, firearms have been indispensable to black liberation: as crucial a defense against tyranny for Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. as for Sam Adams and George Washington. Today, however, many black Americans have a decidedly mixed relationship with the right to bear arms.

The first major ban on the open carrying of firearms — a Republican-led bill that was drafted after Black Panthers began hanging around the State Legislature in Sacramento with their guns on display — was signed in 1967 by none other than Gov. Ronald Reagan of California.

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In August, as the outrage over the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., dominated the news, an African-American group calling itself the Huey P. Newton Gun Club took to the streets of Dallas, rifles in hand, to protest.

[Order the book “This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible” from Amazon]

Huey P. Newton Gun Club, demonstrating in Dallas, Texas

Local businesses were supportive, and the city’s police chief confirmed in a statement that his department “supports the constitutional rights of all.” On Twitter, the hashtag #blackopencarry prompted a warm More-guns-less-crimeresponse from conservatives.

[Order John Lott’s famous book “More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws”, Third Edition (Studies in Law and Economics) from Amazon]

The federal Gun Control Act of 1968 was primarily a reaction to the scourge of “Saturday night specials” — cheap handguns owned by the poor and the black. The National Rifle Association opposed neither law.

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Until around 1970, the aims of America’s firearms restrictionists and the aims of America’s racists were practically inextricable. In both the colonial and immediate post-Revolutionary periods, the first laws regulating gun ownership were aimed squarely at blacks and Native Americans.

And yet, that same month, a 22-year-old black man named John Crawford III was shot dead by the police inwolves-police-state an Ohio Walmart after a white customer claimed excitedly that a man was pointing a gun at his fellow patrons.

[Order the book “A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State” from Amazon]

Later, the store’s security footage revealed that Mr. Crawford had been holding a BB gun that he had picked up in the sporting goods department, and that the caller’s testimony had been wrong. Ohio is an open carry state. That didn’t make much difference for Mr. Crawford.

“Malcolm X may have a deservedly mixed reputation, but the famous photograph of him standing at the window, rifle in hand, insisting on black liberation ‘by any means necessary,’ is about as American as it gets.”

vpoUmbwUntil around 1970, the aims of America’s firearms restrictionists and the aims of America’s racists were practically inextricable. In both the colonial and immediate post-Revolutionary periods, the first laws regulating gun ownership were aimed squarely at blacks and Native Americans. In both the Massachusetts and Plymouth colonies, it was illegal for the colonists to sell guns to natives, while Virginia and Tennessee banned gun ownership by free blacks.

In the antebellum period, the chief justice of the United States, Roger B. Taney, wrote a grave warning into the heart of the execrable Dred Scott decision. If blacks were permitted to become citizens, Taney cautioned, they, like whites, would have full liberty to “keep and carry arms wherever they went.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Senator Feinstein Pimps Semi-Automatic Rifle Import Ban Based on 45-Year-Old Law

Getty Images

Getty Images

The Daily Caller‘s Mike Piccione reports:  California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein is circulating a letter on Capitol Hill calling once again for a ban on semi-automatic rifles and asking for President Barack Obama to keep his State of the Union promise to make 2014 a “year of action.”

Citing the Gun Control Act of 1968, Feinstein states, “In recent years… importers of firearms have taken advantage of ATF’s interpretation of the ‘sporting purposes’ test to evade the import ban.”

The phrase contained in The Gun Control Act of 1968 Feinstein is referencing prohibits the importation of firearms that are not “generally recognized as particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes.”  She claims that in recent years firearms importers have taken advantage of ATF’s interpretation of “sporting purposes” to circumvent the ban.

Although Feinstein recognizes that the firearms are designed for civilian use and never manufactured or used by any standing army, she maintained that “many semiautomatic firearms on the market today do not have a military origin but are modeled closely after military firearms.”

To justify the ban, Feinstein cited a study by The Center for Public Integrity and expressed concern regarding international gun-running. Read the rest of this entry »


Edward Snowdens Real Impact

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The assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy led directly to the passage of a historic law, the Gun Control Act of 1968. Does that change your view of the assassinations? Should we be grateful for the deaths of these two men?

Of course not. That’s lunatic logic. But the same reasoning is now being applied to the actions of Edward Snowden. Yes, the thinking goes, Snowden may have violated the law, but the outcome has been so worthwhile. According to Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who was one of the primary vehicles for Snowden’s disclosures, Snowden “is very pleased with the debate that is arising in many countries around the world on Internet privacy and U.S. spying. It is exactly the debate he wanted to inform.”

In this debate, Snowden himself says, those who followed the law were nothing better than Nazis: “I believe in the principle declared at Nuremberg, in 1945: ‘Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.’ ”

To be sure, Snowden has prompted an international discussion about surveillance, but it’s worthwhile to note that this debate is no academic exercise. It has real costs. Consider just a few.

What if Snowden’s wrong? What if there is no pervasive illegality in the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs?

Read the rest of this entry »