Martin Luther King, Civil Rights, and Armed Self-Defense

Via Instapundit, here’s UCLA law professor Adam Winkler reflecting on Martin Luther King Jr.’s “complicated history with guns”:

Most people think King would be the last person to own a gun. Yet in the mid-1950s, as the civil rights movement heated up, King kept firearms for self-protection. In fact, he even applied for a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

A recipient of constant death threats, King had armed supporters take turns guarding his home and family. He had good reason to fear that the Klan in Alabama was targeting him for assassination.

William Worthy, a journalist who covered the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, reported that once, during a visit to King's parsonage, he went to sit down on an armchair in the living room and, to his surprise, almost sat on a loaded gun. Glenn Smiley, an adviser to King, described King's home as "an arsenal."

There’s nothing unusual about this. Many civil rights activists—including those who publicly engaged in non-violent forms of resistance—kept guns for self-defense. T.R.M. Howard, the Mississippi doctor and mutual aid leader who founded the pioneering Regional Council of Negro Leadership, slept with a Thompson submachine gun at the foot of his bed. During the murder trial that followed the horrific lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till, Howard escorted Till’s grieving mother and various others to and from the courthouse in a heavily-armed caravan.

Similarly, John R. Salter, one of the organizers of the famous 1963 sit-ins against segregated lunch counters in Jackson, Mississippi, said he always “traveled armed” while working as a civil rights organizer in the South. “I'm alive today because of the Second Amendment and the natural right to keep and bear arms,” Salter said.

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  • Gun Grabber||

    Uh, uh, .... RACIST!!

  • Old Mexican||

    Similarly, John R. Salter, one of the organizers of the famous 1963 sit-ins against segregated lunch counters in Jackson, Mississippi, said he always "traveled armed" while working as a civil rights organizer in the South. "I'm alive today because of the Second Amendment and the natural right to keep and bear arms," Salter said.




    In another post, uber-authoritarianism-lover Tony said that liberty-maximizing was "self-evidently not a good". I would imagine that keeping one-self ALIVE would fall under the category of "not a good," in his mind.

  • ||

    Trolling by proxy.

  • A Tony||

    Nice. I don't even have to be here!

  • ||

    Thanks, OM.

  • Michael Ejercito||


    In another post, uber-authoritarianism-lover Tony said that liberty-maximizing was "self-evidently not a good". I would imagine that keeping one-self ALIVE would fall under the category of "not a good," in his mind.


    In what post did he write this?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Michael Ejercito,

    http://reason.com/blog/2011/01.....u#comments

    "Who cares? Maximized liberty is self-evidently not a good. Anarchy is rare for a reason: it's not sustainable or desirable."

    See? And I am not going to make him forget it - HE wrote that.

  • ||

    Freedom is bad, mmmmkay?

  • Tony||

    Either you're missing my point or you're an idiot. "Maximal liberty," which was the phrase used by someone to describe what he believes should be to goal of a society, is self-evidently not a good, if you just sit and think about it for a while. Maybe he meant to have a bunch of understood caveats in there (such as, except the liberty to assault other people, except the liberty to run red lights at will, etc.), but they weren't stated.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    Either you're missing my point or you're an idiot. "Maximal liberty," which was the phrase used by someone to describe what he believes should be to goal of a society, is self-evidently not a good, if you just sit and think about it for a while.




    Well, let's see who's being the pig-headed idiot, shall we?
    "Maximizing" only means "towards the maximum", it does not mean "the absolute". You're EQUIVOCATING.

    Maximizing liberty simply means reaching the state where the choices available are the most abundant. It does not MEAN being able to experiment ALL the choices at the same time - economic theory already takes care of that. NOR does it mean being able to be absolutely free - PHYSICS already takes care of that.

    Besides this, the idea that reaching the maximum liberty necessarily means "anarchy" is in itself absurd, as you can have ANARCHY and still not having maximized liberty, for instance: Being trapped on a pirate ship with no captain and with paranoid pirates. Try to open a business on such scenario. However, that does not mean one cannot MAXIMIZE his choices in such scenario.

    So, again, we are in a point where YOU show not to have allocated a lot of thought to this issue, and yet suffer the curse of the foot-in-mouth disease. Who's being the idiot?

    Maybe he meant to have a bunch of understood caveats in there (such as, except the liberty to assault other people, except the liberty to run red lights at will, etc.), but they weren't stated.

    There's no NEED to state them, Tony, as they are IMPLIED: Maximizing liberty does not imply a zero-sum game, but the maximum possible choices for ALL individuals, as ALL individuals are seeking the same thing: MAXIMIZING THEIR LIBERTY. That, ipso facto, establishes a BOUNDARY, just like molecular adhesion establishes the boundary of a drop of water.

  • Tony||

    Okay, no need to yell. So there were implied caveats. So we all agree that living requires the sacrifice of some liberties to gain access to others. Let's all go home!

    Actually the conversation started with whoever it was saying that working toward maximal liberty is more specific (thus somehow, better) than working toward the "greatest good." Since there are those implied caveats, it seems that we're not being all that much more specific. Each and every caveat should have to be justified, after all, and that will come down to, ta-da, a utilitarian calculus.

  • ||

    Look up "Deacons for Defense." Anyone who thinks the civil rights struggle only succeeded because it was non-violent is dumb as a box of hair.

  • LarryA||

    Right.

    Carrying a gun doesn't make you violent. In fact, if you have to be disarmed to be non-violent, you really aren't.

  • Max||

    The key word is "permit," you fucking moron. We have to regulate guns and make it harder for mental defectives to get them (nothing personal).

  • ||

    If we all ignore it, it will go away.

  • Xeones||

    Who's this "we," kemosabe?

  • ||

    that's the royal wee wee.

  • ||

    fine...feed the troll

  • BakedPenguin||

    Feed him only the food the health fascists want in our schools. Then you'll see them leave.

  • Sleeping Dog||

    Sure, but what exactly are we to feed him to?

  • Matrix||

    A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

    Regulated only referred to the militia. Nothing about "permit" in there, numbnuts... nor anything about mental defectives. Makes it too easy to declare most of the population as mentally defective to keep them from getting guns.

  • Max||

    Take you`re rihgtwing idialogy and shoove it up your ass, morron.

  • Old Mexican||

    Don't do your banalities on the carpet! Bad Max, bad!

  • Jim||

    New tone Marx, new tone!!

  • Tony||

    But it does at least imply that the purpose of the right to keep and bear arms is to secure the bigger right: to form militias to defend their states.

  • zoltan||

    Can't...help...myself,

    "The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to permit the conquered Eastern peoples to have arms. History teaches that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by doing so. Indeed I would go so far as to say that the underdog is a sine qua non for the overthrow of any sovereignty. So let's not have any native militia or police. German troops alone will bear the sole responsibility for the maintenance of law and order."

    You got it, Hitler.

  • ||

    Or, as MLK's sheriff would say:

    The key word is "permit," you fucking moron. We have to regulate guns and make it harder for mental defectives uppity negros to get them (nothing personal).

  • Michael Ejercito||

    The key word is "permit," you fucking moron. We have to regulate guns and make it harder for mental defectives to get them (nothing personal).


    And nothing will be more effective in preventing mental defectives from getting guns than interning them in camps like what was done to the Japanese-Americans in the 1940's.

    I hear the bus to Manzanar is waiting for you.

  • Old Mexican||

    Please don't gang up on the pet yorkie - he simply can't help barking at everything.

  • cynical||

    True. Surely Southern governments at the time would not abuse a permitting system in order to keep guns out of the hands of Negros, who might want them to support subversive or... "anti-government"... activities.

    They might not have been nice, but at least they never twisted the law into contorted pretzels and used every legal loophole they could conceivably find to violate the rights of others. Nope, like most statists that encounter resistance to their tyrannical aims, they realized they were in the wrong and let it go. Like Chicago, with guns. And we come full circle.

  • aeronathan||

    So many people conveniently forget how exceedingly racist the roots of gun control were. The first real gun control law in the US was implemented in GA with the expressed intent to keep "crazed negroes" from being armed....

  • Pip||

    How's that working out?

  • ||

    we demand 100 round drum mags...for self-defense

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Because no one has ever been attacked by more people than the number of rounds they have in the clip/cylinder.

  • ||

    Obviously Dr. King understood that he could not rely on the government to protect him; indeed, the government was downright hostile to him.

    Does that make him a whacko anti-government gun nut?

  • Sarah Palin||

    You betcha! *wink*

  • ||

    Don't forget the Deacons for Defense. The book is excellent and packed. The movie is condensed and full of composite scenes which did happen. It will offend both racists and hoplophobes, which is delightful and reason alone to show the movie to them.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Radley Balko commented on how often governments abuse guns in this
    country
    .

    And yet governments refuse to disarm.

    The hypocrisy factor is a huge reason as to why gun control laws are
    unpopular.

    See also “ Gun Control, Chicago Style” at Reason.Com.

  • ||

    Read Thomas' concurrence in McDonald. It explains all you need to know about blacks and the history of "regulating" their right to own guns.

  • ||

    Of course, if the states were actually to form independent militias all of the "collective right" lefties would shit themselves.

    (BTW WTF is a "collective right", anyway? The term is an oxymoron.)

  • Tony||

    They already exist! It's called the National Guard, recognized in the constitution as necessary "to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasion." (Article I, Section 8, Clause 15)

    But that's only because they already existed. And they've never been 100% independent of the federal government. Increasingly less so in modern times, and their arms are now supplied by the federal government. So as long as those arms aren't being completely taken away, it would seem that the 2nd Amendment is satisfied.

    Bubba needing to shoot hoodlums on his lawn was never a factor in the 2nd Amendment.

  • zoltan||

    You're full of shit. The militia isn't the basis of the 2nd amendment. The right to possess a firearm is. Your illiteracy hurts everyone.

  • ||

    The National Guard was only established in the 20th century, and is a reserve component of the U.S. military. It was created by federal statute, for pete's sake.

    And why would you need part of the Bill of Rights to "protect" a power of the federal government spelled out in the main body of the Constitution? Does the federal government need protection from itself? That makes less than no sense.

    Do you not know what a right is?

  • Michael Ejercito||

    They already exist! It's called the National Guard, recognized in the constitution as necessary "to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasion." (Article I, Section 8, Clause 15)


    Funny how the National Guard did not exist in 1789.

  • cynical||

    No, the militia is that portion of the country that can be called up to serve militarily. While that definitely includes anyone that has to register for the draft, it ought to include anyone that the military could legally take. That said, it would be in bad form to discriminate against the physically disabled, so that pretty much just leaves crazies, criminals, junkies, and kids.

  • LarryA||

    The National Guard is a federal force. Hence “National.” There are states with active militia units. In Texas it’s the Texas State Guard, which can’t be federalized.

    The fact that individual Texans have a right to keep and bear arms and know how to shoot makes it much easier to call up the unorganized militia and expand the guard whenever necessary.

  • Joe||

    This post is baseless - citing the fact that Civil Rights leaders had to arm to defend themselves against loonies who may plan to them harm is no call to action to further arm said loonies.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    This post is baseless - citing the fact that Civil Rights leaders had to arm to defend themselves against loonies who may plan to them harm is no call to action to further arm said loonies.


    The only way to keep the loonies from getting armed is to lock them all up.

  • ||

    Your selective excerpting of the original Winkler piece about Martin Luther King's guns is disingenuous. He at least goes on to allude generally to King's move away from gun ownership. It is true that at the beginning of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, his house having been bombed and death threats coming in regularly, he let guns into his house and advocated armed self defense (or, as he told Glenn Smiley and Bayard Rustin at that time, he and other members of the Montgomery Improvement Association intended to harm no one unless violently attacked). This was his position even though he had already arrived at nonviolent civil disobedience (or "passive resistance" as he called it then) through his study of Christ and Ghandi. It was after a night-long conversation with Bayard Rustin, who had just arrived from New York, in early March 1956 that he decided armed self-defense was incompatible with nonviolence. That conversation led him to get rid of the guns and renounce armed self-defense. His commitment to nonviolence (and to the renouncing of worldly possessions) deepened even futher during a visit to India in late 1957.

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