The Deacons of Defense


Former Ohio gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell has an interesting column at Town Hall on how armed blacks beat back state segregators, the Klan, and similar antagonists in the Jim Crow south.

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  1. Great story, thanks Radley.

    here’s another one

    The Klan and their police support were no match for the local NRA members.

    ….it was the last time the police openly joined in an armed attack on a Black home in Monroe……

  2. I see pieces about racist gun control in the ante-bellum and Jim Crowe south all the time at Reason, and other libertarians sources. It’s a very compelling bit of history, that certainly produces its intended effect on me.

    Yet I can’t recall ever hearing about this sorry episode in American history before I started reading Reason Online, and I’ve been arguing politics for a long time.

    It makes one wonder why the NRA itself, and pro-gun conservative politicians, are so reticent to use this weapon – doubly so, because they like to push the meme that gun control activists are motivated by prejudice, and this would be a perfect example.

    Any thoughts on why this might be?

  3. Joe,
    It may have to do with the fact the black panthers worked this very meme quite explicitly and given the panther’s history the NRA has good reason to be a bit leery of using this argument. For the same reason, you rarely see NRA spokesmen saying much about the political value of having an armed populace pointing guns at its leaders heads. The NRA doesn’t think its good PR to be associated with armed revolt, even if several of the founders were quite explicit about its value and relevance to the 2nd amendment.
    An alternate or perhaps complementary hypothesis could be that a substantial number of NRA members are racist. Most I’ve known aren’t, but some certainly were.

  4. Armed blacks in the time of segregation may have been one of the ideas to popularize the whole notion of gun control.

  5. The first time I recall reading about gun control as a racist idea was something written by G. Gordon Liddy.

  6. hunter,

    I hadn’t thought of the Panthers angle.


    Doubtful. Gun control as a political movement was a creature of the post-civil rights era, with many of its leading advocates having had their formative political experiences during that fight.

  7. Possible. I was thinking of the Mulford Act.

  8. joe & shecky,

    The name escapes me. Who was the California Governor who signed the Mulford Act again? I think his name starts with an R.

  9. Joe,
    When did the modern gun control movement get underway? There certainly were laws to disarm blacks in the jim crow era, but I tend to agree with your assertion that modern gun control proponents don’t have much connection with proponents of jim crow.

  10. hunter,

    It’s generally said to have begun after the assination of Robert Kennedy.

  11. Talib Kweli, in his woefully underappreciated rap song Sharpshooters had the following to say:

    “I’m one with my gun/ treat it like my own son/It protects me/ and makes sure the Jakes respect me.”

  12. “…and makes sure the Jakes respect me.”

    What is a Jake?

  13. “What is a Jake?”

    White, conservative gun enthusiasts?

  14. Best line in the article:

    “As legendary civil rights leader Roy Innis recently said to me, the Deacons forced the Klan to re-evaluate their actions and often change their undergarments.”


  15. jakes=police

  16. When did the modern gun control movement get underway? There certainly were laws to disarm blacks in the jim crow era, but I tend to agree with your assertion that modern gun control proponents don’t have much connection with proponents of jim crow.

    The Sullivan Act ( was passed in 1911, and required licensing of handguns in New York City. Why was it passed?

    [The proposed gun control] measure would prove corrective and salutary in a city filled with immigrants and evil communications, floating from the shores of Italy and Austria-Hungary. New York police reports frequently testify to the fact that the Italian and other south Continental gentry here are acquainted with the pocket pistol, and while drunk or merrymaking will use it quite as handily as the stiletto, and with more deadly effect. It is hoped that this treacherous and distinctly outlandish mode of settling disputes may not spread to corrupt the native good manners of the community.

    The Sullivan law gives police the discretion to issue licenses to own or carry handguns, and the resulting list of licensees is ourageously discriminatory.

    The initial Federal legislation is usually said to be the Gun Control Act of 1968, ( passed in part as a reaction to the JFK assassination. It:
    * Prohibited the interstate transfer of guns between non-FFLs.
    * Prohibited shipping guns through the U.S. mail.
    * Prohibited shipping ammunition through the U.S. mail. (later overturned)
    * Eestablished minimum ages for firearms purchasers.
    * Required that all firearms (domestic and imported) be affixed with a serial number.
    * Expanded the categories of prohibited persons.
    * Enacted prohibitions on the importation of firearms “with no sporting purpose.”
    * Implemented the Form 4473 (yellow form) for purchases. (The 4473 is now white.)
    * Attempted to address “Saturday Night Specials” by prohibiting the importation of small handguns.
    * Established some sentencing guidelines for crimes involving firearms.

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