Second Amendment

Reminder: Guns Helped Secure the Freedom and Civil Rights of Black Americans

The Second Amendment's role in the Civil Rights Movement.

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Library of Congress

"I'm alive today because of the Second Amendment and the natural right to keep and bear arms." So declared John R. Salter Jr., the civil rights leader who helped organize the legendary non-violent sit-ins against segregated lunch counters in Jackson, Mississippi, in the 1960s. As Salter recalled it, he always "traveled armed" while doing civil rights work in the Jim Crow South. "Like a martyred friend of mine, NAACP staffer Medgar W. Evers, I, too, was on many Klan death lists and I, too, traveled armed: a .38 special Smith and Wesson revolver and a 44/40 Winchester carbine," Salter wrote. "The knowledge that I had these weapons and was willing to use them kept enemies at bay."

Salter was not unique among civil rights activists in this regard. Anti-slavery leader Frederick Douglass called a "good revolver" the "true remedy for the Fugitive Slave Bill." Civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer said, "I keep a shotgun in every corner of my bedroom." Rosa Parks once described her dinner table "covered with guns" while civil rights activists met for a strategy session in her home. Martin Luther King Jr. carried guns for self-protection, applied for a conceal-carry permit (denied by racist white authorities), and once declared, "the principle of self-defense, even involving weapons and bloodshed, has never been condemned, even by Gandhi."

In the wake of this weekend's horrific terrorist attack in Orlando, Florida, gun control advocates are pushing for greater restrictions on gun rights and for greater limits on the scope of the Second Amendment. Their arguments necessarily focus on the evil deeds done with the help of guns. But as the statements quoted above plainly demonstrate, guns have also played a profoundly noble and beneficial role in American society. As we debate the costs of the Second Amendment in the coming days, let's not forget to tally the benefits.

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  1. My grandfather told me this story of a black coworker of his.

    Some KKK assholes decided to burn a cross on the coworker’s front lawn. The coworker came out on his porch with a shotgun in one hand and a revolver in the other. The coworker yelled at the KKK guys, “I have my shotgun and my revolver. Get out and don’t came back! If you come back I’ll use them on you!”

    The KKK guys ran, leaving the burning cross behind. They never showed up again, and my grandfather’s coworker never had another problem with local Klansmen.

    1. I’ve heard a number of similar stories.

      People are always shocked when I tell them that the original gun control laws were essentially Jim Crow laws. As was the minimum wage back when it was first established. And the War on Drugs.

      1. My understanding of the War on Drugs is that is began as an offshoot of alcohol prohibition. There was an extensive law enforcement infrastructure erected to enforce alcohol prohibition and when that was repealed, the infrastructure was repurposed at the behest of it’s members and advocates.

        1. IIRC drug prohibitions began before prohibition was enacted

          Not much happened on the enforcement though.

          1. Some states prohibited drugs before federal alcohol prohibition.

            The feds got in on marijuana regulation in 1934 if I remember correctly. Out of work revenuers were one of the lobbyists for marijuana regulation.

            Hatred of Mexicans was one reason for federal and some states marijuana regulation.

            1. 1937 was the Marihuana Tax Act. Before they decided they could just ban stuff at the fedeal level without pretending it was a tax.

              1. Right! Now I remember. The Marihuana Tax Act was modeled on NFA ’34. I got my years mixed up.

          2. IIRC in california arounf 1880 or so they banned opium because the Chinese were seducing white women by drugging them, and marijuana to make the place inhospitable to mexicans.

        2. Not only that, but the first drug laws were explicitly racist in origin.

          1. Aye, it is funny how white males who are not progressives are still responsible for slavery, but progressive white males get a pass on gun laws, war on drugs, eugenics, etc. etc. Things that have actually hurt black people in the recent past and present.

            1. They have good intentions. Nothing else matters.

            2. Progressives claim that those were conservative policies put in place in spite of Progressives.

        3. The War on Drugs started under Nixon in the 1970s while Prohibition ended under FDR in the 1930s.

          As others pointed out below, drug prohibition started in the 19th century and was usually used as a way to lock up/deport non-whites. The movie The House I Live In has a bit of this history in it.

        4. Yes, the drive to prohibit Cocaine, Marijuana, and Heroin was, at least in part, a “full employment for out of wrk Prohibition Agents” measure. It was also sold to Congress with a bunch of “We gotta keep them goddamned Niggers in line” tripe that could have come straight off of a KKK press.

          Two more reasons to ashcan the whole thing.

  2. Only the justifications change. The policies never do.

    It’s almost as if the policies are being peddled exclusively by disingenuous charlatans and useful idiots.

    1. You forgot True Believers. To a True Believer, all ills are a result of their Faith not being followed. This is as true of Gun Control True Believers and Anti-Smoking True Believers as it is of Christian True Believers and Islamic True Believers.

    2. Yep.

      Then: We need gun control so blacks can’t legally defend themselves!

      Now: We need gun control so black neighborhoods will be safer!

      Then: We need to raise minimum wage to force blacks into permanent unemployment!

      Now: We need to raise minimum wages so poor blacks can get an increase in pay!

      At least back then they were more honest.

  3. Yes, but that was back before the government took personal charge of your safety, and provides all you need. So let’s just memory hole this shite right now, shall we?

    1. Not that I WANT the State to take charge of my safety, but until the police can be sed for failing to keep me safe the State has not done so.

      1. As a side note, C. S. P.; Here in good ol’ Kansas City, a local TV station did an analysis of 911 calls. 99% of them went on hold.

        How ’bout that for a reason for a strong Second Amendment?

        1. It’s good, but the core is still that either the State recognizes limitations on its power or it doesn’t. Either the Constitution and the Bill of Rights mean something, even when they run counter to modern politicians’ notions of momentary expedience, or they don’t.

  4. Look at all the violent, gun-toting black men. Now you see the roots of modern black gun violence. Smdh

  5. So there was a time when the left did not completely lose its mind over guns? Huh.

    1. *psst* the Klan was mostly Democrats. They pushed gun control even back then.

      1. Some election year, when my life isn’t a complete circus, I will make up the campaign poster I have been thinking of for about a decade;

        Two pictures; A post Civil War Klansman in full regalia and Al Sharpton.

        Slogan; The Democrat Party; dividing people by skin color for more than a century.

        1. History is racist. Facts too.

        2. Democrats say the racists all moved to the Republican Party after the civil rights act.

          1. Democrats say a lot of things. The facts remain; Democrat backed policies have done one hell of a lot of damage to the lives of poor Blacks, and their excuses aren’t especially believable.

      2. Democrat doesn’t necessarily mean leftist.

        1. True enough… I keep forgetting that the crazies only ran off the last of the sensible people in recent decades.

        2. Perhaps, but Leftist, Progressive, and Socialist do reliably mean racist.
          Exceptions are rare enough to ignore.

  6. Now that gun violence is black on black, the obvious solution is to ban firearms for blacks.

    But note how racist the politicians are by focusing on the guns used to kill white people.

  7. Reminder: Guns Helped Secure the Freedom and Civil Rights of Black Americans

    But the above statement is crap.

    I think gun laws are silly. It’s crazy to tell a criminal “No Guns Here”. But guns had nothing to do with giving blacks freedom and civil rights.

    1. You can’t be serious.

    2. Then what was the 101st Airborne doing in Little Rock? Handing out flowers?

  8. My son is alive and in the world today because I was armed one night 25 years ago.

    You cant have my guns. Try to disarm me and see what happens.

    1. Suthenboy,

      I think that the culture has changed significantly in the past 25 years and the legal system(s) have also changed somewhat. Did you experience any difficulties with the courts with regards to showing that you acted in self-defense?
      I don’t know/remember enough about your experience (in fact, I can only remember that your assailant used a knife when he was trying to kill you).

      1. You are mistaken. You are thinking of someone else.

        A man tried to car jack me while me one year old son was in the car with me. I only had to display a pistol to run him off. He was extremely aggressive and if I had not been armed I am certain it would have turned out very differently.

        I was very fortunate that I did not have to pull the trigger or deal with the CJ system.

        1. I apologize for my confusion.

          I am glad that you both made it out of that situation without you having to fire the pistol.

        2. You’re just lucky he didn’t take the gun and turn it around on you. I’m assured that’s what happens, like, all the time.

          1. That’s why women shouldn’t buy guns for self protection, despite guns being a great equalizer for the statistically smaller and weaker sex. Because women can’t protect themselves because they are nonviolent flowers and will just get the gun taken away from them.

            I hope a sarcasm tag isn’t needed despite the username. Actual feminists do say this.

            1. I’ve seen cops make that argument a lot when they mock little people who want to arm themselves.
              “Anyone who isn’t a cop (or criminal) is a pussy who isn’t capable of pulling the trigger, which means that their gun will be taken away and used on them because they’re pussies. Only police officers are manly enough to carry guns, because they aren’t pussies like everyone who isn’t a cop.”

              1. No wonder they pull the trigger on harmless dogs/children/newspaper delivery women/other cops: they’re just not big pussies like the rest of us.

      2. People do still successfully argue self-defense all the time. At least in areas where people aren’t too insane about gun control.

    2. No thanks. My momma didn’t raise anyone that stupid.

      POLITICIANS’ mommas, on the other hand…..

  9. These stories cannot be posted frequently enough. This should be a weekly feature on Reason.

    1. I wish he would have mentioned how gun laws have historically been racist, designed to get guns out of the hands of blacks.

      But, Reason does need to teach new readers libertarian principles, the best way to do that and to keep the current readership entertained is by making those lessons through historical examples and stories.

  10. The biggest disconnect between the white hispters progressives and urban blacks is gun control. My Dad who is a reliable Democratic voter went on a rant when he heard some asshole proposing to restrict access to guns in Chicago. His view is that his neighborhood is getting a little less safe every year so why should some smug asshole who lives on the Northside or one of the suburbs prevent him from owning a gun and protecting himself and my Mom?

    Whenever I pose this question to gun control advocates, they are either at a loss for words or say that if we made guns harder to get, than people like my Dad wouldn’t need guns to protect himself.

    1. > …if we made guns harder to get, than people like my Dad wouldn’t need guns to protect himself.

      Bang on the money. As history shows, before the invention of the handgun there was no violence or wars at all. History’s worst indirect mass murderer isn’t Hitler, Stalin, or some other government authoritarian, it was Sam Colt! [/sarcasm]

      1. Sorry Brodie, if you’re going to make that argument you might want to use one of the actual, honest to god pre-firearm mass murderers. Say, for instance, Genghis Fucking Khan?

        Hitler was a pussy. Stalin had no idea what he was doing.

        Khan? Now there was a man of action.

        History is rife with these jagoffs, you don’t need to look far, and this is of course why people are encouraged to forget history or rewrite it. Otherwise, it’s too obvious that humanity never changes even if the tools do.

  11. Use the left’s arguments against them and claim that gun control is white privilege.

    1. I’ve never been asked about my “privilege” but if I were, I always wondered if I could manage to respond without calling the questioner a fucking retard of the highest order. I will use this instead, with a completely straight face, backed with facts, and see if I can make their head explode.

  12. Counter-Argument: That was like, 100 years ago!

  13. Facebook is full retard today. In circulation is a petition to ban “assault weapons”.

    1. The silver lining to these atrocities is watching Democrats burn themselves in that fire every single time.

      1. They can’t help it. This is the 2nd time in a row that they’ve shot themselves in the foot.

        1. The thing I honestly can not figure out is why a group of people who are completely unarmed would ever think it’s a super amazing idea to try and forcibly confiscate over 100 million guns from people who are quite definitely armed.

          I get that they expect the military to go door-to-door and confiscate these things with tanks and rocket launchers, but have they even thought it through to that point, or what? Who do they think is in this magical leftist military?

          Openly declaring war on at least 1/3rd of the population in your own country seems so retarded and authoritarian that it really drives home what a ‘useful idiot’ really is and, moreover, how shocking many of them there are in America.

    2. Do you mean (((Facebook)))?

    3. People act like “assault weapon” is actually a legitimate term.

      1. Doc- “assault weapon” goes in the same bin with “hate speech” and “social justice”.

      2. Isn’t assault weapon what’s used to pepper people with shots?

    4. I gotta get me one of those scary, black rifles with a pistol grip here at some point. Private sale of course. No paper trail.

      1. 80% lower. It’s the only way to avoid paper in CA.

        1. I’ve got to ask my gunsmith friend if he can do the finishing work on one of those. That would be ideal.

          1. That he cannot do.

            You have to do the finishing yourself.

            1. The “loophole” is you don’t have to serialize guns you make for yourself. ATF doesn’t consider an 80% lower to be a gun, it’s a chunk of aluminum. If you buy an 80% lower, but your buddy finishes it, it’s his gun, not yours, and it’s not legally transferable to anyone. You need him to teach you how to run a mill for the few operations necessary to finish the lower.

              1. So if my gunsmith friend looks over my shoulder and directs me while I use his milling machine, I’m all good.

                1. So if my gunsmith friend looks over my shoulder and directs me while I use his milling machine, I’m all good.

                  Yep. There are even classes out there that will help you through it step by step if your gunsmith friend is too busy.

        2. ^ This

          Cash purchase 80% lower and parts kit.

          A private sale can still provide a paper trail if the seller wants you to sign a bill of sale. (Required in some states)

          1. Where do you find someone selling those for cash? I’ve only seen them available online.

            1. Gun shows are the most likely place, though you’ll probably pay a premium over an online purchase.

              1. Have you actually done this? I have been told that it is a lot more difficult than some make it out to be.

                1. If you have access to a milling machine, it should be pretty easy. Doing it with a drill press and router seems like it would take a lot of care and have lots of potential for screwups.

                2. I have not

                  If I tried, a drill press and vise would be how I go about it since a manual mill is far more expensive.

                  A drill press isn’t the best tool for the job, but it can do it as long as you are patient.

  14. As we debate the costs of the Second Amendment ….

    OK, you may start by naming them.

  15. As we debate the costs of the Second Amendment in the coming days, let’s not forget to tally the benefits.

    Look, Damon, we’ve had enough of your libertarian “costs” and “benefits” smokescreen. You just want to take away the right of people to feel like they’re doing something.

    YOU CAN’T PUT A NUMBER ON THAT!

    1. Indeed. Scratch a utilitarian and you’ll find a statist every time.

  16. John’s bete noire schools the left on gun control laws.

    Terrorist atrocities are difficult to anticipate and to prevent, especially as the Islamists move from al-Qaeda?style spectaculars that require a great deal in the way of planning and coordination to simpler intifada-style attacks, such as shooting up a nightclub or a bus. And there’s a great deal of ordinary crime that really can’t be prevented, either. But there’s a fair number of crimes that could be prevented, if the people we pay to prevent them were willing to do the old-fashioned police work necessary: running down criminals, prosecuting unglamorous cases, properly managing parolees.

    But those jobs are entrusted to government employees, whose unions are irreplaceable benefactors of Democratic political campaigns. Hence when an ISIS groupie from New York shoots up a gay bar in Orlando under the nose of the FBI, it’s somehow the fault of quail-hunters in Texas and .223 enthusiasts in Idaho.

    The alternative would be expecting the generously compensated and gorgeously pensioned employees of the public sector to do their goddamned jobs, which is, if you’re a scheming, opportunistic lowlife like Chuck Schumer, unthinkable.

    1. How come you did not highlight the section where he calls for the extermination of poor whites?

      1. Unlike Williamson, I favor a policy of euthanizing all poor people regardless of race.

        1. Politicians and Lawyers who act on contingency first.

    2. Listening to Chicago local news for 18 years it seemed that a significant number of shootings and murders where they actually found a suspect, the suspect had multiple misdemeanor convictions that had been pled down from a violent felony.

      I’d wager you wouldn’t even have to do what this guy advocates in arresting and convicting straw purchasers. Just take seriously the actual honest to goodness crimes of violence.

      1. I’m apathetic about enforcing existing gun control laws, but the point is Williamson presents a much more cogent and informed stance on the matter than you ever hear from lefties whose first and last word on the subject is “assault weapon ban.”

    3. A second issue touching background checks: Often, the FBI is not able to process a gun buyer’s application within the three days required by law. If the FBI cannot give an answer, the sale can go forward under what is known as a “default proceed,” the gun buyer’s version of “innocent until proven guilty.” In tens of thousands of cases each year, the FBI discovers, after the fact, that the sale should not have proceeded. At this point, it issues an alert to the ATF, which in most cases then . . . does nothing at all. In a study of the 2000 data, there were about 45,000 sales that the FBI wrongly allowed to proceed, and in about 38,000 of those cases, no effort was made to recover the firearm.

      Whaaaaaaaaat?

      The ATF has lots of people, and they have cars. Picking up wrongly sold guns isn’t that big a chore. In fact, since most of these prohibited buyers have committed a serious crime in buying a gun (though many of them may not have known it ? otherwise, why go to a licensed dealer?) a strongly worded letter (“Return your gun to the dealer or go to federal prison”) and a bit of follow-up ought to do the trick. The precise number of wrongly approved gun sales that the federal government allows to proceed and then fails to address is, at the moment, unknown, but the only acceptable number is: zero.

  17. And important to remember that a lot of these civil rights leaders were under FBI investigation, so if that 5th-amendment-violating regulation that stops “suspected terrorists” from buying guns had existed, MLK and others would either have been denied guns or been jailed for possessing them.

  18. 80% lower. It’s the only way to avoid paper in CA.

    Conspiracy to commit GHOSTGUNZ!

    *hits ATF speed dial button*

  19. if we made guns harder to get, than people like my Dad wouldn’t need guns to protect himself.

    And of course that means harder EVERYWHERE, not just Illinois. That boot stamping on that face? We’re just not stamping hard enough.

  20. My response to a post by occupy dem posted on Facebook by a former teacher if mine.
    “We banned them from airports. We didn’t ban knives or liquids. We didn’t stop people from owning knives or liquids.
    To the connection between guns and shootings, there’s a few more common things than “assault” weapons. Most mass murders, like this most recent one, are committed by people who pass background checks. No one has been able to predict who will commit such acts. Almost all are committed where people are not armed. Most murders are committed with handguns, not rifles. Statistics tell us that this is not common. Most murders are related to drug crime.
    It is illegal to have a weapon in a bar almost everywhere.”
    Her response? “Assault weapon mass murders are becoming common here, but why not at least get rid of this type of gun?”

    1. Her premise seems to be that getting rid of a kind of gun is a good thing by itself. Not sure why anyone thinks that should be a convincing argument to anyone who doesn’t want guns banned.
      And they seem to think that “assault weapons” are uniquely deadly or something. He could easily have killed as many or more people with a pump or semi-auto 12 ga. shotgun with buckshot.

      1. I am unable to respond. I presented several arguments, and she had ignored all of them. As though I wrote nothing more than “wrong!!!1!”

        1. That’s probably all they heard. Recall that plenty of people still mostly trust the Old Media and deem things they see on the coloring box to be true because it’s on the coloring box; instead of the exact opposite like they should. (It’s all-propaganda-all-the-time now, if you ask me.)

          Of course the government wants long guns gone before they come for the guns that are used in virtually every crime; because those would be the one’s you would use to protect yourself from the people that come for them.

          See, and you thought they weren’t logical!

          Your average idiot though is an idiot, and doesn’t have even the first idea of what a gun is or does beyond what they’ve seen in movies. I still think the best argument against gun control is Great Britain. Magically, banning guns caused stabbings to make up the difference. Killers are going to kill, whereas taking guns from law abiding citizens just puts you back at the level of ‘the biggest and strongest wins all fights’. Or worse, back to swords (also illegal) or being stabbed in the gut and bleeding out.

          Just shoot me instead, please.

    2. Her response? “Assault weapon mass murders are becoming common here, but why not at least get rid of this type of gun?”

      “I know how I feel! You’re not going to change it with stupid facts!”

      1. That’s what I read it as. What kills me is this person was a teacher. She teaches children how to think (logically?). She had the next post on her page about how reading is important. Not the federalist papers apparently.

        1. At this point she probably mostly teaches children how to do homework and take tests.

  21. It’s odd to me, perhaps not on reflection, that the pro and con Second Amendment debaters shy away from the essence of their positions. Both sides are afraid to be characterized as extremist. Those opposed to the constitutional applicability don’t have the courage to admit their desire — ban guns, long or short, automatic or semi, hunting or antique, whatever — just ban the damn things. Maybe one or two will admit the confiscatory desire. But most can’t bring themselves to it, even though it’s lurking in their statist hearts.
    On the other side, those who favor the Second Amendment speak often of self defense, or “the cops can’t arrive quickly enough”, or stopping a mass murderer like Omar Matteen; many of them also lack courage in arguing the essence of the right — the codified insurance that civilians can shoot and kill agents of the state who become tyrannical.
    The extreme positions from both perspectives, however accurate, are non-starters. So it’s devolved into hunting scenarios, or thwarting a rapist. Well, I suppose those are as good reasons as any.

    1. I usually wait on the tyrannical argument. There are simple “what good will it do” arguments to start with. When it goes to outright confiscation, I’ll pull quotes about tyrants.

    2. I usually go with the argument that laws don’t stop people from getting their hands on illegal drugs, so why would they stop people from getting their hands on illegal guns? The only people who will be disarmed are those who wouldn’t commit a crime to begin with, and those who will arm themselves for the purpose of murder aren’t going to be deterred by firearm restrictions.

      Faced with facts and logic, the typical response is red-faced name-calling.

      1. At which point they claim victory, and retreat to DU.

    3. Considering that what’s being talked about here is removal of a basic natural right in the United States, the recourse is clear.

      Either they have enough ‘common sense’ to amend the constitution and get rid of the 2nd Amendment, or they do not and it is therefore not common sense.

      Since it is clear they lack those numbers, and it is therefore anything but common sense, they have decided that because they are right and the majority is wrong this therefore means the ends justify the means.

      Consider this: There is no burden of any proof whatsoever for the supposedly ‘pro-gun’ crowd to justify what’s codified as a ‘natural’ right, it’s up to the ‘get rid of it’ crowd who need to show their work on why you no longer have the basic right to self defense.

      Also, consider that the argument of ending a tyrannical regime will be a clear first thought in the mind of a person who is being threatened with the removal of a natural right for engaging in a legal activity that hurts no one, but enables the state to have no fear whatsoever of it’s populace.

      That isn’t an argument on the side of gun rights people, it’s a veiled threat whereas the removal of said rights through the process set forth in the constitution is not a threat, as they do not have anywhere close to the numbers they would need for such a change. The threat is that the government won’t follow the process, and will therefore become tyrannical.

      Get your shit straight man!

    4. I favor a re-wording: “The occasional horsewhipping or lynching of an obnoxious government stooge being necessary to the preservation of the Liberty of a Free People, the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

  22. One might note that neither the 38 special Smith and Wesson revolver, nor the 44/40 Winchester carbine, existed when the Fourth Amendment was written.

    1. Look, either the Second Amendment covers such Arms as modern automatic weapons, or the Fist does not cover material composed or published via electric typewriter, linotype machine, or the internet.

      Not that the Liberal Intellectual Radical Progressives will allow a little thing like logic soil their fun….

    2. The only abortions allowed are those that were available when the constitution was written. Easy peasy.

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