The racist history of gun control laws
Liberals have leapt on the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida to push for the repeal of “stand your ground” laws and to demand tighter gun control. (MSNBC’S Karen Finney blamed “the same people who stymied gun regulation at every point.”)
This would be like demanding more funding for the General Services Administration after seeing how its employees blew taxpayer money on a party weekend in Las Vegas.
We don’t know the facts yet, but let’s assume the conclusion MSNBC is leaping to is accurate: George Zimmerman stalked a small black child and murdered him in cold blood, just because he was black.
If that were true, every black person in America should get a gun and join the National Rifle Association, America’s oldest and most august civil rights organization.
Apparently this has occurred to no one because our excellent public education system ensures that no American under the age of 60 has the slightest notion of this country’s history.
Gun control laws were originally promulgated by Democrats to keep guns out of the hands of blacks. This allowed the Democratic policy of slavery to proceed with fewer bumps and, after the Civil War, allowed the Democratic Ku Klux Klan to menace and murder black Americans with little resistance.
(Contrary to what illiterates believe, the KKK was an outgrowth of the Democratic Party, with overlapping membership rolls. The Klan was to the Democrats what the American Civil Liberties Union is today: Not every Democrat is an ACLU’er, but every ACLU’er is a Democrat. Same with the Klan.)
In 1640, the very first gun control law ever enacted on these shores was passed in Virginia. It provided that blacks — even freemen — could not own guns.
Chief Justice Roger Taney’s infamous opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford circularly argued that blacks could not be citizens because if they were citizens, they would have the right to own guns: “[I]t would give them the full liberty,” he said, “to keep and carry arms wherever they went.”
With logic like that, Republicans eventually had to fight a Civil War to get the Democrats to give up slavery.
Alas, they were Democrats, so they cheated.
After the war, Democratic legislatures enacted “Black Codes,” denying black Americans the right of citizenship — such as the rather crucial one of bearing arms — while other Democrats (sometimes the same Democrats) founded the Ku Klux Klan.
For more than a hundred years, Republicans have aggressively supported arming blacks, so they could defend themselves against Democrats.
The original draft of the Anti-Klan Act of 1871 — passed at the urging of Republican president Ulysses S. Grant — made it a federal felony to “deprive any citizen of the United States of any arms or weapons he may have in his house or possession for the defense of his person, family, or property.” This section was deleted from the final bill only because it was deemed both beyond Congress’ authority and superfluous, inasmuch as the rights of citizenship included the right to bear arms.
Under authority of the Anti-Klan Act, President Grant deployed the U.S. military to destroy the Klan, and pretty nearly completed the job.
But the Klan had a few resurgences in the early and mid-20th century. Curiously, wherever the Klan became a political force, gun control laws would suddenly appear on the books.
This will give you an idea of how gun control laws worked. Following the firebombing of his house in 1956, Dr. Martin Luther King, who was, among other things, a Christian minister, applied for a gun permit, but the Alabama authorities found him unsuitable. A decade later, he won a Nobel Peace Prize.
How’s that “may issue” gun permit policy working for you?
The NRA opposed these discretionary gun permit laws and proceeded to grant NRA charters to blacks who sought to defend themselves from Klan violence — including the great civil rights hero Robert F. Williams.
A World War II Marine veteran, Williams returned home to Monroe, N.C., to find the Klan riding high — beating, lynching and murdering blacks at will. No one would join the NAACP for fear of Klan reprisals. Williams became president of the local chapter and increased membership from six to more than 200.
But it was not until he got a charter from the NRA in 1957 and founded the Black Armed Guard that the Klan got their comeuppance in Monroe.
Williams’ repeated thwarting of violent Klan attacks is described in his stirring book, “Negroes With Guns.” In one crucial battle, the Klan sieged the home of a black physician and his wife, but Williams and his Black Armed Guard stood sentry and repelled the larger, cowardly force. And that was the end of it.
As the Klan found out, it’s not so much fun when the rabbit’s got the gun.
The NRA’s proud history of fighting the Klan has been airbrushed out of the record by those who were complicit with the KKK, Jim Crow and racial terror, to wit: the Democrats.
In the preface to “Negroes With Guns,” Williams writes: “I have asserted the right of Negroes to meet the violence of the Ku Klux Klan by armed self-defense — and have acted on it. It has always been an accepted right of Americans, as the history of our Western states proves, that where the law is unable, or unwilling, to enforce order, the citizens can, and must act in self-defense against lawless violence.”
Contrary to MSNBC hosts, I do not believe the shooting in Florida is evidence of a resurgent KKK. But wherever the truth lies in that case, gun control is always a scheme of the powerful to deprive the powerless of the right to self-defense.
Ann Coulter is a political commentator and author.