Late last week, the chairman of Gun Appreciation Day was interviewed by CNN. Larry Ward raised some unintended mirth with this statement:
I think Martin Luther King, Jr. would agree with me if he were alive today that if African Americans had been given the right to keep and bear arms from day one of the country's founding, perhaps slavery might not have been a chapter in our history.
Yeah, the premiere American advocate of non-violence, the civil rights leader who was murdered by a white supremacist with a gun, perhaps spent his idle hours longing for that very alternate history. If only slaves, having been kidnapped from Africa, had been allowed to walk down to the local gunsmith to purchase a burst-capable semi-automatic rifle with an intermediate cartridge and detachable magazine, slavery would have died a quick death. It seems slave owners, dedicated as they were to every other aspect of freedom, had an insufficient respect for the second amendment.
On the other hand, there may exist some possibility that senior editor Ta-Nehisi Coates, at The Atlantic may have expressed what could have seemed a more obvious reaction from Dr. King:
So I guess it's true that blacks wouldn't have been slaves if they had guns, much like it's true that blacks wouldn't have been slaves if there was no such thing as American slavery.
Although they never met, Dr. King had a special relationship with Mohandis K. Gandhi, the non-violent leader of independence for India. Those who oppose gun safety requirements are beginning to quote Gandhi as well.
Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest.
Actually, that quote does appear in the autobiography of the Mahatma, at least as I understand it. In the book, Gandhi is quoting himself, recounting the argument he made to a British constable in favor of allowing Indians to serve in the fight against Germany in World War I. Gandhi was, in fact, permitted to organize a medical group, chasing after wounded British soldiers on the battlefield.
Gandhi, at the time, thought that his service as a medic was consistent with his still developing ethic of non-violence. He later concluded that he had been wrong. When World War II came along, he campaigned against any Indian participation. He was arrested several times for urging non-cooperation by Indians in any war effort. So Gandhi was not advocating gun ownership in his autobiography. He was talking about a part of his personal history that he later concluded was wrong.
Martin Luther King was profoundly influenced by the writings and the personal history of Gandhi. Those participating in Dr. King's non-violent campaigns against racial discrimination were carefully screened. They were made to promise to remain non-violent, even in the face of vicious physical assaults.
Some of the most vigorous critics of Dr. King came from a group dedicated to second amendment rights, back when the NRA itself was just a small gun-safety group. The fight between unlimited gun rights and gun control measures was focused, for a time, in California. Gun rights advocates were quite militant about the right to bear, and even brandish, firearms. The logic of the cause was that, if police were unable or unwilling to protect members the public, members of the public had the right, even the obligation, to protect themselves.
When some activists, carrying weapons, walked the streets near the home of a state assemblyman, he introduced a bill that would outlaw any loaded firearm in any public place. It was quite a scene. Gun rights advocates walked into the State House in protest, carrying weapons with them. They were escorted outside, where they gathered in a noisy crowd.
Inside, the legislature passed the restrictive gun control measure. The Governor of California quickly signed it into law.
The gun rights group, the group that vigorously debated against the non-violent tactics of Martin Luther King, the group that hotly opposed gun restrictions, was the Black Panther Party.
The sponsor of the bill banning weapons was conservative Republican, Don Mulford.
The Governor who signed the bill into law was Ronald Reagan.
Those were the days.
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