The Black Panthers, Thanksgiving and the Second Amendment

A police officer shot John Crawford dead in a Wal-Mart. Mr. Crwaford was shopping in the toy aisle and holding a toy BB gun. Mr. Crawford was a black man. The police officer, who was acquitted of any wrong doing, was a white man. Let’s start a conversation about gun control and the interpretation of the second amendment, 

…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.

If there is a “right of the people to bear arms,” why are black people, shot at a rate proportionally 3 times higher?¹ The oft heard response is “well they must have been doing something.” Hearing this rationale, Deray McKesson’s asked a police woman, “Describe for me, in what situation is it ok for the police to shoot and kill your daughter.” America is afraid of a black man with a gun.

Fear of the Black Man with a Gun

  1. The Mulford act of 1967 repealed the law allowing the public carrying of loaded firearms in response to the Black Panthers who patrolled Oakland neighborhoods watching for police brutality.  The National Rifle Association (NRA) supported this bill. The right of black people to bear arms has always been an issue. 
  2. The Supreme Court Decision for the Dred Scott case in 1857 said negroes whose ancestors were “imported and sold as slaves” could not bear American citizenship. To further support this, Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney said free blacks were not citizens; if they were, he warned, free blacks would have the right “to keep and carry arms wherever they went.” 
  3. Numerous laws were enacted after the civil war continuing to make it illegal for blacks to have firearms, bowie knives, ammunition and dogs. With the passing of the 14th amendment of 1868 granted citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States, states and local governments then required gun permits and licenses as a means to keep guns in the hands of whites only.

Fear of the White Man with a Gun

For African Americans guns are protection. Pre-civil war, freed slaves were in constant danger of being kidnapped and sold into slavery. Post-civil war, guns were a way to protect family and homes from the Klu Klux Klan whose reign of terror of blacks in the south included cross burnings, firebombs and lynching. There were over 4,700 lynchings in the US between,1882 and 1981. One hundred years of lynchings weren’t something done in the dark of night; lynchings were a public events with cheering white men, women and children, photographers recorded the event and lynching souvenirs were sold. So, you can imagine why a black man would want a guns as protection from a frenzied mob out to show supremacy. 

Put the Gun Down

The president suggested armed guards would have stopped the shooter at a Pennsylvania synagogue last month. Previously, he said teachers should be armed. All evidence is to the contrary. Tragically, j a trained police officer was fatally wounded in a shoot-out in Thousand Oaks three weeks ago. Think about it, you hear shots, you have to first determine, where they are coming from, who the shooter is, insure no one is in danger, before you act  to deliver a shot that will decommission the shooter. Gun sales rose after the Thousand Oaks incident; people reported buying guns to protect themselves.

How is this going to work? People are going to look for who has a gun, they will look for people they fear and the black person with the gun will be shot. They must be black doing something; shoot first and ask questions later? Basically, unless it is a Zombie Apocalypse, how will amateurs tell who is friend or foe? Innocent people will be shot, more lives will be lost.²

First Thoughts on the Second Amendment

Almost half the guns in the world are owned by Americans; 48%. Mass shootings cause anxiety and call attention guns, but overall have we normalized gun deaths? Your chances of death by gun is 1 in 315; that’s higher than death by car accident which is 1 in 491. Your chances of death in a mass shooting are 1 in 11,125. You’re at greater risk of death from choking on food which 1 in 3,461 than a mass shooting.

The second amendment is a response to ensure freedom from England for the states after the revolutionary war; a provision that sanctioned the continued use guns that enabled Europeans to slaughter native people, steal land,  establish a government and strip the inhabitants of power and rights. The continued use of weapons enabled a new country to kidnap, enslave and imprison people from another country and deny those people power and rights. It’s brutal past built on gun power.

Thanksgiving Food for Thought

This week, many well “celebrate” Thanksgiving. President Franklin Roosevelt signed a bill into law to create a holiday in 1941. The tale is told of Plymouth Rock ad a united celebration of settlers and Native Americas. The dark side of Plymouth is the Pequot Wars. The two year war slaughtered or took into captivity over 600 Pecquot men, women and children, rendered the tribe extinct. Those not killed were kept as slaves or sold into slavery in the West Indies. We cannot move forward with a fictional past. Guns enabled the slaughtered of Native Americas by immigrants.

What is the intent of the 2nd amendment today? Is it the ability of all people to have guns; for what purpose? Is it for people to fight a foreign government, for citizens  to protect themselves from the government?  This week, as you give thanks, give pause, what are gun rights and gun wrongs; where have we been and where do we go?

¹The statistics for people shot by police while not attacking – 39% black, 12% Hispanic and 52% white; the general population is 13% black, 17% Hispanic and 46% white.

² I finished this draft Monday night, unaware that on Tuesday morning the news would feature  the story of Jemel Roberson, a black security officer who subdued a shooter in a bar. When the police arrived, one of the officers pulled his gun and shot and killed Mr. Robinson. The officer response, he’d encountered a subject with a gun.

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