Hillary Takes On Race And Guns And Gets It On!

To her immense credit Hillary has raised the issue of race in a direct and immediate way. The Republicans, after all, have been playing the race card ever since Saint Reagan joked about the ‘welfare queen’ during the 1980 campaign, and it’s time that someone finally came out and called it what it is.  And let’s not screw around and pretend that Trump with his wretched disdain for minorities is somehow outside the mainstream of Republican beliefs.  The red team has never (as in never) tried to make itself attractive to the minority vote.  In fact, if it were up to the GOP, minorities wouldn’t be able to vote at all.  Or am I wrong and did that recent North Carolina voting rights decision throw out a law pushed through the state legislature by Democrats from the Tar Heel state?

hillary3           When it comes to defining political issues in racial terms, of course, Trump has also dipped quite easily into the playbook authored by the NRA.  Because if you think for one second that Gun-nut Nation’s push for concealed-carry laws is something other than a direct appeal to racial animosities and prejudices, think again.  Why should everyone be walking around with a gun?  To protect us from crime. And who are all those people committing all those crimes?  The same people who, according to Mister Trump, are going to show up on election day, vote as many times as they can, and guarantee that the result will be ‘rigged.’

Trump’s biggest problem, and it’s been a problem for the entire Republican Party, is that they are slowly but steadily losing the party’s base.  Because it was the same Republican Party, by the way, that blocked immigration from Europe after 1924.  And it never occurred to those dopes and racists back then that what they were really setting in motion was a situation that would eventually lead to a basic change in the ethnicity of new Americans, due largely to the immigration reform law signed by Saint Reagan in 1986.  Because this law allowed American farmers to employ non-citizens as ‘temporary’ farm workers, most of whom after the harvest season decided to stick around.  Remember all those ‘rapists’ and ‘criminals’ from Mexico that Trump discovered when he first announced his candidacy?

So what we ended up with is a Presidential candidate who until he realized last week that his racist jeremiad wasn’t working, told every Ku Klux Klan rally– oops! – I mean campaign rally, that he was going to throw ‘them all the hell out.’ And, by the way, if any of those criminals and rapists are left over after the mass deportations, we can always depend on all those law-abiding, 2nd-Amendment-loving NRA members to protect us with their guns.

There’s a reason why the NRA decided to break with its own tradition of endorsing the Republican candidate in October and, instead decided back in April to go with Trump.  Because the NRA has been playing the same fear-mongering racial card to its own members since it began promoting gun ownership as a response to crime. And this new advertising strategy served two purposes: it helped the gun industry make a product transition from sporting and hunting to self-defense, and it gave Republican politicians a leg up in races for various Congressional seats.

When Dana Loesch makes a video for the NRA saying she needs a gun to protect her and her family against ‘street thugs,’ does anyone have any trouble figuring out the skin color of those so-called thugs?  Loesch and her NRA sponsors pander to many Americans who mistakingly believe that crime is on the rise.  And they also believe that a gun will make them safe, even if they don’t own a gun.

Calling Trump a racist takes guts but is also an easy one to see.  The real challenge for Hillary is to give Americans who are afraid of crime or terrorism ways to assuage their fears without going out and buying a gun.


Why Can’t We Use The Militia To Defend Ourselves?

Now that the Bundy Militia has decided that eating dinner at home is better than freezing in the administration building on the Malheur Preserve, I decided to spend a bit of time reading about the whole notion of militias, if only because the bunch at Malheur seem convinced that they represent some kind of unquestioned Constitutional mandate to protect liberty and justice forever.

rubio               Actually, if the modern-day Boy Scouts who go out on weekends and play soldier boy in some gravel pit with their AR rifles would take the trouble to read the Constitution, they might actually discover that as members of a militia they are first and foremost required to follow the dictates of their most hated enemy, a.k.a., Barack Obama, who happens to be Commander in Chief.  I quote from Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 which says: “The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States.”

But why let facts or legal texts stand in the way of shooting your mouth off on Fox News?  And it stands to reason that the group at Malheur would call themselves a militia since the modern militia movement has descended directly from anti-government ‘patriot’ groups which, if traced back to their origins, bear a certain clear resemblance to racialist groups which go all the way back to the Ku Klux Klan.  How could it be otherwise when Ammon Bundy’s father Cliven was about to be lionized by Sean Hannity until he screwed up the whole thing by saying, “Let me tell you about your Negro,” followed by a few other choice words.

In this respect, I just read an interesting Letter to the Editor of the Kansas City Star. The author pointed out that the Kansas State Constitution requires the Legislature to organize and equip the state’s militia, and he was wondering (obviously tongue-in-cheek) whether this meant that the Legislature had to supply these self-styled militias with guns.  It’s an interesting concept when you think about it, because currently 23 states have organized militias, usually referred to as State Defense Forces, which can be pressed into service if the National Guard units have been deployed somewhere else. And although such units are sanctioned by Title 32 of the U.S. Code, they are wholly volunteer outfits serving solely at the discretion and direction of state officials, normally the Governor and the Adjutant General who also commands the National Guard.

Not surprisingly, these modern-day militias tend to be called out in response to natural disasters, more than 2,000 SDF personnel participated in rescue and cleanup efforts after Hurricane Katrina, to cite one very important case. On the other hand, SDF units do not receive any regular training nor do the Feds provide any dough for weapons or other equipment and supplies.  Know what happens when a state government has to bear the entire cost of any program?  There usually isn’t a program.

Maybe the Bundy boys and their militia buddies aren’t really so off the mark when they claim to be standing up for their Constitutional rights against the abusive power of the Feds.  After all, wasn’t it Rick Perry who, as Governor of Texas, raised the possibility that Texas might secede?  Which means he would need some kind of armed force to make good on his threat, which means maybe he would use the state militia, which means that the Bundy brothers and their gang could drive down to Texas, volunteer for militia service and finally get a chance to use all those AR rifles to defend their God-given rights.

If you are thinking that I’m just having a little fun because Donald Trump lost the Iowa primary you’re right.  But let’s remember that it was Marco Rubio who took a day off from campaigning to buy a gun as a response to the looming ISIS threat. You think the boys at Malheur are the only crazy ones around?


Sorry Folks, But Gun Rights And Civil Rights Don’t Mean The Same Thing.

The NRA has long distinguished itself as the pre-eminent voice in documenting and preserving the history of American small arms.  I was born in Washington, D.C., and spent many happy hours wandering through the NRA’s museum in the old headquarters building that was walking distance from the Capitol and other government sites.  And I continue each month to enjoy the historical articles published in The American Rifleman magazine whose quality, frankly, puts the Smithsonian to shame. But lately, in their effort to find new customers and widen the market, the NRA has shifted away from its focus on the history of guns to explaining the history of why Americans use guns and, in the process, have started to play fast and loose with the facts.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I have never questioned, nor would I ever question anyone’s personal decision to own or use a gun.  God knows I own enough of them myself and I’ve sold more than 12,000 guns to other folks as well.  But I believe that when someone – anyone – makes the decision to become a gun owner it shouldn’t be made without at least acknowledging that guns represent a risk that requires them to be used with diligence and care.  And I will continue to speak out against the NRA and others who pretend that the risk of gun ownership is somehow mitigated by the protection and security afforded by a gun.  I have told many gun friends over the years that I will send a hundred bucks to the charity of their choice if they can prove that guns do more good than harm.  I have yet to write the first check.

            Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks

Getting back to the history of who uses guns, the NRA has just posted an article based on the newly-opened personal papers of Rosa Parks whose refusal to go to the “back of the bus” sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955.  In a brief biographical sketch, Parks describes sitting up at night with her grandfather who kept a shotgun handy in case his family or others in the neighborhood were menaced by the Ku Klux Klan.  The NRA goes on to say that it was “common” for blacks to protect themselves against racially motivated violence and cites other examples of civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who kept guns on or near for self-defense.

I’m happy that the NRA has decided to create greater awareness about the struggle for civil rights and the value that black Americans placed on arming and defending themselves during that time.  But when the NRA uses the history of armed resistance to racism to justify arming the average American as a response to everyday crime, they are moving from past history to present-day advocacy, two positions that have nothing to do with each other at all.

The Klan wasn’t just someone who would break into your house or mug you in the street.  It was, in many areas of the South, an organized vigilante movement whose mission was to recreate the racist political and social structure that existed before the Civil War. That blacks chose to arm themselves in the face of political terrorism directed only at them should never be confused with decisions that people make today about whether personal ownership of guns will protect them from crime.

The NRA now refers to itself as America’s “longest-standing civil rights organization” and by that I guess they mean that somehow the 2nd Amendment ranks above all other Constitutional rights.  But the truth is that the NRA paid lip service at best to concerns about threats to the 2nd Amendment until Harlon Carter took over the leadership in 1977 and began to play the political advocacy game in a much more aggressive way.  By the time the NRA discovered that gun ownership was not just a Constitutional but also a civil right, black Americans had been fighting and winning their civil rights for over twenty years.





Book Review: Negroes and the Gun

When we talk about gun violence and the African-American community, we invariably think of  Blacks as victims of gun homicides and assaults, categories in which Blacks are both perpetrators and victims to a degree far beyond their presence in the American population as a whole. And a week doesn’t go by without a meeting or demonstration in one inner-city neighborhood or the other calling for an end to this tragic state of affairs.

Now for the first time we have a statement about gun violence in which the author, a law professor at Fordham University in New York, rejects the notion that there are too many guns in the hands of Blacks, but rather that the guns are in the wrong hands.  Not only does Nicholas Johnson issue a call for Blacks to protect themselves against criminal attacks by acquiring and carrying guns, but he writes a long and detailed narrative about how Blacks used guns to defend themselves even while they were denied gun ownership because they were still slaves.

black gun                Johnson begins this interesting and largely-unappreciated history with examples of defensive use of guns by Blacks even prior to the Civil War, including a mass resistance in Vicksburg in 1835, as well as multiple instances of Blacks protecting themselves with arms when they attempted to flee from the South.  The use of arms for self-protection by Blacks became even more pronounced in the decades following the end of Reconstruction, when Blacks were faced with continuous racial violence committed by the Ku Klux Klan and others intent on rolling back the gains made by African-Americans after the Civil War. The chapters that follow on Blacks and armed protection during the 1950’s and 60’s provide a needed balance to the non-violent approach of Dr. King and others, the prism through which the civil rights movement Is usually viewed.

The intent of the author, however, is not just to widen our understanding of Blacks and guns historically.  It is to use this history to mount an argument against what he calls the “modern orthodoxy” to eliminate gun violence by eliminating guns.  And since the preponderance of criminal gun violence involves the African-American community, Johnson is convinced that more gun control would leave the Black community even more defenseless and less able to protect its members against crime.  Of late the author has received strong support for this argument from the pro-gun lobby and in particular, the NRA. Even though the NRA’s membership is overwhelmingly White (and Southern White to be sure,) the message about guns being “hip” and “cool” is delivered by an African-American, Colion Noir, who jumbles video-game slang together with homilies about the ”right” to self-defense. It’s a blatant and so far unsuccessful attempt to capture the hearts, minds and wallets of non-gun demographics like millennials and Blacks, and Johnson’s argument about the futility of gun control is yet another attempt to justify more gun ownership, albeit from an academic point of view.

Johnson argues that since the only way to end gun violence is to get rid of guns, any plan to eliminate guns from private hands would just drive more guns into the hands of criminals for whom it would now be easier to prey on unarmed, law-abiding folks.  Better to give citizens the right and the opportunity to defend themselves, just as Blacks used guns to defend themselves since before they were even able to legally own guns.  Except it’s Johnson’s own research, admirably written, which shows that Blacks didn’t use arms to defend themselves from criminals, they used guns principally to assert or protect their political rights.  Klansmen who burned crosses on Black properties or burned down Black churches weren’t stealing property; they were trying to keep Blacks in a subservient or unequal political class. That’s hardly the same thing as shooting the robber or rapist who comes through the back door and Johnson should be willing to let the admirable history of the armed struggle for Black rights to stand on its own terms.