Dr. King, Guns, Authentic Socialists and You

Posted on January 20, 2013


As is no surprise to anyone, tomorrow is Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, and a holiday for some of you.  I’m a realist on the topic of Dr. King.  He has his supporters and his critics and both are correct in varying aspects of his life and his legacy.  The man, in my opinion, was neither a saint nor a demon.  He was an extraordinary figure in American and World history, whose words and deeds have been exploited for good and bad, depending on the exploiter.  Whether you admire him or not, he can be and is a source of inspiration, outside the strict arena of the race issue.

In relation to that, I happened across a mention that MLK Jr., owned guns and applied for a concealed carry permit. Don’t get too excited yet – it’s not the slam dunk that it would appear to be at first blush. You know that we research things before we hop on whatever bandwagon that seems to be careening down the hairpin curves of  Highway 330 at 70 miles per hour.  I like ‘aha!’ moments just as much as the next guy, but I don’t want to leave a door open to liberal critics that a HumVee could be driven through.  Having said that, this is still an interesting story with some discomfort points to progressives.   Adam Winkler on Huffington Post (of all places), refers the following anecdote:

William Worthy, a journalist who covered the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, reported that once, during a visit to King’s parsonage, he went to sit down on an armchair in the living room and, to his surprise, almost sat on a loaded gun. Glenn Smiley, an adviser to King, described King’s home as “an arsenal.”

He goes on to tell how King, after his home was bombed by racists in a murder attempt, applied for a CCP (Concealed Carry Permit) with local authorities.  The local police didn’t feel that a Black rabble rousing preacher, or any Black, for that matter, had any legal prerogative to carry a gun.  This seems ironic to me in light of Chris Matthews’ recent moronic statements that 2nd Amendment rights supporters are today’s racists.  The concealed carry permit law was in fact, promoted by the NRA several years before Dr. King applied for one and was rejected.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s public statements about guns provide fodder for both sides of the gun debate. Here’s one:

“As we have seen, the first public expression of disenchantment with nonviolence arose around the question of “self-defense.” In a sense this is a false issue, for the right to defend one’s home and one’s person when attacked has been guaranteed through the ages by common law.” “Finally, I contended that the debate over the question of self-defense was unnecessary since few people suggested that Negroes should not defend themselves as individuals when attacked. The question was not whether one should use his gun when his home was attacked, but whether it was tactically wise to use a gun while participating in an organized demonstration.” Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? Chapter II, Black Power, Page 55, Harper & Row Publishers Inc., First Edition, 1967.

Here’s the one liberals like to trot out as their evidence that Dr. King was anti-guns:

“Our late President was assassinated by a morally inclement climate. It is a climate filled with heavy torrents of false accusation, jostling winds of hatred, and raging storms of violence.

It is a climate where men cannot disagree without being disagreeable, and where they express dissent through violence and murder. It is the same climate that murdered Medgar Evers in Mississippi and six innocent Negro children in Birmingham, Alabama.

So in a sense we are all participants in that horrible act that tarnished the image of our nation. By our silence, by our willingness to compromise principle, by our constant attempt to cure the cancer of racial injustice with the Vaseline of gradualism, by our readiness to allow arms to be purchased at will and fired at whim, by allowing our movie and television screens to teach our children that the hero is one who masters the art of shooting and the technique of killing, by allowing all these developments, we have created an atmosphere in which violence and hatred have become popular pastimes.”

While I am admittedly not a purely objective participant in the debate over gun control, it seems to me that what Dr. King is referring to and emphasizing more, is the culture of violence and its connection to hatred and bigotry.  No doubt that he had at that point, adopted the distrust of guns that he might not have had if Blacks had been able to defend themselves against Klan attacks.

Actually, however, many of MLK’s colleagues in the Civil Rights movement actually did consistently advocate employing firearms to protect Black communities from racist thugs.  Aarin Hawkins on the Militant.com, cites numerous examples of this.  I’ll highlight a couple of them here.

The Deacons for Defense and Justice, was formed in Jonesboro, Louisiana, to protect Blacks from Klan raids. In July 1964, after Blacks tried to implement the Civil Rights Act in public accommodations, a 30-car motorcade of Klansmen rode through the Black neighborhood escorted by the Jonesboro police. “We decided that if the power structure would do that for Klan, then we had better do something for ourselves,” said Earnest Thomas, a leader of the Deacons in Jonesboro.

The Deacons had chapters across Louisiana, including in Bogalusa, Baton Rouge, and New Iberia. The group declined by 1968, as desegregation advanced.

Speaking at a Militant Labor Forum in New York in December 1965, Deacons leader Charles Sims said, “We let him [the Klan] know that everywhere the civil rights workers went, he might not see them, he might not know who the Deacons might be, but somewhere close to him we were there.”

And this:

In 1965, young fighters in McComb, Mississippi, organized all-night armed patrols to deter Klan “joyrides” in Black neighborhoods. McComb was the scene of some of the heaviest Klan violence against the civil rights movement. While hundreds of civil rights workers were participating in Freedom Summer in Mississippi in 1964, some 16 bombings occurred in McComb.

“Armed self-defense was actually initiated by two teen-aged girls,” Joel Britton wrote in the March 22, 1965, Militant. “They were fed up with the bombings of Negro homes and churches and took to sitting up nights on the porch with guns. When their parents and other adults discovered how the girls were spending their nights, they decided it was a good idea, but shouldn’t be left to the youngsters alone to carry on.”

I might just point out that The Militant is not a Right wing, ‘militia’ type website.  Here’s a shocker for you.  The Militant is a … wait for it – Socialist website!  Hold on.  It gets even more interesting from there.  This is not just an inconsequential, blip on the internet website. No, this is a long standing publication that is widely read and has been on the web for years.  It is what members of the Socialist Worker’s Party read on a daily basis.

Not only is The Militant unwilling to bury inconvenient facts that cause Cognitive Dissonance among Progress-O-Botz, but they also are opposed to Obama’s and the Democrat Party’s unconstitutional gun grabbing initiatives. That’s right, there are actually those on the Left, who agree that taking guns from Americans is just as much of a violation of the Constitution as the government spying on you and violating your 4th Amendment rights!  They also think that efforts to further restrict gun rights are an attack on the Middle Class in America.  So we have allies on the Left!

Guns make for strange bedfellows, indeed.