America’s founders understood that the right to own firearms—the right to use effectual force to defend oneself, one’s family, one’s neighborhood, one’s nation—was the difference between a mere subject and a free, independent, equal citizen. The United States was designed to enjoy a government of, by, and for the people, as President Lincoln put it. To that end, every citizen was entitled, and often required, to own firearms. On the frontier, defending the community was the responsibility of every man.
For black communities, however, the threat has rarely come from invading Redcoats or marauding Indians. Few Americans remember today that the first task of the Ku Klux Klan was to disarm the black population in the South. Even fewer know that citizen militias repelled white mobs attacking black neighborhoods in many Northern cities in the days before the Civil War. On at least two occasions, those militias were composed entirely of black gun owners. Few Americans realize that during the freedom struggles of the 1960s, civil rights workers of all races were protected by organized black militias in at least three Southern states.
Despite this heritage of responsible and effective use of firearms, equal citizenship has frequently been denied to black Americans through the use of gun control laws. Such laws were used to keep firearms out of the hands of African Americans—to deny their very equality as human beings—from the earliest colonial days through the end of Jim Crow in 1965. Many would argue that even today, blacks continue to suffer disproportionate harm from gun control laws, as major cities deny legal firearms to the residents of high-crime urban neighborhoods.
Many black political leaders need to rethink their opposition to the Second Amendment. By supporting government infringement of the right to bear arms, they are not only violating the Constitution, they are robbing their fellow blacks of the ability to defend themselves and relegating them to second-class citizenship.
The American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) was one of the early voices relating civil rights for African Americans and their Second Amendment rights. This report “The Truth About Gun Control, Racism and Genocide” exposes information often suppressed by mainstream media.
Why? Because of the uncomfortable truth that Democrats sought to keep guns from African Americans. And, in fact, Democrats utilized the Ku Klux Klan to oppress black Americans. But that difficult piece of information should not keep us from examining our history and using those lessons to protect the civil liberties of all Americans today.
The First and Second Amendments of our Constitution are the great equalizers. However, we have seen from history that if the Second Amendment is compromised, then First Amendment rights deteriorate quickly. Freedom for all Americans is dependent on both. And any political party that undermines those rights is making the minority community most vulnerable. I encourage Democrats to learn from their uncomfortable history, and I urge Republicans in Congress to not infringe on the rights of Americans to defend themselves in any way. Law-abiding Americans deserve the right to defend themselves.
Ken Blackwell is on the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association. Lori Roman is the President of the American Civil Rights Union (ACRU).