Gun restrictions disarm the oppressed

Columnist and Columnist

On Jan. 27, 1956, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. received a phone call with simple instructions: “We’re tired of your mess. And if you aren’t out of this town in three days, we’re going to blow up your house and blow your brains out.”

Understandably, King was shaken to his core but allowed his faith and illustrious courage to prevail. Three days later, the mystery caller made good on his claim and King’s home, [where he, his wife and their one-year-old daughter lived] was bombed. Fortunately, none of them were physically harmed in the attack, but one can only imagine the psychological terror that King must have felt for the safety of his family.

Shortly after, King applied for a permit to carry a concealed firearm.

However, in Alabama, permit approvals were left to the discretion of the local police force, who unsurprisingly denied King’s application.

Understanding that he had a duty to protect himself and his family from people who wished him harm, King had armed supporters guard his home. King, having full respect for nonviolence and peace, acknowledged the importance of self-defense in the face of oppression.

Liberty empowers oppressed and marginalized groups.

In May of 1967, an African American named Huey Newton joined the North Oakland Neighborhood Anti-Poverty Center, where he served on the organization’s advisory board.

Newton and his peers recognized that police brutality was all too prevalent in African American communities and, in an attempt to “police the police,” he helped collect 5,000 signatures petitioning the City Council to implement a police review board for complaints against officers.

Newton continued his fight against corrupt law enforcement by organizing the Black Panther Party, a black revolutionary socialist organization.

In its conception, Huey and the other founding members instituted a ten-part program, the first of which reads, “we want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our black Community.”

Instead of protecting and serving the defenseless, a crooked police force was oppressing an already marginalized people.

Taking matters into their own hands, the Panthers began openly carrying weapons to deter the police out from their continual harassment.

California law, at the time, allowed individuals to carry guns in public so long as they were visible and were not threateningly pointed at any other individual.

When one officer asked to see his guns after pulling him over, Newton stood his ground. “I don’t have to give you anything but my identification, name and address,” was the response his law school days had taught him.

“Who in the hell do you think you are?” the officer asked.

“Who in the hell do you think you are?” Newton retorted.

After alerting the officer that he and his friends had a legal right to have their firearms, Newton got out of the car, still holding his rifle.

“What are you going to do with that gun?” asked the policeman.

“What are you going to do with your gun?” Newton replied.

Newton’s dissent at any other time would have had him thrown straight into a police car [or worse], however, enough people had gathered around the scene that the officers were discouraged from retaliating. Because no crime had been committed, Huey was allowed to leave freely.

Not one shot was fired and not one person was hurt, but the sheer fact that Newton had a measure of defense, if the need arose, protected him and his friends from the police brutality that so often held the black community down. Huey Newton, acting in full accordance with the law, employed his right to bear arms as a tool for liberation, as it was meant to be.

I should acknowledge that the Panthers later became infamous for their violent methods but that certainly doesn’t discredit their purpose in the beginning.

After Newton’s stand, the Panthers organized a practice to continue policing the police. Groups of armed members would follow police cars around the black neighborhoods.

When an officer stopped someone, the Panthers would stand by at a distance to assure the police acted fairly. The members would even shout out legal advice to the individuals being questioned.

My point is this: weapons, used responsibly and as a measure of defense only, liberate individuals from the tyranny of their society, whether that is a corrupt police force, a local drug gang, or a few people in a dark alley.

The United States does not need increased gun regulation. Well-connected crime lords and gang members will continue to find weapons regardless of restrictions while the average, otherwise defenseless citizen sits among the disarmed.

Guns can be used for evil, but, as has been illustrated by Martin Luther King Jr. and Huey Newton, they can also be used for good.

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