“Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.” — Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948)As a writer, I find myself delving into all sorts of things I never imagined I would as a young girl growing up in rural Wisconsin. There were about 12,251 people in my hometown and not a single one of them was black. Not one. I don’t remember any brown people, either. While there were a few Asians (doctors and their families), the people of color were primarily Native American. And they were generally discussed derisively. Growing up gay in the upper Midwest was (and still is) challenging. It made me sensitive to what it means to be the other, the outsider.
The Civil Rights Movement, The AIDs Movement and the Women’s Movement were a big deal to me. I sang the Desiderata and Abraham, Martin and John at the top of my lungs. I marched. I chanted. I volunteered. I burned for the Apartheid Movement. As a child, I believed we were making the world a better place for everyone. So, it will probably be no surprise that the events in Ferguson and plethora of postings about the current state of the Civil Rights Blackslide has me distressed.
I’ve spent the last three years researching the Symbionese Liberation Army and the women at the heart of that tragic movement. During that research, I discovered that the Gun Rights Movement and Second Amendment Insanity is firmly rooted in the Black Panther Movement of the 1960’s. On May 2, 1967, Black Panther leader Bobby Seale led 24 men and six (6) women carrying .357 Magnums, 12-gauge shotguns, and .45 caliber pistols to the state capitol in Sacramento. Citing an obscure state statute which made it legal to carry loaded weapons if the were not concealed, Seale said, “The time has come for black people to arm themselves against this terror before it is too late.” Decades of abuse at the hands of unchecked police brutality, the Panthers decided to take up arms.
The Pathers’ efforts provoked an immediate backlash. Republicans in California eagerly supported increased gun control. Governor Reagan told reporters that afternoon that he saw “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.” He called guns a “ridiculous way to solve problems that have to be solved among people of good will.” California passed the Mulford Act prohibiting carrying loaded weapons but the spark had be ignited.
Founded on November 17, 1871, The National Rifle Association was primarily an organization for sportsmen and hunters until the Black Panther actions of the 60’s and early 70’s. In 1977, Wayne LaPierre joined the NRA and, over the next two decades, lobbied and catalyzed it into the overwhelmingly powerful organization that it is today.