I think a person should have the right to carry a weapon in self-defense, and I think the Louisiana state law says a man can carry a weapon in his car as long as it is not concealed. We found out in Bogalusa that law meant for the white man, it didn’t mean for the colored. Any time a colored man was caught with a weapon in his car, they jailed him for carrying a concealed weapon. So we carried them to court.
Charles R. Sims, President, Bogalusa chapter, Deacons for Defense and Justice
What happens the day after every Black man and woman who is legally able to do so, buys a gun? I’m asking for a friend. A woman who posted a tweet from Eric Benet, suggesting that it would lead to swift gun reforms. It’s not an original idea.
I love Wendell Pierce. He is a talented actor and activist in New Orleans. I won’t diss him for that tweet. After all, it’s just a tweet. It isn’t supposed to be the foundation of gun control policy, but over the last few days, I’ve seen people taking this very seriously.
Would it work?
The idea comes from an incident that happened in 1967 when the Black Panthers open carried on the floor of the State House in Sacramento. At the time, open carry was legal in California. Not for long.
The State responded with the Mulford Act, making open carry illegal. Ronald Reagan, who was Governor at the time, was present when the Panthers arrived. He later commented that he saw “…no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.”
Case closed. Panthers open carry. California passes laws to stop open carry. But if the Panthers were Nationwide, did Nationwide gun control follow?
Let’s look at current open carry laws in the states where the Black Panthers were most active; California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New York, Washington. Note: this isn’t advice on how you should carry and I’m not a legal scholar.
Its ’s complicated. In rural areas, the laws are more lax. They grow far more aggressive in New York City. From what I can tell, it is technically legal to open carry, providing you have a concealed carry permit. Your chances of getting one of those in the city is pretty slim, unless you have law enforcement connections, can prove that your profession puts you in unique danger (think diamond merchant) or are rich and/or famous.
That’s not the Panther’s fault. It can be traced directly back to a Gramercy Park murder in 1911. On Jan. 23, 1911, a novelist, David Graham Phillips, was shot by Fitzhugh Coyle Goldsborough in broad daylight on East 21st Street and then turned the gun on himself.
The incident so shocked New York City lawmakers, that restrictions under the Sullivan Law passed within months. Because, nothing gets restrictive gun laws passed more quickly than shocking, high-profile killings of White people, by White people. Right? Oh, wait…
In Pennsylvania, open carry is permitted, although you’ll need a concealed carry license in a first class city like Philadelphia.
Unlike NYC, Philadelphia concealed carry permits are shall-issue. That means, it isn’t up to Law Enforcement to judge whether or not you are worthy of concealed carry. If you don’t have a criminal record or a violent past, the way is open.
Before you clench your fist, recall that Martin Luther King applied for his concealed carry permit. It was denied, because he was an uppity, trouble making negro.
Shall Issue means that even if you ARE uppity and trouble making, you still have the same privileges as your less uppity brethren, or White folks.
Like New York, you must have a gun permit to even purchase a gun in Illinois. Open carry is illegal except for in certain municipalities.
That’s slowly changing.
By the late 1980s, several Illinois municipalities had banned the possession of handguns while Chicago required the registration of all firearms and prohibited handguns from being registered, which had the effect of outlawing their possession. Those restrictions in Illinois came almost 20 years after the Panthers marched onto the Senate floor.
Surely the Panthers inspired them to have stronger gun laws.
Well, Washington ain’t California. Open Carry is legal and Concealed Carry permits are shall-issue. Unlike New York and Illinois, you don’t need a permit to purchase a firearm.
So, of all of the states where the Panthers were most active, only one enacted harsher gun laws. Still, that’s just five States, right? It’s a shame their weren’t other armed Black organizations. Perhaps, groups that open carried in the Jim Crow South?
Robert F. Williams mobilized a group of armed men called the Black Armed Guard in Monroe North Carolina in the late 50’s. North Carolina gun laws didn’t change. They didn’t have to for local law enforcement to harass Williams and the other members of his organization. He went into exile in Cuba in 1961 to avoid persecution.
His actions inspired The Deacons for Defense and Justice who were founded in Jonesboro Louisiana in 1964. Their role was to protect civil rights activists and their families who were under constant threat by white vigilantes and discriminatory treatment by police under Jim Crow laws. At their peak, they had 20 chapters throughout Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi.
None of these States changed their gun laws. They were totally capable of harassing law-abiding, Black activists under their existing laws.
So much for the Swimming Pool hypothesis, right?
The foundation of groups like the NAACP, BLM, CORE, SCLC or SNCC is that the State’s treatment of Black people is often unlawful. It would stand to reason that the Nation wouldn’t have to change its laws to harass Black gun owners – or any gun-owners for that matter. If they wanted to do it, they would just do it. It’s worked for them for hundreds of years. Why change now?
If you don’t believe me, put it to the test. If you are Black and legally able, become a Black gun owner. Get your concealed carry permit, and then go to the range, find instruction and train.
If a White dude is there, train right next to him. That’ll show them, right? Well, he might glance over at you and ask what your shooting. You might start a conversation. Then, two people who have nothing in common on paper, are doing something that is becoming more and more rare. They are talking.
A gun isn’t a guarantee that you will be able to protect your house from intruders, just like a seat belt isn’t a guarantee that you will survive any car accident. Simply put, there is no guarantee. But you can DEFINITELY keep your children from endangering themselves with your gun. And in a community where it might take the police an hour to respond to your 911 call, your protection is your responsibility.
Below are the words of Charles R. Sims, President, Bogalusa chapter, Deacons for Defense and Justice, conducted by William Price, reporter for the National Guardian newsweekly, on August 20, 1965, in Bogalusa, Louisiana.. Men like him represent a side of the Civil Rights movement that a whole lot of people rather not talk about. He was a braver man than I will ever be.
Price: Can you tell me how the Deacons view the use of weapons?
Price: Do most Deacons, in their efforts to protect the civil rights movement, would they normally carry a gun or a pistol with them?
Sims: That’s the only way you can protect anything, by having weapons for defense. If you carry weapons, you carry them at your own risk.
Price: Do the local authorities object to your carrying weapons?
Sims: Oh yeah, the local, the federal, the state, everybody object to us carrying weapons, they don’t want us armed, but we had to arm ourselves because we got tired of the women, the children being harassed by the white night-riders.
Price: Have they done anything to try to get the weapons away from you?
Sims: Well, they threatened several times. The governor even said he was going to have all the weapons confiscated, all that the state troopers could find. But on the other hand, the governor forgot one thing-in an organization as large as the Deacons, we also have lawyers and we know about what the government can do. That would be unconstitutional for him just to walk up and start searching cars and taking people’s stuff without cause.
Price: Has there been a court case to determine this?
Price: The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the right of the people to carry weapons, is that the way you feel about it, that the people have a right to carry weapons in their own self-defense?
Sims: I think a person should have the right to carry a weapon in self-defense, and I think the Louisiana state law says a man can carry a weapon in his car as long as it is not concealed. We found out in Bogalusa that law meant for the white man, it didn’t mean for the colored. Any time a colored man was caught with a weapon in his car, they jailed him for carrying a concealed weapon. So we carried them to court.
Price: It’s your understanding then, that a person possessing a gun in his home, or carrying it in his car, that this is within your rights?
Sims: According to state law it is.
Notice, Sims acknowledges that Black men in Louisiana lived under a different set of legal expectations than White men. The laws, however, were the same, and he was willing to go to court to challenge them. He knew the government’s history of stepping upon our rights. He carried anyway.