One certainly never expects to read an article on NPR that is remotely positive toward gun ownership, but their review of Charles E. Cobb’s book, This Non-Violent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible, appears to be exactly that. Because this summer marks the fiftieth anniversary of “many pivotal events in the civil rights movement,” to commemorate “Freedom Summer,” NPR’s Tell Me More “is diving into books that explore that theme.”
The Civil Rights Movement is usually portrayed as a passive, non-violent resistance to unfair treatment by those in authority. This commitment to non-violence, however, did not mean that the leaders of the movement were unwilling to defend themselves from violence in other settings. Cobb points out in his book:
…one important gap in the history, in the portrayal of the movement, is the role of guns in the movement. I worked in the South, I lived with families in the South. There was never a family I stayed with that didn’t have a gun. I know from personal experience and the experiences of others, that guns kept people alive, kept communities safe and all you have to do to understand this is simply think of black people as human beings and they’re gonna respond to terrorism the way anybody else would…
About Martin Luther King, Jr., he writes:
If you look at the early period of his leadership in the civil rights movement, particularly the period of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, his household, as one person noted, was an arsenal, with guns all over the place…King was a man of the South, after all, and he responded to terrorism, he responded to violence the way most people in the South would be inclined to respond. So when the Klan…bombed his house in 1956, he went to the sheriff’s office and applied for a gun permit to carry a concealed weapon. Now, he didn’t get the permit…but Martin King always acknowledged — if you read his writings — the right to self-defense, armed self-defense.
Why was Dr. King denied a concealed weapon permit? Well, prior to the 1980’s gun control laws were typically used to keep guns out of the hands of certain groups, usually Blacks in the South and immigrants in the North. Even the National Rifle Association has observed that “[t]he historical purpose of gun control laws in America has been one of discrimination and disenfranchisement of blacks, immigrants, and other minorities.” Essentially, gun control laws have been racist and reactionary responses to the fears of white landowners of the possibility of black and/or immigrant uprisings.
In recent decades, stricter gun control laws have been favored more and more by those on the left, including organizations like NPR. Just as people in previous decades mistrusted Blacks and immigrants with guns, now people on the left exhibit a “fundamental distrust of the citizenry, who are all presumed to be one gun advert away from turning into rampaging killers.”
Fortunately, such a presumption is wrong. According to FBI statistics, the crime rate continues to decline from its peak about 25 years ago, a time when very few states made provisions for law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons. In 2011, “[t]he number of murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults all went down, continuing a pattern.” “This is not a one-year anomaly, but a steady decline in the FBI’s violent-crime rates,” said Andrew Arulanandam, spokesman for the National Rifle Association, quoted in the Washington Times. “It would be disingenuous for anyone to not credit increased self-defense laws to account for this decline.”
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) reported in 2013 that gun ownership soared in recent years while crime fell sharply. Apparently, more guns really does mean less crime. And, as NPR is proud to report, guns do have value in protecting the innocent.