Stokely Carmichael told an interviewer in 1988 that to protect themselves against white terrorists in Alabama and Mississippi, 90 percent of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee field staffers carried guns by 1963. Martin Luther King Jr. applied for a concealed-carry permit in 1956 in Alabama, but he was denied. He did, however, keep an “arsenal” of guns in his home, Winkler wrote.
Black Americans have a long history of using the Second Amendment for effective self-protection against racists. Rather than holding protests in front of courthouses, wouldn’t it make a much stronger statement if Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson organized a national march on local and state permit-issuing agencies to register 1 million black Americans for concealed-carry permits?
One has to wonder whether the remnants of the ’60s black leadership in America really want to empower black Americans. Or is their real goal a continued stance of dependency on the government — and the power brokers who serve as middlemen between constituents and public officials? Maybe it is just a lack of imagination.
Sharpton has announced that the goal of his planned protests is for the Justice Department to charge George Zimmerman with violating Trayvon Martin’s civil rights. Surely it would be more empowering for thousands of black Americans to let white America know that they are exercising their Second Amendment rights.
Without the help of so-called civil-rights leaders, some black Americans have been protecting themselves quietly for years. In Texas, where concealed-carry applications contain a box for the race of the applicant, the number of permits held by black men rose by nearly 400 percent from 2000 to 2011, and the number held by black women rose by more than 600 percent, according to research by pro-gun economist John Lott Jr. and verified by Politifact Texas.
Lott told me over e-mail last week that his research shows two groups benefiting the most from carrying concealed weapons:
1) People who are most likely to be victims of violent crime. That overwhelmingly tends to be poor blacks who live in high-crime urban areas. . . . Police are extremely important in deterring crime, but the people who benefit the most from owning guns are the ones who are most likely to face violent criminals.
2) People who are relatively weaker physically. That tends to be two groups: women and the elderly. The presence of a gun represents a much bigger change in the ability to resist an attack than it does for most men.
That could be why Zimmerman, described by his mixed-martial-arts instructor as physically soft and incapable of throwing a punch, decided to carry. It evens the odds.
Granted, carrying concealed is not an option for minors, such as Trayvon Martin, as state laws typically do not allow them to get the permits. Florida law restricts concealed-carry permits to people 21 years of age or older, for example. But Zimmerman did not know Martin was only 17. Were it widely known that black Americans were engaged in a mass effort to arm themselves for protection against predators, racist and non-racist, how likely is it that the next Zimmerman would recklessly confront a black man in a hoodie?
George Zimmerman understood that carrying a concealed weapon improved his odds of surviving a violent confrontation with a physically stronger stranger in the dark of night. It did, with terrible consequences. If another consequence turned out to be that a huge swath of black America gives prejudice the finger, saying, “Hey, the Second Amendment applies to us too, so be careful, cowboy,” wouldn’t that be something?
— Andrew Cline is editorial-page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader.