A favorite question, posed triumphantly to gun-rights types such as myself, is “what do you think would happen if black Americans started openly carrying firearms?” Well, many do already. And, last week, these guys did en masse:
A new group calling itself the Huey P. Newton Gun Club launched armed self-defense patrols Wednesday with one stated purpose: to protect Dallas neighbors from police.
Group leader Charles Goodson said recent unrest in Ferguson, Missouri over the killing of an unarmed black teen named Michael Brown by a white police officer is only part of the reason for the new Dallas patrols.
The group is named after Huey P. Newton, a founder of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s who was killed by a rival militant in 1989.
“We don’t think that what happened to Michael Brown in St. Louis is an isolated incident. We have so many Michael Browns here in the city of Dallas,” Goodson said.
Another leader, Huby Freeman, said the group wants to educate neighbors about the right to bear arms and the need for it.
“We believe we can police ourselves and bring security to our community, ridding our community of black-on-black crime, violence, police terror, etc., etc.,” Freeman said.
Freeman and more than two dozen other people, many carrying rifles, marched Wednesday afternoon along Martin Luther King Boulevard and Malcolm X Boulevard, streets named for civil rights leaders.
At one point, the march went to Elaine’s Restaurant on Martin Luther King Boulevard, where demonstrators piled rifles on tables as they ordered cold drinks and food.
A Dallas police lieutenant and deputy chief were eating lunch in the restaurant at the time. They politely spoke to the demonstrators as they paid their bills.
Owner Elaine Campbell said police officers look out for her and she is not worried about them.
“No, I’m here over 25 years and I’m not afraid of them,” she said.
Campbell also welcomed the extra business from the armed demonstrators.
“I just happen to go with the flow and don’t let them bother me,” she said.
The police were on board, too, as they damn well should have been:
In response to a request to Dallas police for comment about the Huey P. Newton Gun Club patrols, Chief David Brown issued a statement saying, “the Dallas Police Department supports the constitutional rights of all.”
Historically, blacks have often been denied the right to keep and bear arms. Indeed, as recently as the late 1960s, gun laws with obvious racial undertones were being added to the books. As I recorded in a recent magazine piece:
In California [in 1967] legislators had been so vexed by the sight of armed Black Panthers protesting outside the statehouse that they passed legislation outlawing all open carrying of firearms — the first such ban in state history and, at the time, perhaps the strictest ordinance in the country. Governor Ronald Reagan happily signed the bill.
That bill, the Mulford Act, was not only signed by a Republican governor, it was drawn up by a Republican legislators too.
But here’s the thing: Times change, and with them attitudes. America’s approach toward firearms has gone through a remarkable transformation in the last two or three decades. What would happen if more blacks started open carrying now? Very little, I’d imagine.