The Corner

Naacp Vs. Guns

Yesterday was opening day for the NAACP’s lawsuit against the firearms industry, in the Brooklyn court of federal Judge Jack Weinstein. The NAACP attempted to portray the lawsuit as not hostile to gun ownership. The NAACP attorney told the jury, according to the transcript:

Certainly the NAACP of all organizations in this country understands and respects the constitutional right to bear arms. Upon the NAACP’s founding on 1909 in New York City, soon thereafter it took up its first criminal law case In Ossien, Michigan, where a black male, Mr. Sweet, was charged with killing a white supremacist along with several accomplices. The court, to rule out Mr. Sweet and his family to be pushed out of their home in Michigan, it was in that case that the presiding judge, to uphold Mr. Sweet’s right to be with his family, coined the popular phrase “a man’s home is his castle.”

One might take the attorney’s claim about upholding the constitutional right to arms a little more seriously if he were more scrupulous about the facts. In Detroit (Not “Ossien”) Michigan in 1926, the NAACP and Clarence Darrow came to the defense of Dr. Ossian Sweet, a black man who had fatally shot a person in a white mob which was attacking his home because Dr. Sweet had moved into an all-white neighborhood.

The phrase “a man’s home is his castle,” while certainly relevant to the Sweet case, first appears in a 1499 case which arose during the reign of Henry VII.

Notwithstanding the nice, half-way accurate beginning, the NAACP lawyer then turned to such a harsh and emotional attack on the gun industry that Judge Weinstein repeatedly interrupted him to announce that the attorney was wrong in what he was telling the jury that the case was about. At the end of the NAACP opening statement, Judge Weinstein addressed the jury and told them: ” Ladies and gentlemen, thank you. I want to emphasize the case is not a case about segregation or discrimination; is that clear? It’s not a case about lobbying, getting particular legislation or not getting it. Is that clear?”

The attorney’s comparison of the firearms industry to people who drown babies in rivers was not corrected by the judge.


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