The NRA & the Black Panthers “in dialog”: The Secret History of Guns

Source	Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection. we are Christians or Muslims or nationalists or agnostics or atheists, we must first learn to forget our differences. If we have differences, let us differ in the closet; when we come out in front, let us not have anything to argue about until we get finished arguing with the man.

-Malcolm X, “The Ballot or the Bullet” (03 April, 1964)

I have not entered very much into the great “debate” on gun control/rights in America. To be honest, the topic is almost too daunting for me to solely ponder let alone attempt to make a subject for public communication.

Still, because of the amount of my fellow citizens who die in gun related incidents every year (over 10,000) as well as because I know so many who are both gun rights activists as well as gun control activists, it is impossible not to address this issue.

I recently told a Facebook friend in a private message that he was a better man than me because he participated in open comment discussions with other friends and acquaintances about this issue. I meant by this that I did not have the patience or the will to try to steer a middle course through the “problem of guns” while speaking with anyone who even leaned to one side or the other.

Not to be too punny, but some of the discussions that are happening across broadcast, print, and social media suffer from the “Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy.” A good  many suffer from slippery slope, missing the point, red herring, straw man, and so forth. And when no fallacy is actually explicit, there is either a too much or too little information for anything informative let alone knowledgable to actually arise from the exercise.

Most often, there are structures that bespeak a violent back and forth. My last few podcasts have been over the existential limit situation of struggle. [See Whatever, Etc. 19202122] So when I say that attempts at communication are violent I mean that there are polemical patterns discernible in which one or both parties are trying to win the match of wits to close down the other rather than disclosing the problem at hand to arrive at better solutions. Among such polemical techniques are attempts to manipulate the outcome of the discussion or engaging the discussion from a position of intellectual superiority toward the other(s).

But it is irresponsible of a philosopher to disengage in silence from a matter of the public health and good. Moreover, to stay out of such dialog itself implies the very intellectual superiority (“I am so above all of that nonsense”) I was just criticizing.

So a place I would like to begin is how, as an American citizen of 48 years, I find myself in a situation where my personal knowledge of what has transpired in my own life time seems disjointed from what often appears in media.

I grew up being around uncles & cousins who owned weapons for hunting. I recall the disturbances of the late sixties & early seventies. Between these more narrowly personal and more broadly social bits of information, I clearly can remember that there was not a widespread belief that it would be a good thing if folks owned more guns. I certainly do not retend from the first fourteen years of my life any folks saying that the citizenry should carry guns around.

But then, there must have been a turning point. By the presidential election of 1980 between Jimmy Carter & Ronald Reagan, there are many memories of these issues becoming more and more a topic.

I found Adam Winkler’s piece below in the Atlantic informative. Besides jogging some memories, it lays out interesting narratives about gun control/rights as its own civil rights issue at the heart of other civil rights struggles. It becomes clearer to me now–something that was possibly very clear to other of my fellows much sooner–that guns have become the cipher in America for being the cause & the solution to our profound fearfulness.

…Whether or not the Founding Fathers thought the Second Amendment was primarily about state militias, the men behind the Fourteenth Amendment—America’s most sacred and significant civil-rights law—clearly believed that the right of individuals to have guns for self-defense was an essential element of citizenship. As the Yale law professor Akhil Reed Amar has observed, “Between 1775 and 1866 the poster boy of arms morphed from the Concord minuteman to the Carolina freedman.”

The Fourteenth Amendment illustrates a common dynamic in America’s gun culture: extremism stirs a strong reaction. The aggressive Southern effort to disarm the freedmen prompted a constitutional amendment to better protect their rights. A hundred years later, the Black Panthers’ brazen insistence on the right to bear arms led whites, including conservative Republicans, to support new gun control. Then the pendulum swung back. The gun-control laws of the late 1960s, designed to restrict the use of guns by urban black leftist radicals, fueled the rise of the present-day gun-rights movement—one that, in an ironic reversal, is predominantly white, rural, and politically conservative.

TODAY, THE NRA is the unquestioned leader in the fight against gun control. Yet the organization didn’t always oppose gun regulation. Founded in 1871 by George Wingate and William Church—the latter a former reporter for a newspaper now known for hostility to gun rights, The New York Times—the group first set out to improve American soldiers’ marksmanship. Wingate and Church had fought for the North in the Civil War and been shocked by the poor shooting skills of city-bred Union soldiers…

Read the entire article @ The Secret History of Guns – Adam Winkler – The Atlantic.

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