The NRA, the KKK, and the 2nd Amendment’s Black History

by Frederick Sparks

“A Winchester Rifle should have a place of honor in every black home.” – Ida B. Wells Barnett

Grabbing a group lunch after our latest Los Angeles Black Skeptics meeting, the conversation inevitably turned to the massacre in Newtown and the related issue of gun laws and gun control.  One new member expressed his opposition to more restrictive gun laws, primarily because he felt that any new restrictions would inevitably result in African-Americans having disproportionate lack of access to legal fireams, limiting blacks abilities to defend themselves against racist acts.

My immediate response was to argue the far greater harm from the prevalence of firearms in our society.  But hours later I remembered the quote above from Wells-Barnett, the anti-lynching advocate, journalist, and women’s suffrage advocate. Barnett offered this observation in her pamphlet titled Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases, which documented her research on lynching.  Barnett felt black families needed to be so armed

…for that protection which the law refuses to give. When the white man who is always the aggressor knows he runs as great a risk of biting the dust every time his Afro-American victim does, he will have greater respect for Afro-American life. The more the Afro-American yields and cringes and begs, the more he has to do so, the more he is insulted, outraged and lynched.

Barnett’s call for lethal black self-defense rested against a back drop of discriminatory laws that deprived black citizens of the cherished 2nd Amendment right to bear arms.  Many colonies (and later states) passed laws prohibiting both slaves and freemen from owning firearms, particularly after the failed slave revolt led by Nat Turner.   Gun ownership was seen by racist whites as a privilege that would elevate “Negroes” to the status of free whites and as a dangerous threat to white rule.

The National Rifle association supposedly opposed gun laws that restricted African-American gun ownership and  in some instances offered support to Black Americans seeking to defend themselves with firearms.  In 1958, retired Marine Robert Williams opened a chapter of the NAACP in Monroe, North Carolina. Monroe was also Klan country, and the KKK mounted several vicious assaults agains African-Americans in Monroe.   In 1960, Williams applied for and was granted a charter to establish an NRA chapter in Monroe; the association also provided firearms training materials. Mr. Williams and other black NRA members in Monroe subsequently successfully defended themselves with firearms against an attack coordinated between the KKK and the local police.

This history prompted erstwhile civil rights icon Ann Coulter to opine that all blacks should be supporters of the NRA; Coulter also recounted the story of Martin Luther King, Jr being denied a concealed weapons permit.  Coulter instructed us that, as with slavery, it was the Republican Party and the NRA that were on the side of black people, not the libs and Dems.

This analysis is of course anachronistic.  Whatever the NRA and the Republican Party represented then, their coordinated efforts in the current political arena have hardly served the advancement of black American well being.  And the type of white racist violence that poses the greatest threat to black lives today is hardly addressed by the 2nd Amendment.  Would the fortunes of Trayvon Martin or Jordan Davis have been better served by more liberal gun laws? If anything, their deaths were facilitated by a gun obsessed, shoot first culture.

Not to mention the fear of all firearms needed to defend hearth and home being taken away is a red herring.  For one, guns in the home are almost never used for self-defense, and in fact, a gun in the home increases the chances that one will be shot by an assailant.  Also, feckless politicians are barely getting around to proposing laws that would limit the accessibility of assault rifle and high magazine capacity firearms; even if these laws are passed there would still be plenty weaponry available for self-defense.

For better or worse, that Winchester rifle isn’t going anywhere soon.

The NRA, the KKK, and the 2nd Amendment’s Black History

24 thoughts on “The NRA, the KKK, and the 2nd Amendment’s Black History

  1. 2

    Barnett felt black families needed to be so armed…for that protection which the law refuses to give.

    There you have it.

    While the police force is so busy dealing with prohibition (aka the war on drugs) they can’t provide that minimum level of security that countries with tighter gun laws have.

    Since courts have found that there is no duty for the police to protect the populace, merely to catch miscreants after the event, it’s difficult arguing against the necessity for firearms in the home – and thus the vastly increased suicide rate, the rate of mass killings, and all the other problems that are an inevitable consequence.

    The US has a highly dysfunctional legal system.

    I don’t know what the solution is – but you can’t go on like this.

      1. According to the FBI crime statistics, in 2011 about 200 people killed assailants in what the FBI classify as justifiable homicides aka self defense. Now that’s not counting the 400 or so justifiable homicides by police officers. It also doesn’t take into account the number of criminals shot in self defense without dying, a number that is always higher than the number killed in conflict. Consider the fact that the vast majority of shootings, justifiable or not, are done with handguns. Only about 30% of those shot by handguns in America die from their wounds. That includes suicide attempts and accidents which bring the rate much higher than it would be if counting only shooting in anger or self preservation. Considering this one has to assume the projected cases of self defense uses of firearms is much much higher than 200. Consider also the unknown number of crimes thwarted by gun owners(most burglars/muggers/rapists don’t want to be shot anymore than you or me). In a relatively high crime nation how can you easily argue against guns in the home?

        1. “According to the FBI crime statistics, in 2011 about 200 people killed assailants in what the FBI classify as justifiable homicides aka self defense.”

          Take that 200 per year, round it up to a generous 1,000 (you said only 30% die) and compare it with between 150,00 and 200,000 “victimizations involving gun theft” every year.

          So the criminals are about 150 times more likely to steal the gun than you are likely to be able to use it.

          In fact, that 200 per year is only a bit above 129 kids under 12 who died by gun in 2010.
          A gun in the house is far, far more likely to be stolen, involved in an accident, or used in a suicide than it is to be used for home defense.

          1. Except the best estimates of of defensive uses of guns start at 106,000 (Brady group) and go all the way up to 4 million+ (Lott)

            Given that the number is likely somewhere in the middle, more crimes are stopped by people defending themselves with guns. Criminals look for the easy mark. How many more rapes are we willing to accept if we limit people’s right to defend themselves with guns?

  2. 4


    Thanks for writing and placing this in historical perspective. Ida B. Wells was certainly not the first African-American woman to carry a gun, and she certainly won’t be the last 😉 Sad, but true.

  3. 5

    Ida B. Wells-Barnett was also a great admirer of the great 19th Century freethinker Robert Green Ingersoll. To learn more about her, read ON LYNCHINGS, with an introduction by Patricia Hill Collins, published by Humanity Books, an imprint of Prometheus, 2002.

  4. 7

    Guns in the home almost never used for protection… Bah Hum Bug… It was in the summer of 1939 that I had a 1st hand view of a gun being used to protect me and my mother. Someone was trying to break into our home through the front door. This was the 2nd time in less than a month. She took a shot at the intruder coming through the window. She missed and he got away. Things were different when the 2nd time occurred. I was hanging on her coat tail when she shot through the front door. The screen door slammed shut and we heard running across the porch. Later when the police arrived they didn’t find any holes in the screen door but did find them in the front door. Plus the porch was covered with blood. She didn’t miss this time and we weren’t bothered any more.

    Articles are published all the time in news papers about the home being invaded and the intruders were run off or shot or killed. Home defense is common. Self defense is that defense being used in in support of the victim wherever defense is needed. Self defense travels with the individual and not left at home.


    1. 7.1

      you can Bah humbug all you want…the assertion that guns in the home are far more likely to be used for purposes other than self defense is supported by the evidence…the counter examples you provide do not de-bunk that assertion.

      1. Guns in the home mostly provide a source of guns for criminals:

        “About 1.4 million guns, or an annual average of 232,400, were stolen during burglaries and other property crimes in the six-year period from 2005 through 2010.”

        That’s a lot of weapons entering the black market from the houses of “responsible” gun owners.
        I don’t know how many burglaries are stopped by guns in the home, but I’m pretty sure it’s waaaay less than 232,400 per year.

        And chances are very good that if you just yelled “Hey!” at a guy breaking in through the window he would run away. Burglars prefer not to encounter the occupants.

    2. 7.2

      The sad but honest truth to the matter is that the “Reported” incidents are much smaller than the actual incidents.

      No one will ever “Call the police” to report, “I just scared a burglar off with my gun” because that’s a felony for the homeowner to brandish his gun without using it.
      No one will ever “Call the police” to report, “I just pulled a gun to scare off this creeper in the parking lot” because that’s a felony for the driver.
      No one will ever “Call the police” to report, “I just fired a warning shot” because that’s a felony for the homeowner to shoot his gun without wounding the miscreant.

      The list goes on but you get the idea. You want to learn the truth, go take the concealed weapons course for your state and learn just how abusive the system is for the law abiding person who wants to legally protect themselves. It will also explain why your statistics are stupidly skewed.

  5. 8

    Black and other minorities who live in high crime area probably need fire arms for self-protection more than the white.They certainly can support 2nd amendment on principle.Support and join NRA if allowed to.The queation is: Will NRA support Black,,Korean merchants,Muslins to form their own chapters of NRA?If no, why?If yes.Where are they?Believe me I try to find them without much success.

  6. jt

    Gun control, gun control, gun control. What we need is nut control. All of these nuts walking the streets who should be hospitalized or at least on meds. need regulating. You mention anything about whacko control and you have the entire mental health profession screaming rape. If there was ever a need fora study it should include whacko’s and the pinko doctors that allow them to roam our streets. Fix the whacko problem and gun control becomes a no brainer. Did you know that hospital deaths in America through poor medical practice or through medication error tops gun deaths by a ton. Try to fix that will ya, and see what the medical establishment does to you.

  7. 11

    When I see distorted “History” like this, I have to speak up. These typical Ann Coulter “Types” help distort and confuse the uninformed. If you don’t know who Ann Coulter is ………. she is the women on FOX Network who looks like a Picasso painting. In 1936, Redneck KKK types were in the Democratic party because of Lincoln being a Republican and they started switching to the Republican Party because Roosevelt signed the Wagner Act which gave Black workers the same wages as Whites.
    Then in 1945, The Tuskegee Airmen that Roosevelt commissioned were so successful, that it caused more Democratic racists to switch to the Republican Party. Other events that caused the flood of Democrats to Migrate to the Republicans were when: Truman “Integrated” the armed forces in 1948. The Truman Administration started to destroy the separate but equal laws by supporting Brown v. The Board of Education case to do away with Plessy v. Ferguson, integrated schools and other public institutions. The last straw was the 1964 Civil Rights Law and that opened the flood gates for Racist Democrats to join the Republican Party.
    I hope this helps people to understand which party is the racist party !!

  8. 13

    You do ok, until you get to the part about guns in homes. Homes with firearms are 100% more likely to defend themselves against home invasion than homes without firearms. And, any firearm owner should know proper firearm safety, to keep from having an accident. The NRA teaches firearm Safety first and Marksmanship second. I know, as I have been a NRA Certified Home Firearm Safety and Marksmanship Instructor for 15 years.

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