It's Time for African Americans to Lock and Load

Justice Thomas made it clear in his fiery opinion in the Supreme Court's gun control decision this week that the right to bear arms is inextricably intertwined with black freedom. We need a new organization to make it happen.

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I'm starting a new organization, and I'm inviting all African Americans to join. It will be called the American Rifle Association. Yes, it will be an organization for all blacks who love guns and all those opposed to gun control. (And of course, to avoid any accusations of discrimination, the organization will be open to people of all races who want to hang out with a lot of African Americans who carry guns.)

I'm calling it the ARA because the National Rifle Association already exists. Traditionally, black organizations called themselves "National" when a white-only "American" equivalent existed. For example, there's the black National Medical Association and the formerly white-only American Medical Association. But we also switched up if the mainstream group was already "National," like the black American Tennis Association, formed when the National Lawn Tennis Association was segregated. You get the idea.

I've been inspired by U.S. Supreme Court Clarence Thomas' spirited defense of the right of African Americans to own guns. That's right: Justice Thomas, who rarely has much to say in predictably joining the court's conservative majority, came out, ahem, guns blazing on the importance of guaranteeing black Americans the right to bear arms in the recent decision in McDonald v. City of Chicago. As Courtland Milloy noted in his Washington Post column earlier this week, Justice Thomas sounds almost like a Black Panther. In his separate concurring opinion in the case, Justice Thomas listed (pdf) efforts before the Civil War to deny slaves and free blacks the right to bear arms. He even makes the point that an opponent of the 14th Amendment warned that to "[m]ake a colored man a citizen of the United States" would guarantee to him, inter alia, "a defined status ... a right to defend himself and his wife and children; a right to bear arms."

Someone less kindly than I am would say that Justice Thomas played the race card on this one, but that wouldn't be fair. After all, the last time he referred to race at all was during his confirmation hearings in 1991, when he fended off the accusations of sexual harassment and charges that he was obsessed with pornography. At that time, the future Justice Thomas famously -- and brilliantly -- declared that he was being subjected to a "high-tech lynching," effectively shutting down that embarrassing line of inquiry.

I'm also thinking about former New York Giants star Plaxico Burress for the board. Yeah, I know, he shot himself in the leg with his own gun. But that's exactly why we need the American Rifle Association. All those accidental shootings and drive-bys are the result of a lack of weapons discipline. The black community used to get proper training in the use of guns by being in the military. But with today's all-volunteer army, African Americans are less likely to get that valuable training. And I think that has a lot to do with why guns keep going off and innocent children get shot so often.

My dream is to set up ARA chapters in every large and small city across the country with a significant black population. We will offer African Americans proper training in buying and using guns. I think the possibilities for growth are great. We can add shooting activities to black family reunions, where dads and moms and kids can learn the safe way to care for and handle AR-15s, Uzis, AK-47s and other weapons that already widely available in America. And think of the deterrence value when thugs, muggers and petty criminals who normally prey on our community have to worry that Grandma or the old man who used to be such an easy target might be "carrying."

I think that once the heads of the NAACP and the National Urban League read Justice Thomas' stirring language tying black freedom to gun ownership, it's likely that we can get those organizations to add some red-blooded American activities to their annual conventions, like a deer hunt or a visit to a firing range to shoot off machine guns. Maybe we can do it right after the Sunday-morning prayer breakfast.

Now, I remember comedian Dick Gregory suggesting in the 1960s that the only way to get gun control in America was to start forming NRA chapters in the ghetto. But we're post-racial, aren't we? I can't see the NRA, GOP or the Tea Party opposing the American Rifle Association. We'll adopt a logo with an Uzi against a red-black-and-green background and an American flag. I can even see President Obama appearing at the first ARA convention, lifting that MAC-10 above his head and declaring, "They'll have to take this out of my cold, dead hands!"

Joel Dreyfuss is managing editor of The Root. Follow him on Twitter.

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