The National Rifle Association was inspired by the Black Panthers?
Yes, according to Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at UCLA School of Law and author of “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America.”
Winkler said over the weekend on NPR’s “On the Media”:
“One of the surprising things I discovered in writing ‘Gunfight’ was that when the Black Panthers started carrying their guns around in Oakland, Calif., in the late 1960s, it inspired a new wave of gun control laws (audio). It was these laws that ironically sparked a backlash among rural white conservatives, who were concerned that the government was coming to get their guns next.
“The NRA mimicked many of the policy positions of the Black Panthers, who viewed guns not just as a matter of protection for the home, but something you should be able to have out on the street, and also protection against a hostile government that was tyrannical and disrespectful of people’s rights. . . . “
Winkler wrote about the connection more expansively in “The Secret History of Guns,” a September 2011 article in the Atlantic that preceded the book’s publication.
“The eighth-grade students gathering on the west lawn of the state capitol in Sacramento were planning to lunch on fried chicken with California’s new governor, Ronald Reagan, and then tour the granite building constructed a century earlier to resemble the nation’s Capitol,” the article began. “But the festivities were interrupted by the arrival of 30 young black men and women carrying .357 Magnums, 12-gauge shotguns, and .45-caliber pistols.
“The 24 men and six women climbed the capitol steps, and one man, Bobby Seale, began to read from a prepared statement. ’The American people in general and the black people in particular,’ he announced, must
” ‘take careful note of the racist California legislature aimed at keeping the black people disarmed and powerless. Black people have begged, prayed, petitioned, demonstrated, and everything else to get the racist power structure of America to right the wrongs which have historically been perpetuated against black people. The time has come for black people to arm themselves against this terror before it is too late.’