NRA: Inspired by Black Panthers?

The black Oakland, Calif., group brandished guns in public in the 1960s, resulting in laws that scared rural whites.

Wayne LaPierre (Paul Richards/Getty); New Black Panther Party member (Mario Tama/Getty)
Wayne LaPierre (Paul Richards/Getty); New Black Panther Party member (Mario Tama/Getty)

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.’