The NRA’s Unlikely Role Model

Reviewing Adam Winkler’s 2011 book Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America, David Frum is intrigued by Winkler’s claim that America’s modern gun culture is rooted in the Black Panther movement of the 1960s:

Since [1861], dissident groups have from time to time resorted to armed force against local or national authorities. But these groups, however passionately they believed in their cause, never imagined themselves to be acting lawfully. That’s why the Ku Klux Klan wore hoods, rather than uniforms: they recognized the risk that if identified they would be arrested and prosecuted. They did atrocious things, but they never pretended to a right to do them.

What was new about the Black Panthers was their attempt to organize an armed militia within the law. Although the group did later degenerate into a criminal gang, its early success was gained precisely from its ostentatious compliance with law. As one former Panther would later write, “The sheer audacity of walking onto the California Senate floor with rifles, demanding that Black people have the right to bear arms and the right to self-defense, made me sit back and take a long look at them.”

Remove the overt reference to race, and you have a sentence that could proceed from an NRA militant today.