by Chris Bodenner

A reader writes:

This Winkler person trying to gin up the idea that the NRA got its ideas about strutting their gun culture in public from the Black Panthers … please. I was politically awake in California at that time.  There was a HUGE cultural backlash, from racist gun-culture-loving whites, against the “nerve” of those Black Panthers appropriating white conservative ideas – which were already long-cooked in the 1960s – of patriotic militias defending their rights against oppressive big governments. The idea that today’s West Coast NRA types who delight in congregating at their local Starbucks, armed up, to rile the local liberals, took this idea in any way from a now-obscure Black Panther model, instead of from their own generations of intense culture-worship of founding fathers with guns, backwoods pioneers with guns, cowboys with guns, American soldiers with guns, and John Wayne (and many others) playing at cowboys-and-soldiers with guns on the silver screen, is truly nonsensical.

Another is on the same page:

The NRA was singing the 2nd amendment tune long before there were Black Panthers.  I went to summer camp in the late 1950s, where we did archery and riflery, each under the banner of a national association, from which we earned kiddy honors, complete with sew-on patches and medals. So I became a junior member of the NRA, and read The American Rifleman, the NRA magazine.  It was full of the same bullshit still put forth: the only thing standing between the upstanding US citizen and government tyranny was the fact that some of the citizens were packing heat.

I proudly repeated this stuff to my father.  I figured he’d appreciate my attention to the Constitution, since he taught Constitutional Law.  He slapped it all down pretty quicky. “Read the amendment, and tell me what a militia is.  If gun control is really unconstitutional, they could get a ruling on that.  But the courts have always read the ‘right’ as related to militias.  It doesn’t work for them, so they just lobby against any laws they don’t like.  That ‘bulwark against tyranny’ line is just John Birch stuff.”

Well, the NRA finally found a Court that was willing to ignore the word “militia” and the concept of “well-regulated” – overturning 230 years of jurisprudence.  It’s a Court that claims to be traditionalist and modest in its reach.  Oh, sure: The Court said, “Let any unstable jerk be a militia, and let him regulate himself.” And the Court saw that it was good.  And the Court said “Let the corporations be people”.  And the Court saw that it was good.  This Court is detached from reality, lost in the swamps of theory, and radical.

The following passage is from the same email by the reader who said he prevented his rape in a hotel room by pulling out a gun:

By the way, your coverage of the ongoing gun debate has been nothing short of terrible and incredibly one-sided.  But I understand different people have different opinions.  And nothing being proposed so far would have impacted my ability to defend myself in that situation, so it’s a bit irrelevant to the gay rape issue.

But it’s worth pointing out.  The Frum quote you posted about the Black Panthers was particularly distressing. Reading his larger piece, he calls hunting an “increasingly marginal” activity, since only 6% of Americans have purchased a license, seemingly indicative of Mr. Frum’s long-term feeling that guns aren’t worthy of constitutional protection.  What then does that mean for Jews like himself, who are a nearly statistically irrelevant 2% of the population.  Or gays, who are likely closer to to 6% than the previously claimed 10%.  Are gays a marginal population?  Six percent of Americans is 20 million people, which doesn’t include all those over 65 or with their own land who generally don’t need a license to hunt. By way of comparison, 7% of Americans (25 million) played golf last year. Does David Frum think golf is an increasingly marginal activity??

Nothing in Winkler’s book should be a surprise to anyone who spent time examining the issue beyond merely reciting the talking points of the Bloomberg activism machine.  In fact, the reaction to the Black Panthers by the establishment (with the NRA’s support) passing onerous gun control laws designed from the outset for enforcement in a discriminatory fashion against blacks is the very reason the NRA’s membership erupted and split. All the Democrats these days pining for the NRA to return to the NRA of old, or Republicans to emulate Ronald Reagan (who oversaw the passage of those and other laws), are really asking for a return to the terrible days when it was considered acceptable to pass laws as long as the intent was only to impact those “other” people.  It’s reprehensible, and indicative of the deep distrust Americans have, for any attack on our rights.

Previous Dish on Winkler’s wonderful 2011 Atlantic piece here. Money quote:

The day of [the Black Panthers'] statehouse protest, lawmakers said the incident would speed enactment of Mulford’s gun-control proposal. Mulford himself pledged to make his bill even tougher, and he added a provision barring anyone but law enforcement from bringing a loaded firearm into the state capitol.

Republicans in California eagerly supported increased gun control. Governor Reagan told reporters that afternoon that he saw “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.” He called guns a “ridiculous way to solve problems that have to be solved among people of good will.” In a later press conference, Reagan said he didn’t “know of any sportsman who leaves his home with a gun to go out into the field to hunt or for target shooting who carries that gun loaded.” The Mulford Act, he said, “would work no hardship on the honest citizen.”

Yet another example of how Reagan is such a false idol for the contemporary GOP base.