Given that Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and February has been designated “Black History Month,” I thought it might be interesting to turn to our (unexpurgated) history books (before they are…um…whitewashed) and take a look at Martin Luther King, Jr. on the subject of guns. What’s that you say? America’s Gandhi couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with firearms? Wrong, wrong, and (dare I say) WRONG. But the truth shall set us free, so let’s go look at the Truth About MLK Jr. and Guns.
Turns out, King had an up-close and personal history with firearms, and for good reason. Well before James Earl Ray (why is it assassins and serial killers are always known by their first, middle and last names?) assassinated him, King was target numero uno by a large group of assorted crazies, bigots, Klansmen, and white supremacists. Let’s just say that Alabama of the 1950s was not exactly Paradise for an articulate black preacher who was intent on making life better for minorities. So King did what anybody who was Constitutionally opposed to playing target for a bunch of nutjobs – he armored up. As in Armory – at least one visitor to the King family manse described it as just that, an armory. Another went to sit down and almost sat on gun.
In what must just absolutely kill Arianna, the Fine Young Liberals over at HuffPo have published an article on MKL Jr. and guns. And it’s not at all what you’d expect from a publication dedicated to the principle that the only good Conservative is a discredited Conservative, and that guns = evil.
Lest you think St. Martin was a hypocrite, he was actually a registered Republican, until Robert Kennedy convinced him to switch parties. And while King did adopt the passive-resistance and non-violence policies of Gandhi, he was also a realist. And a gun owner. In fact, King applied for a CHL in Alabama, but was turned down. Why? With all the verifiable death threats and hate mail, as a prominent minister and leader of the civil rights movement, King could obviously demonstrate a need for self-protection. But the South of the late 50s and early 60s was not yet an enlightened place where blacks and whites could peacefully-coexist and share power. Blacks were regularly denied CHL permits for the flimsiest of reasons. Indeed, many gun laws on the books originated with the intent of preventing blacks and other minorities from owning or carrying firearms of any kind.
Many on the Left would be horrified, if they knew about King’s arsenal. But that’s the problem with deification – all those messy facts get in the way of turning a human into a demigod. King was very much a human being, and had no desire for martyrdom, which is why he and his inner circle were heavily armed. It’s a pity that in the end, his self-defense plans and weapons could not stop one lone, determined gunman. But as Lincoln and Kennedy both observed, there’s really no way to stop one man, if he is determined to kill you. Even if you’re well-defended and on the side of the angels.
As for me, this news gives me fresh insight into the mind of the civil rights leader. And it humanizes him for me, far more so than any claim of saintly behavior made by those who admire him. I think it’s perfectly consistent with his message, that he would be willing to defend himself, his family, and his property, and still preach non-violence. The trouble with violence is that when someone decides to visit it upon you, oftentimes the only viable answer is to arm yourself and fight back. Much of Dr. King’s life was spent fighting back against bigotry and hate. Sometimes, turning the other cheek just doesn’t cut it. So it’s comforting to know that Martin Luther King, Jr. realized that, sometimes, owning a gun is the correct, non-violent response.