He was a large man, wearing a combat-style uniform, beret, and heavy boots. He stood outside the door, watching people entering and exiting. One witness, who had summoned the police, said that the man’s presence made him feel intimidated, a feeling echoed by others in the building. When asked by a reporter what he was doing there, the man replied that he didn’t understand why they were trying to make it look like he was doing something wrong. He was just standing there, he said, serving his community.
Now, when considering that these witnesses felt “intimidated” by a man in a combat-style uniform standing outside their workplace and holding a nightstick, one might wonder what sorts of things other people might have going on in their lives to make them stand outside a building watching people like that?
Like, maybe he “was waiting for someone.” Or maybe the man in the heavy boots and beret with the nightstick “was worried or upset about something going on in his life.” Maybe he “was in a hurry to get somewhere,” and that’s why he was standing there for hours. And what gave those poll workers “the standing to slink around in the shadows and scope out” this man, anyway?
What were they thinking? They even had the audacity to take pictures of him, and call Fox “News.”
On Election Day. Seriously. The man was obviously just a member of the “New Black Panther Party,” an organization “labeled as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center” just like Eugene Delgaudio’s group is.
“Conservative” heads are apparently exploding because this blog reported an intimidating looking white dude packing a Glock, loitering outside the exit of the Leesburg Target and watching people. The report was made because this isn’t normal behavior. The pro-gunners might want it to become normal behavior, and they might wish that people would accept it as normal, but that’s not going to happen on my watch.
When viewing the video above, note the marked absence of a firearm. Now, why the double standard? Why is a militant-looking black man with no firearm considered by definition “intimidating,” while a similarly situated militant-looking white man with a Glock strapped to his hip is supposed to be innocent, harmless, not something one should even notice? Odd, isn’t it?
A 2011 Atlantic article reminds us of the real history of gun control legislation in the U.S. that we have forgotten, or perhaps never knew. It’s important here, to avoid confusion, to note that the so-called “New Black Panther Party” has no historical or ideological connection to the actual Black Panther Party founded by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton in 1966. Although classifed as a hate group for its violent “anti-white rhetoric,” the NBPP is considered to be an inconsequential “lunatic fringe” that is engaged in nothing other than street theater.
Gun-rights supporters believe the [Second] amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms and outlaws most gun control. Hard-line gun-rights advocates portray even modest gun laws as infringements on that right and oppose widely popular proposals—such as background checks for all gun purchasers—on the ground that any gun-control measure, no matter how seemingly reasonable, puts us on the slippery slope toward total civilian disarmament.
And this was the position taken by the Black Panther Party in 1967.
Like many young African Americans, Newton and Seale were frustrated with the failed promise of the civil-rights movement. Brown v. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were legal landmarks, but they had yet to deliver equal opportunity. In Newton and Seale’s view, the only tangible outcome of the civil-rights movement had been more violence and oppression, much of it committed by the very entity meant to protect and serve the public: the police.
Inspired by the teachings of Malcolm X, Newton and Seale decided to fight back. Before he was assassinated in 1965, Malcolm X had preached against Martin Luther King Jr.’s brand of nonviolent resistance. Because the government was “either unable or unwilling to protect the lives and property” of blacks, he said, they had to defend themselves “by whatever means necessary.” Malcolm X illustrated the idea for Ebony magazine by posing for photographs in suit and tie, peering out a window with an M-1 carbine semiautomatic in hand. Malcolm X and the Panthers described their right to use guns in self-defense in constitutional terms. “Article number two of the constitutional amendments,” Malcolm X argued, “provides you and me the right to own a rifle or a shotgun.”
Guns became central to the Panthers’ identity, as they taught their early recruits that “the gun is the only thing that will free us—gain us our liberation.” They bought some of their first guns with earnings from selling copies of Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book to students at the University of California at Berkeley. In time, the Panther arsenal included machine guns; an assortment of rifles, handguns, explosives, and grenade launchers; and “boxes and boxes of ammunition,” recalled Elaine Brown, one of the party’s first female members, in her 1992 memoir. Some of this matériel came from the federal government: one member claimed he had connections at Camp Pendleton, in Southern California, who would sell the Panthers anything for the right price. One Panther bragged that, if they wanted, they could have bought an M48 tank and driven it right up the freeway.
Along with providing classes on black nationalism and socialism, Newton made sure recruits learned how to clean, handle, and shoot guns. Their instructors were sympathetic black veterans, recently home from Vietnam. For their “righteous revolutionary struggle,” the Panthers were trained, as well as armed, however indirectly, by the U.S. government.
After the Panthers had challenged police harassment with a combination of law school knowledge and firepower, and staged an armed demonstration inside the California state capitol building, there appeared a sudden enthusiasm for gun control measures.
The day of their 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.”
I’m sure you can fill in the rest. The article also discusses Reconstruction, the 14th Amendment, the role of the NRA in leading legislative efforts to enact gun control in the 1920s and 1930s, and makes an interesting observation about Justice Scalia – but suffice it to say that our history of firearms and their regulation has always been in practice one of a right to bear arms for some, while for others, not so much. Imagine the reaction if our “New Black Panther” friend from 2008 and 2012 had been rocking the same Glock as our watchful white Target friend. And spare me the piety.