Clarence Page, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, offers a surprisingly sympathetic review of the McDonald case in yesterday’s Tribune. Usually, Mr. Page is a reliable proponent of more gun control and “sensible” gun regulations.
Lobbyists for gun rights owe black Americans a historical debt of gratitude.
The U.S. Supreme Court reminds us of this debt in its recent decision to overturn Chicago’s sweeping prohibition against handgun possession. That decision rests on more than the Second Amendment. It also rests on the 14th Amendment, which brought equal protection to freed slaves after the Civil War.
How times change. An amendment that helped blacks protect themselves from Ku Klux Klan terrorists now is being used to help protect a black Chicago man from gangbangers.
Page then goes on to review how the African-American community often had to resort to firearms for protection from racist groups such as the KKK and others of their ilk.
Yet, armed self-defense is a long-running theme in African-American history. As recently as the 1960s, for example, the Deacons for Defense and Justice was a popular and powerful self-defense group in the last days of Jim Crow. Yet, news media paid much more attention to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his non-violent side of the civil rights movement.
Those days came to mind as I read Justice Clarence Thomas’ separate opinion in McDonald’s case. With the emotional force of a man raised in rural Georgia during the last days of legal segregation, he recounted, page after page, of terror spread by “militias such as the Ku Klux Klan, the Knights of the White Camellia, the White Brotherhood, the Pale Faces and the ’76 Association” and how “firearms for self-defense was often the only way black citizens could protect themselves from mob violence.”
He concludes with this.
Chicago and the District of Columbia already have fought back with new laws that restrict the purchase, possession or use of guns without an outright ban.
But this country has too long and too deep of a tradition of gun ownership — and way too many guns already in circulation — for the tide to be turned in the foreseeable future by city gun ordinances, no matter how well-intentioned.
I think Mr. Page gets it. He may not like it but he gets it. It is all about winning civil rights.