Magazine article Reason

Gun Rights, Civil Rights: The Heirs of the Black Panthers and the Fight for Black Open Carry

Magazine article Reason

Gun Rights, Civil Rights: The Heirs of the Black Panthers and the Fight for Black Open Carry

Article excerpt

When a cop shot teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, last summer, the death sparked protests, a militarized law enforcement response, and finally looting and destruction. But the Huey P. Newton Gun Club was ready. The Dallas-based group had formed in June 2014, more than two months before the shooting.

Charles Goodson, the club's founder, started recruiting members after he learned that Dallas police officers had shot at 40 unarmed citizens over the past 12 years. "We are proposing armed self-defense as it relates to the situation with black people here in America when it comes to dealing with police departments," he explains.

A group of black men and women standing against police brutality and in favor of the Second Amendment: It's a combination that tends to scramble partisan narratives. Goodson says he's received support from across the political spectrum.

"We've gotten a lot of response from conservative people, you know, National Rifle Association," says Goodson. "We don't consider ourselves to the far right or the far left. We think what we're doing is right on time."

The group stages regular events in which members carry their firearms through town in plain sight. In March it did this in front of Texas' state capitol building, a move reminiscent of the actual Huey P. Newton, whose Black Panthers carried firearms into California's capitol building. That led to the Mulford Act, which prohibits the open carry of loaded weapons and would later become a model for federal gun control legislation. It was signed into law by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, a fact that further complicates the ideological history of gun control.

Occidental College historian Thaddeus Russell says that the relationship between black Americans, civil rights, and guns stretches back much further than the '60s. …

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