“Let us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King…”

As I read in the Huffington Post:


Most people think [Martin Luther King, JR] would be the last person to own a gun. Yet in the mid-1950s, as the civil rights movement heated up, King kept firearms for self-protection. In fact, he even applied for a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

A recipient of constant death threats, King had armed supporters take turns guarding his home and family. He had good reason to fear that the Klan in Alabama was targeting him for assassination.

William Worthy, a journalist who covered the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, reported that once, during a visit to King’s parsonage, he went to sit down on an armchair in the living room and, to his surprise, almost sat on a loaded gun. Glenn Smiley, an adviser to King, described King’s home as “an arsenal.”

As I found researching my new book, Gunfight, in 1956, after King’s house was bombed, King applied for a concealed carry permit in Alabama. The local police had discretion to determine who was a suitable person to carry firearms. King, a clergyman whose life was threatened daily, surely met the requirements of the law, but he was rejected nevertheless. At the time, the police used any wiggle room in the law to discriminate against African Americans.

Ironically, the concealed carry permit law in Alabama was promoted by the National Rifle Association thirty years earlier. [30 years earlier… to help blacks defend themselves!] Today, the gun rights hardliners fight to eliminate permits for concealed carry, as Arizona has done.

Eventually, King gave up any hope of armed self-defense and embraced nonviolence more completely. Others in the civil rights movement, however, embraced the gun.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. JonPatrick says:

    When I first started watching the James Taylor video I thought it was the communion hymn at an “Spirit of Vatican 2” style Catholic Mass then I realized it was a concert :)

  2. Anne 2 says:

    CATECHISM of the CATHOLIC CHURCH, Second Edition: ” 2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality.
    Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow.
    If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s. ”

    History has shown that a defenseless population is over-run by tyrants who kill and torture – ethnic cleansing/genocide. Of couse we all know about Germany/Hitler, and the more recent government promoted genocides in Rwanda., Bosnia, Cambodia, Darfur, China over the Tibetans, etc.
    We also know about the Obama Administration violating the law by arming criminal drug lords in Mexico ie: “Fast and Furious”.

    The Second Amendment (Amendment II) to the United States Constitution is the part of the United States Bill of Rights that protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess and carry firearms.

    In addition, women must have the right to self defense against the usually stronger males who would do them harm.
    Law abiding citizens have the right to own firearms for self protection and protection of family. However law abiding citizens have the responsibility to keep them away from children and mentally unstable persons.

  3. Burke says:

    MLK’s attitude to guns make perfect sense. Civil disobedience and passive resistance is for the public sphere. In the private arena, when armed assassins are threatening to break into your home and kill you , you need a more robust approach.

  4. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Stephen Halbrook’s book Freedmen, the 14th Amendment and the Right to Bear Arms is excellent. It also makes the 14th amendment make more sense than the usual non-explanations for its necessity.

  5. AnAmericanMother says:

    Don’t know if it’s in Halbrook’s book, but the story of Dr. Ossian Sweet is what made the connection for me. Clarence Darrow, who was in some part a charlatan but a good trial lawyer, won a mistrial and then an acquittal and dismissal of all the charges.

  6. jhayes says:

    From the USCCB website:

    “WASHINGTON—The U.S. bishops hope that any action taken by the Obama administration on gun violence prevention will lead to greater respect for human life, said the bishop who chairs the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, reacted to President Obama’s January 16 proposal.

    “The bishops hope that the steps taken by the administration will help to build a culture of life,” said Bishop Blaire. “The frequent mass shootings over the course of 2012 reflected a tragic devaluing of human life, but also pointed to the moral duty of all people to take steps to defend it.”

    Bishop Blaire also recounted the five priorities made by the bishops in their 2000 statement, Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice. These were: 1. Support measures that control the sale and use of firearms, 2. Support measures that make guns safer, 3. Call for sensible regulations of handguns, 4. Support legislative efforts that seek to protect society from violence associated with easy access to deadly weapons including assault rifles, and 5. Make a serious commitment to confront the pervasive role of addiction and mental illness in crime.

  7. Anne 2 says:

    It is not any Bishop’s decision to determine the best way for people to protect themselves.
    Every time they involve themselves in matters of the Laity in which they have no or little expertise, they insert foot in mouth. And then they don’t take responsibility for their actions.
    Worse yet, when these same Bishops have something important to say, they are ignored or dismissed as being irrelevant by many Catholics and others due to their previous actions; and then they get used by politicans who pick and choose only statements that suit them.
    If these Bishops have a better way of people protecting themselves, I’m sure we all would be interested in hearing it.
    I direct this Bishop’s Committee to the CCC # 2264.
    Bishop Blaire is the same Bishop who chastised Paul Ryan for his position on subsidiarity and commutative justice – ‘without which no other form of justice is possible’. (Subsidiarity – CCC # 1883, 1885, 1894, 2209; Commutative Justice CCC #2411.)
    Its time to remove some Bishops and popluate all USCCB committees with Bishops who pay attention and adhere to the CCC in entirety, rather than their own political beliefs, or what they hear from the news media which makes them quite – Guillible.

  8. acardnal says:

    The five points from the USCCB 2000 statement above are interesting and amusing. The statement’s title speaks of “crime” and “criminal justice”. Yet steps one through four of their “five priorities” don’t mention crime or criminal justice at all. Instead they mention “firearms”, “guns”, “handguns”, “deadly weapons”, “assault rifles”.

    As with most statements from the USCCB, I ignore them. I pay attention to what the Vicar of Christ and the Holy See put forth.

  9. Polish Falcon says:

    It is objectionable for any group of Bishops to state something is a “Catholic Perspective” – when there is no such Church teaching.
    Tsk. Tsk.
    They are making it up again.

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