Martin Luther King preached non-violence. Privately, the man knew his limitations, and with that in mind, he owned guns for self-defense. He even applied for a concealed carry license. After all, he knew that the only thing that stops bad people with evil in their hearts is a good guy with a gun.
Of course, yesterday was the Martin Luther King national holiday. The civil rights icon, who gave us the “I have a dream” speech, stands as a giant in American history.
He told us to judge a man not by the color of his skin, but the content of his character. Amen, brother. Preach it!
Today though, many on the gun-hating left react with utter disbelief when told of King’s gun ownership.
So imagine the surprise when the Huffington Post ran a story in 2011 by Professor Adam Winkler covering King’s membership in the gun owner fraternity. Frankly, they should run that story every year. From the Huffington Post:
MLK and His Guns
One issue on everyone’s mind this Martin Luther King Jr. day was gun control. King’s calls for resolving our differences through peaceful nonviolence are especially poignant after Jared Loughner gunned down six people and wounded several others in Tucson. Amid the clamor for new gun laws, its appropriate to remember King’s complicated history with guns.
Most people think King 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.”
What’s more, the great Martin Luther King had a place on the government’s terrorist watch list of the time. These who wish to disarm those on today’s terrorist watch list without due process based merely on suspicions would have banned King from gun ownership in his time as well.
And, as Professor Winkler writes, civil rights activists had reason to own guns and maintain proficiency. Because frankly, a lot of people wanted to kill them – or at least intimidate them into silence.
Indeed, after an attack, King applied for a concealed carry license. Of course, with the racial roots of gun control, local cops had no problem finding a reason to deny issuance. From Winkler’s piece in the HuffPo:
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.
In the end, civil rights legislation didn’t protect Martin Luther King and his fellow civil rights activists nearly as effectively as fellow good guys with guns.