The original draft of the Anti-Klan Act of 1871 -- passed at the urging of Republican president Ulysses S. Grant -- made it a federal felony to "deprive any citizen of the United States of any arms or weapons he may have in his house or possession for the defense of his person, family, or property." This section was deleted from the final bill only because it was deemed both beyond Congress' authority and superfluous, inasmuch as the rights of citizenship included the right to bear arms.
Under authority of the Anti-Klan Act, President Grant deployed the U.S. military to destroy the Klan, and pretty nearly completed the job.
But the Klan had a few resurgences in the early and mid-20th century. Curiously, wherever the Klan became a political force, gun control laws would suddenly appear on the books.
This will give you an idea of how gun control laws worked. Following the firebombing of his house in 1956, Dr. Martin Luther King, who was, among other things, a Christian minister, applied for a gun permit, but the Alabama authorities found him unsuitable. A decade later, he won a Nobel Peace Prize.
How's that "may issue" gun permit policy working for you?
The NRA opposed these discretionary gun permit laws and proceeded to grant NRA charters to blacks who sought to defend themselves from Klan violence -- including the great civil rights hero Robert F. Williams.
A World War II Marine veteran, Williams returned home to Monroe, N.C., to find the Klan riding high -- beating, lynching and murdering blacks at will. No one would join the NAACP for fear of Klan reprisals. Williams became president of the local chapter and increased membership from six to more than 200.
But it was not until he got a charter from the NRA in 1957 and founded the Black Armed Guard that the Klan got their comeuppance in Monroe.
Williams' repeated thwarting of violent Klan attacks is described in his stirring book, "Negroes With Guns." In one crucial battle, the Klan sieged the home of a black physician and his wife, but Williams and his Black Armed Guard stood sentry and repelled the larger, cowardly force. And that was the end of it.
As the Klan found out, it's not so much fun when the rabbit's got the gun.
The NRA's proud history of fighting the Klan has been airbrushed out of the record by those who were complicit with the KKK, Jim Crow and racial terror, to wit: the Democrats.
In the preface to "Negroes With Guns," Williams writes: "I have asserted the right of Negroes to meet the violence of the Ku Klux Klan by armed self-defense -- and have acted on it. It has always been an accepted right of Americans, as the history of our Western states proves, that where the law is unable, or unwilling, to enforce order, the citizens can, and must act in self-defense against lawless violence."
Contrary to MSNBC hosts, I do not believe the shooting in Florida is evidence of a resurgent KKK. But wherever the truth lies in that case, gun control is always a scheme of the powerful to deprive the powerless of the right to self-defense.
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