Columns » Ernest Dumas

Dumas: The truth about guns


Gun image

Americans engaged in heated debates over guns periodically from 1690 until today, and race was nearly always a provocation and usually the main one.

It is the reason that, no matter how shrill the lamentations over the slaughter of innocents at Sandy Hook, Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech, Tucson, Jonesboro or the locales of thousands of daily tragedies, Congress will not pass a bill significantly restricting the sale of military weapons and big clips to civilians or do much else to lower the rate of gun deaths.

Not with a black man in the White House. Maybe 2017, after he's gone and Hillary Clinton or Marco Rubio is president, but not now.

I'm sorry, but that is how it is. With many fewer provocations, Congress passed a leaky and temporary assault-weapons ban for Bill Clinton. A few Southerners paid the price for their votes, but it will be a rare Southerner or Westerner, aside from the Pacific coast, who will vote for a gun bill that is associated with Barack Obama. And people will associate any gun bill with Obama.

Arkansas is a microcosm. The only potential vote for an assault-weapon ban in Arkansas is the lone Democrat, Sen. Mark Pryor. No Republican will vote for that or any bill that is seen as an Obama priority. If Pryor votes for such a bill — he's not likely to get a chance — it will be the most courageous vote cast by an Arkansas lawmaker in many years. It would be like J. William Fulbright or John L. McClellan voting for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Voting Rights Act of 1965. They didn't.

Most Arkansans probably favor an assault-weapons ban — even the state's most ardent foe of gun restrictions, former Congressman Mike Ross, now favors it — but tens of thousands sense the realization of their worst fears, an empowered black man taking their guns and establishing a dictatorship.

The Second Amendment cries are fig leafs. Nothing that has been proposed in the wake of Sandy Hook or that the president did in his 23 symbolic executive actions even remotely violates the Second Amendment, which mandates the regulation of firearms. Even Antonin Scalia, the right-wing author of the only Supreme Court opinion that ever interpreted the Second Amendment as a protection of an individual right to own weapons outside a militia, said government could and should impose conditions on the sale of arms and that government could prohibit individual ownership of "dangerous and unusual" weapons. Scalia specifically mentioned one weapon that individuals ought not to possess: variations of the semiautomatic M16 rifle, which has been the weapon of choice of mass killers.

The Second Amendment is all about state militias. Patrick Henry, the governor of Virginia, first wrote the Second Amendment's opening proviso, "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state," in a resolution in the Virginia legislature, although James Madison perfected the language in the Bill of Rights. Militias were valuable, particularly in Virginia and the Carolinas, to round up runaway slaves and suppress slave revolts and also to keep Indians under control. Henry and other Southerners worried that the new Constitution's authorization for the federal government to raise an army threatened the state militias.

Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia required all white men to keep a gun and ammunition so that they would be ready when they were summoned for slave patrols. They were closely regulated by law. A South Carolina act in 1690 said each white man specifically had to have "a good sufficient gun, well fixed, a good cover for their lock, with at least 20 cartridges of good powder and ball, one good belt or girdle, one ball of wax sticking at the end of the cartridge ox, to defend their arms in the rain, one worm, one priming wire and four good spare flints, also a sword, bayonet or hatchet."

Before the Civil War, runaway slaves or revolts were never a big problem here in the natural state, but the territorial legislature in 1824 passed a law requiring every township to keep a militia of up to 11 armed white men to capture and punish fleeing or obstreperous Negroes. There were worries and rumors about blacks getting guns and revolting before and long after the Civil War.

Sure enough, in 1967 the Black Panthers began parading around the public squares in California with guns, alarming the new governor, Ronald Reagan, who became a gun-control advocate. Bobby Seale, Huey Newton and some 30 other Panthers took loaded weapons to the Capitol in Sacramento to protest an attempt to outlaw carrying loaded weapons in public and got themselves arrested. The modern gun-control movement was under way. The National Rifle Association wanted stiff gun regulation and led the way in enacting the first major gun law, the Gun Control Act of 1968. A coup led by the arms industry changed the NRA's direction 180 degrees.

Guns were no longer important for hunting but to keep patriots armed so that they could fight a U. S. government led by a tyrant, like you know who. That requires some big weapons and giant ammo caches. After all, the black guy has tanks and the nuclear bomb. That is the mindset that sets public policy in 2013.

Comments (10)

Showing 1-10 of 10

Add a comment

Add a comment