Terrorism has a long history in America.
I’ve owned guns since I was a little kid, and have shot targets and hunted deer, squirrels, rabbits and birds from time to time since I was in my 20s. But I am alarmed at the frankly fascist, insurrectionist threats coming from right-wing, openly racist militias all over this country.
This is from an acquaintance of mine, Ron Carver: He starts by discussing the violent, racist reaction to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Armed Klansmen burned 50 African-American churches and kidnapped and killed three civil rights activists in an infamous attack that became a pivotal moment in the civil rights struggle. During the search for Andrew Goodman, James Cheney, and Michael Schwerner, Lyndon Johnson sent Navy sailors to scour Neshoba County’s riverbeds. They didn’t find them, but they uncovered the corpses of dozens(* note) of African American men. It was a time and place where any crime was tolerated if it preserved the segregationists’ “way of life.”
In the previous hundred years, thousands of African Americans had been lynched, as documented in scores of gruesome photos that were proudly sold as souvenirs.
It is no surprise to me, then, to learn that James Madison’s reason for proposing the Second Amendment in 1789 was to preserve the state militias, the white population’s “principal instrument of slave control.” As documented in The Hidden History of the Second Amendment, an article published in 1998 in the University of California, Davis Law Review, these militias (often called “slave patrols”) were tasked with periodic sweeps of plantations to seek runaway slaves and intimidate any who dreamed of freedom.
Today, the proliferation of armed hate groups, which sometimes call themselves militias, is at least as dangerous as isolated, unbalanced, and gun-toting men with scores to settle. The number of anti-government so-called Patriot groups, such as armed militias, grew by 755 percent in the first three years of President Barack Obama’s first term, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The number of these groups rose from 149 at the end of 2008 to 1,274 in 2011, the SPLC reports.
Hate groups have expanded into every state but Hawaii. They are in everyone’s backyard.
The atmosphere today is toxic. Radio talk jocks promote armed struggle and one security industry executive boasts on YouTube that he would “start shooting people” in response to new gun controls.
For more than a hundred years the NRA promoted sportsmanship and responsible gun ownership — period. But since extremists seized control in 1977, the organization has forced a stranglehold on Congress while promoting the myth that the Second Amendment was enacted to facilitate armed rebellion against our own government, should it become tyrannical.
I support the right to own guns, but we don’t need 30 rounds in a semi-automatic weapon — or a well-armed militia — to bag a deer. I draw the line when my fellow citizens turn their homes into armories and begin training for insurrection. We used to call that treason.