Connecticut Law Review Volume 45 - Issue 5

Firearms Policy and the Black Community: An Assessment of the Modern Orthodoxy

The heroes of the modern civil rights movement were more than just stoic victims of racist violence. Their history was one of defiance and fighting long before news cameras showed them attacked by dogs and fire hoses. When Fannie Lou Hamer revealed she kept a shotgun in every corner of her bedroom, she was channeling a century old practice. And when delta share cropper Hartman Turnbow, after a shootout with the Klan, said “I don’t figure I was being non-nonviolent, (yes non-nonviolent) I was just protecting my family”, he was invoking an evolved tradition that embraced self-defense and disdained political violence. The precise boundaries and policy implications of that tradition had always been debated as times and context changed. But the basic idea that the community would support indeed exalt the man or woman who fought back in self-defense, even with, nay, especially with arms, has a far longer pedigree than the modern orthodoxy which urges stringent supply controls as the clearly best firearms policy for black folk. Full consideration of this black tradition of arms raises serious questions about the practical wisdom and conceptual grounding of that modern orthodoxy.

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