From the LA Times: "The defenders of the 2nd Amendment once had a powerful ally in America: the Black Panthers. The self-styled revolutionaries believed there's something powerful and liberating about holding a firearm in your hands.
In "Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party," we learn that Huey Newton and Bobby Seale felt lots of gun love as they drove up and down the streets of Oakland in 1966. Back then, it was legal for California residents to carry firearms in public — as long as said weapons were held in full view.
So Newton and Seale patrolled ghetto streets armed with rifles, shotguns and copies of California's liberal gun laws. To fight police brutality, they policed the cops. Time and again, their standoffs with officers ended with Newton and Seale giving lectures on the law.
"What's the matter with you?" Newton told one officer. "You're supposed to be people enforcing the law, and here you are, ready to violate my constitutional rights.... You can't have my gun. The only way you're gonna get it from me is to try and take it."
For a few surreal months, the newly formed Black Panther Party challenged the police again and again without a single shot being fired. These episodes make for some of the most compelling reading in "Black Against Empire," the authoritative if flawed new history of the Panthers by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin Jr., drawing heavily on the Panthers' extensive archives.
Of course, "the man" quickly grew "hip," as they might have said back then, to the Panthers' tactics. California state legislators soon proposed a bill, the Mulford Act, that made it illegal to carry firearms in public. When the Panthers entered the state Capitol for a news conference carrying shotguns, it only greased the legislative wheels: Gov. Ronald Reagan quickly signed the bill into law."
Notice how Newton and Seale did many of the things open carry advocates (as opposed to those of us who generally carry only for protection) do today. What was different then?
Open carry in California ended because blacks were carrying guns. It wasn't liberalism that killed open carry in California, it was racism. Did open carrying at the state capitol and to make a political point help or hurt the cause? While California's ban was racist, Chipotle ninjas open carrying their rifles should think twice on whether their actions will galvanize people for, or against, open carry.
California in the 1960s wasn't the paragon of liberal equality that people imagine it to be. It was a racist place, just as the ultra-conservative poster boy Ronald Reagan wasn't a supporter of the 2nd Amendment.
Clayton E. Cramer
Gun Free Zone
The War on Guns
The View From Out West