One of the important lessons I learned as a participant in the southern freedom movement of the 1960s shocks many of my liberal friends: Guns don’t kill people; people kill people. I am neither a member nor supporter of the NRA, but both sides in today’s convoluted arguments about gun control and the second amendment need to pay attention to this lesson. To begin, here is an excerpt from the introduction of my latest book: This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible.
Armed self-defense (or, to use a term preferred by some, “armed resistance”) as part of black struggle began not in the 1960s with angry “militant” and “radical” young Afro-Americans, but in the earliest years of the United States as one of African people’s responses to oppression. This tradition, which culminates with the civil rights struggles and achievements of the mid-1960s, cannot be understood independently or outside its broader historical context. In every decade of the nation’s history, brave and determined black men and women picked up guns to defend themselves and their communities.
The starting point that should be evident from all of the above is that black people are human beings, and their responses to terrorism were human responses.