When it comes down to analyzing Barack Obama’s legacy, historians will find that the one item left off his presidential wish list whose absence ehe laments most, is an issue that would have made Martin Luther King, Jr. queasy. It’s gun control.
In an interview with NBC News’s Lester Holt, Obama explained that failing to enact enough gun control legislation was “my biggest disappointment as president.” In previous statements on the subject, the outgoing president has actually invoked Dr. King in trying to drum up emotions on gun control, even quoting the great civil rights leader as noting, “We need to feel the fierce urgency of now because people are dying.”
But that quote was out of context. While King may have advocated the use of peaceful methods to promote racial harmony, he was deeply concerned with self-defense for himself and his family.
UCLA Professor of Law Adam Winkler explained this at the Huffington Post in 2011:
One issue on everyone’s mind this Martin Luther King Jr. day was gun control. King’s calls for resolving our differences through peaceful nonviolence are especially poignant after Jared Loughner gunned down six people and wounded several others in Tucson. Amid the clamor for new gun laws, its appropriate to remember King’s complicated history with guns.
Most people think King would be the last person to own a gun. Yet in the mid-1950s, as the civil rights movement heated up, King kept firearms for self-protection. In fact, he even applied for a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
King was denied his request for a concealed carry permit, wherein lies a profound irony. As Tony Oliva writing at Bullets First so aptly puts it:
The basis for gun control has always been racist in nature. It started in the South to ensure that freed slaves wouldn’t be allowed to defend themselves.
It has expanded over the years to encompass a larger range of goals such as controlling the populace at large and centralizing power within the government; can’t have those uppity peons thinking they are citizens after all.
So it should come as no surprise that in 1956 when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr applied for a concealed weapons permit in Alabama, due to his receiving constant death threats and having his house BOMBED, he was denied.
“This is what oppression looks like,” Oliva continues. “This is tyranny.”.
Many liberals may agree with Barack Obama’s calls for stricter and wider-reaching gun control laws. But when they ascribe this short-sighted view to Martin Luther King, Jr., they do a disservice to his memory.
Cross-posted at the Mental Recession