Historical Racism Ended The Open Carry of Firearms in the United States

Dion McNeil

Racism and a desire to disarm the Black Panther Party is the reason why open carry was banned and is now considered taboo. Just like with the 1867 Cruikshank decision, gun control legislation has an undeniable link to historical racism and oppression. The same way it is a shame if a black person doesn’t vote given the fact that civil rights leaders lost their lives for that right is the same way it would be a shame for African Americans to not own firearms.

There are several 2nd Amendment protests happening in the United States.

Via NBC News

On April 30, 2020, in Lansing, Michigan, armed protestors showed up to the Michigan Capitol Building. This was a demonstration that came as a result of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order extension proposal and the gun control legislation riddled through the order. For that reason, protestors carried rifles. Michigan State Senator Dayna Polehanki was quoted on Twitter saying, “Directly above me, men with rifles yelling at us. Some of my colleagues who own bulletproof vests are wearing them. I have never appreciated our Sergeants-at-Arms more than today.” The strange part about her statement is that Senator Polehanki supported Governor Whitmer’s gun control legislation and yet relies on the protection of armed men. It’s almost as if this senator doesn’t want the common people of Michigan to be afforded the same protection she praised on Twitter. Is her life worth more than regular citizens that she should be protected by men with rifles but the average citizen shouldn’t be able to protect themselves with those same rifles? Shouldn’t common citizens be allowed to open carry firearms the same way the Sergeant-At-Arms at the Michigan State Capitol did in order to protect Senator Polehanki?

Senator Polehanki’s fears appear to be of armed citizens open carrying firearms. If one were to read about the historical context behind the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution it would become clear that open carrying firearms was a right that was afforded to U.S. Citizens. Yet, the right to openly bear arms has been demonized. Some people say that it is scary to have people openly carrying guns around because it could make the country unsafe. The problem with that claim is that the open carry of firearms has protected people who were being oppressed by tyrannical elements in both the federal and state governments.

Open carrying firearms is what allowed the Deacons for Defense and Justice, the same group who protected Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s marches, to fight against racial violence and oppression in Louisiana. The Deacons were comprised of mostly World War II and Korean War veterans. During the Civil Rights Era, these men carried their rifles and shotguns around racial violence hotspots in Louisiana. Their actions were pivotal in convincing the federal government to step in to help out with racial violence during the 60s and 70s.

Groups such as the Deacons demonstrate the reason why open carry is so important. Some may be surprised to find out that the Deacons for Defense and Justice, Black Panther Party, and many civil rights groups that have existed in the past and present have supported gun rights and open carry.

Some might find it odd that there are African American politicians who are supporting gun control and are opposed to open carry. Politicians such as Columbia, South Carolina Mayor Steve Benjamin (D-Columbia), South Carolina State Senator Mia McLeod (D-Columbia), South Carolina Representative Todd Rutherford (D-Richland) and others are supporting gun control legislation and a ban on open carry yet their views don’t appear to match their open opposition to historical racism. If not for political reasons, why would African American politicians support a ban on open carry when it was open carry used by the Black Panther Party and Deacons for Defense and Justice that protected Black Americans during the Civil Rights Era? Are these people unaware of the real reason why open carry was banned?

These types of politicians match a quote given by the Ancient Roman Senator Marcus Tullius Cicero.

“For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men.” – Cicero

For political reasons, these African American politicians are supporting legislation that any history book would reveal was birthed out of racism. Just as Cicero said, these African American politicians speak in ways that are familiar to Black America but that doesn’t mean these politicians truly care.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane to find out about the racist origins of the ban on open carry.

What Made Open Carry Taboo?

African Americans were denied gun rights for a long time in the United States due to black codes and an 1876 U.S. Supreme Court decision that was based on defending white supremacists who killed African Americans who wanted to vote. The Cruikshank decision, even though it was based on pure racism and allowed murderers to go unpunished, lasted until 2010. In the landmark SCOTUS case McDonald v. Chicago, the ruling from Cruikshank was essentially reversed with gun rights restored for all Americans, including blacks.

But there was something that happened before 2010 that killed open carry in the United States. It wasn’t always taboo to openly carry a firearm in every part of the United States. What changed the view on open carry can be linked back to racism, a California Governor who became president and an overzealous assemblyman who had a grudge against the Black Panther Party.

In 1967, Don Mulford, a Republican Assemblyman, proposed the Mulford Act of 1967 that would ban open carry in the State of California. The reason for this bill proposal was to control the Black Panther Party (BPP) in California. The BPP would do citizen patrols to clean up black neighborhoods and to try to offer resistance against rampant police brutality during the Civil Rights Era in the 60s. Keep in mind that the 60s featured some of the worst race-based violence the United States had ever witnessed or probably ever will witness.

Here are some examples from the 60s that displays the state of racial violence in the United States:

The above photo gallery shows the reason why the BPP had to protect blacks from the police and from tyrannical elements within the U.S. government and the members of the general public. The American 60s were a different time. It was dangerous to be an African American walking down the street alone without the aid of video cameras to record any potential police brutality. Members of the Ku Klux Klan were apart of police forces across the country.

Recently, in 2019, a Michigan police officer was terminated for having ties to the Klan. If this is the case in 2019 then one can only imagine the Klan ties and memberships of police officers that had to be occurring in the 60s. Suppose that officer was never terminated. Now, suppose that officer, like any other white supremacist, recruited other officers into the Ku Klux Klan. That would create a situation where the open carry of firearms would become a necessity for Black Americans in the State of Michigan. Yet, the Michigan Legislator has failed to see why so many of its citizens would support open carry.

Don Mulford, a Republican Assemblyman, witnessed the BPP protecting black communities from police forces such as the infamous LAPD who would go on to spark the L.A. riots due to the brutality inflicted upon Rodney King. Mulford proposed the legislation that was praised by then-California Governor Ronald Reagan. That means that the soon-to-be President Reagan was never the pro-gun president some like to paint him to be. Instead, Reagan supported legislation that would cause a sweeping change across the United States. Back then, California controlled much of the cultural iconography and lexicon. New York and Texas had some influence but nowhere near the bright lights of Hollywood. After all, if this were not true then Reagan would likely have never become president.

The BPP showed up to the California State House and protested the Mulford Act. BPP members carried loaded rifles into the capital but there were no shots fired. This matches the protests happening today over gun rights. This legislation banned the open carry of loaded firearms in public. At that point, since open carry was banned, it became next to impossible for the BPP to patrol black neighborhoods to protect blacks from police and white supremacists. This made the oppression of California’s African American population all too easy.


Just like with the 1867 Cruikshank decision, gun control legislation has an undeniable link to historical racism and oppression. The same way it is a shame if a black person doesn’t vote given the fact that civil rights leaders lost their lives for that right is the same way it would be a shame for African Americans to not own firearms. White supremacists have historically been against the idea of a black man with a gun. Violent white supremacy can and absolutely should be met with a hailstorm of bullets.

On July 7, 2018, this author published a YouTube video called “Historical Racism, Gun Control & ‘The Other’.” This video featured information about “black codes” there were designed to disarm African Americans. During this time, the Alt-Right were on the rise on the internet. The goal of the video was to show members of the far-right what happens when citizens who may have an issue with someone because of skin color can harm themselves or others that belong to their racial group. Watch the video below.



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