The Second Amendment and Racism

Actor Danny Glover recently stepped outside of his role as an actor and assumed the roles of historian and constitutional scholar:

I don’t know if you know the genesis of the  right to bear arms,’ said Glover, well known for his roles in the ‘Lethal  Weapon’ franchise. ‘The Second Amendment  comes from the right to protect themselves from slave revolts, and from  uprisings by Native Americans,’ he said.

‘A revolt from people who were stolen from  their land or revolt from people whose land was stolen from, that’s what the  genesis of the second amendment is.’

Glover should stick to his day job.  The main concern of the Founding Fathers in regard to the Second Amendment was to provide the citizenry the ability to resist a tyrannical government.  As James Madison noted in Federalist 46:

Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. And it is not certain, that with this aid alone they would not be able to shake off their yokes. But were the people to possess the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, who could collect the national will and direct the national force, and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these governments, and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions which surround it. Let us not insult the free and gallant citizens of America with the suspicion, that they would be less able to defend the rights of which they would be in actual possession, than the debased subjects of arbitrary power would be to rescue theirs from the hands of their oppressors. Let us rather no longer insult them with the supposition that they can ever reduce themselves to the necessity of making the experiment, by a blind and tame submission to the long train of insidious measures which must precede and produce it.

Prior to the Civil War there were laws passed in many of the slave holding states attempting to restrict the right to keep and bear arms to whites.  Challenges to these laws by free blacks almost always asserted the second amendment.  A passage in the Dred Scott decision indicates what a preoccupation blacks carrying weapons was to slaveholders:

It would give to persons of the negro race, who were recognized as citizens in any one State of the Union, the right to enter every other State whenever they pleased, singly or in companies, without pass or passport, and without obstruction, to sojourn there as long as they pleased, to go where they pleased at every hour of the day or night without molestation, unless they committed some violation of law for which a white man would be punished; and it would give them the full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects upon which its own citizens might speak; to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went. And all of this would be done in the face of the subject race of the same color, both free and slaves, inevitably producing discontent and insubordination among them, and endangering the peace and safety of the State.

After the Civil War freed blacks set up militias to defend their rights.  Eliminating these militias and taking away from blacks their second amendment rights was a key goal of the white supremacist “Redeemer” governments that came to power after Reconstruction.

In the case of Florida v. Stone, 4 So.2d 700 (Fla. 1941), the Florida Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a white man for violating a gun control statute on the grounds that the law violated the second amendment.  In his concurring opinion, Justice Rivers Buford explained that the law was never intended to apply to whites:

I know something of the history of this legislation. The original Act of 1893 was passed when there was a great influx of negro laborers in this State drawn here for the purpose of working in turpentine and lumber camps. The same condition existed when the Act was amended in 1901 and the Act was passed for the purpose of disarming the negro laborers and to thereby reduce the unlawful homicides that were prevalent in turpentine and saw-mill camps and to give the white citizens in sparsely settled areas a better feeling of security. The statute was never intended to be applied to the white population and in practice has never been so applied.

Mr. Glover is correct that racism and the second amendment are connected.  Racists have been invariably opposed to the granting of a right to keep and bear arms to all Americans.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. Hitler denied the human soul and the sovereign personhood of the human being to the Jews, calling Jews subhuman. By denying Jews sovereign personhood, Hitler was able to deny the Jews membership in Homo Sapiens, the human species. Hitler was able to deny Jews life.
    The Supreme Court in Dredd Scott, the slaveholders too, denied the human being composed of human body and immortal soul, the sovereign personhood endowed by “their Creator”, because the man’s skin was colored black. Sometimes his skin was yellow or red or white, or any color. The state does not create men and certainly does not endowed men with unalienable rights. The state, being constituted by the sovereign personhood of man, is sovereign only in that the state may fulfill its mission inscribed in the Preamble to our U. S. Constitution for the United States of America.
    Denying the black man sovereign personhood enabled the ignorant to enslave and abuse his brothers and sisters in Christ. This is the crux of the matter. Once denied, any reason could be used to embarrass, insult and deprive the black man, of everything, and among everything was his right to be innocent until proved guilty, to self-defence, to share in the culture. The civil rights movement was about reestablishing, acknowledging and respecting the person. And the civil rights movement did overcome. The black man’s unalienable civil rights are acknowledged as self-evident truths, that all men are created equal and endowed by our Creator, as inscribed in our founding principles.
    The crux of the matter resurfaces now, because the Sovereign Person of the Supreme Sovereign Being has been expelled from our culture. God is exiled from the human race. The soul of man is in jeopardy of being preempted by the evil one, the devil. The devil has no soul and therefore, is perfect evil. Man has a soul and needs God to fulfill his personhood. The atheist says NO. You cannot have your soul fulfilled until I say so. Perfect tyranny.
    Once the human being’s sovereign personhood is acknowledged and afforded all unalienable rights as enumerated in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, the black man and all men will be able to enjoy responsible gun ownership and reasonable self-defence.
    Note: I use the spelling of self-defence from the Preamble. The civil rights movement was about restoring the acknowledgement of personhood to all persons. The gay’s movement has never been denied sovereign personhood and therefore, their civil rights are not being violated. They are gay persons. So, too with abortion’s right to choose. What “civil right” has been denied to the pregnant woman? Is she still not a sovereign person with the personhood of a pregnant woman and the sovereignty of a mother? Only our Loving God’s person is being denied fellowship, courtesy and respect in the public square. Civil rights for the Supreme Sovereign Being.

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