guns, racism, poverty

Hunter Gray hunterbadbear at
Sat May 19 17:25:24 MDT 2001

Marxism Discussion List:

Several days ago I posted a short piece on guns on several lists --
including this one.  Today, Joan, from another list , sent me a response
directly and also posted that one on this list.  This is my response to
Joan -- which includes substantial excerpts from three subsequent posts of
mine from a very heated discussion on  yet another list!  Her post today has
generated comment on Marxism Discussion.

> Joan:
> Thanks very much for your  good note.  I think we simply have to keep
> pushing -- in every way we can -- the fact that the basic causes of crime
> and violence [racism, ethnocentrism, economic deprivation and poverty,
> congestion -- and, in that context, interpersonal and value alienation]
> never begin to be effectively addressed via a superficially "liberal" and
> diversionary approach as, say, "gun control."  At the same time, we need
> keep pointing out that "gun control" -- despite alchemy with stats -- is
> quite ineffective.  New York City has had the Sullivan Law for many, many
> decades -- aimed against handguns -- and crime and violence are widespread
> there.  Similiar situations exist in Chicago, LA etc etc.
> Many Democrats and the Democratic Party long ago abandoned Labor and human
> rights.
> I think we have to continue to push the reality that, under capitalism,
> racism and other forms of prejudice and economic deprivation and poverty
> will never be ended -- and thus crime and violence will not be prevented
> substantially reduced -- but that, under  bona fide socialist democracy,
> racism and poverty etc will be ended, and violence and crime
> prevented/substantially reduced.  Even under socialism, there will still
> some violence and some crime -- but far, far less than under capitalism.
> At another level, it's critical to keep pointing out that guns are
> frequently necessary for principled and sensible self-defense:  people
> defending themselves against crime -- and labor and civil rights
> protecting themselves against company goons and racist night-riders and
> outfits.
> There is lots of stuff on the Net relating to all of this.  On guns,
> self-defense, Harvey Kleck and John Lott and Don Kates have written much.
> I'm sure by now you've checked out the page on my website that has my much
> reprinted article, "Civil Rights and Self Defense" from Against the
> magazine.  If not, check it out!

   [That article of mine also cites references for the famous and courageous
Rob        Williams/Afro-American armed self-defense  anti-Klan situation in
Monroe, North Carolina.

> I posted my initial gun rights thing on seven lists.  Positive reactions
> were widespread.  On one list, however, there was substantial opposition
> my position -- and hence lively debate.  Here, for you, are excerpts from
> three of several of  my postings -- a couple of days ago -- in that debate
> They follow right here, one by one.  By all means, let's keep in touch.
> Take care and all best - Hunter
> Although it's often difficult to link the Democratic Party with
> anything especially "precise," it was obvious throughout the Clinton
> administration that the national Democratic stance was consistently
> at every point.  Initially, it pushed "hand-gun control" --  which sounds
> good to some folks but, despite clever juggling of stats, is about as
> effective as prohibiting alcohol in Butte.  This was followed by the much
> trumpeted attack on "assault rifles" -- which, despite media hype and
> blatant misrepresentation, are not in this context fully automatic weapons
> [ banned by Federal law since 1934], but simply superficially dressed-up
> semi-automatics that are functionally no different than a semi-automatic
> rifle at K-Mart.  After that, the Clinton administration -- much of the
> national Demos tagging along -- went after and eliminated through highly
> questionable administrative decrees, almost 200,000 small Federal Firearms
> Licensees [a goal long sought, by the way, by the very big firearms
> dealers!]  Virtually all of these FFL holders were purely harmless people,
> who used their Federal license to buy a few guns for themselves or family
> members at wholesale prices.
> When the Oklahoma City tragedy occurred -- which had absolutely nothing to
> do with guns -- the Clinton administration was quick, with mainline media
> help and, again, with national Demo leaders tagging along -- to turn the
> whole thing into an attack on guns and the National Rifle Association.
> Although it was NRA Life member and consistently very liberal Democrat,
> Dingell of Michigan, who first used the term, vis-a-vis ATF, "jack-booted
> thugs," the national Demos and  their media friends vigorously attacked
> Wayne LaPierre of NRA when he then used the term [ Clinton and media
> ignoring Dingell's very recent creation of the phrase.]  By this time, it
> was becoming clear in the hinterland where the Clinton folk et al. stood
> the gun issue -- they were issuing proposal after proposal on guns -- and,
> often in situations where Democratic House and Senate members were weak
> anyway on farm and ranch and labor issues, but supporting Clinton on guns,
> there were  many local Democratic defections in all directions.  By the
> of the Clinton era, a situation existed (and still does) where anyone
> purchasing even a rifle or a shotgun now has to undergo a so-called FBI
> background check and pay the Feds a fee. Much of all of this played hell
> with the Democrats nationally --  many of whom had also sold out Labor
> human rights long ago -- in the 2000 election.
> In the "rest of the country" -- the land beyond the Great Eastern
Cities --
> there are a great many  local Democrats who are certainly not for gun
> control in any sense -- even more of them now than there were before
> saddled the party with that incubus!  Here in Idaho, I had no problem
> vigorously and conspiciously supporting the grandfather of my youngest
> daughter's boy friend -- a veteran railroad unionist and labor leader,
> liberal Democrat, avid hunter and gunowner (and an NRA member)-- in his
> successful race for a key state senate position in which he was incumbent.
> [He was, by the way, also endorsed by the national NRA.] He won handily
> against a right-wing Republican.
> Efforts to psychoanalyze guns and gun owners leave me cold. There are,
> indeed, many strange gun-nuts -- and I see all sorts of  very odd folks in
> conspicious love with their autos -- and, each day, I'm almost done in via
> version of road rage.  Nor do mainline media etc attacks on the NRA, an
> outfit much more than a century old and  now a very loose mass
> of about four million people, bother me one way or the other.  I've been a
> Life member of that for almost my entire life -- was the president of our
> Flagstaff High School NRA club -- and I've voted just the way I damn well
> please all of my life. [I should point out, though, that in the 1992
> election, NRA endorsed no one for President.]  Its leaders come and go.
> great mass of NRA members -- who fall into all sorts of racial and ethnic
> categories -- are interested primarily in hunting, range shooting,
> safety, conservation.
> For my part, I'm a Native American and a Westerner -- a long time social
> justice organizer and a very left socialist.  I got my start in 1955 in
> remained of the old IWW -- my basic catechism -- when it was still
> listed by the AG as "subversive" -- and cut my teeth and learned my
> organizer's trade in  radical and militant Western unionism [e.g., the
> always excellent and democratic and extremely egalitarian and very radical
> International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers.]  And then I went
> into  the Deep South and the Movement and on and on and far beyond on my
> organizer's trail.
>  Ever see the very fine -- topflight -- Mine-Mill labor film, Salt of the
> Earth [worker rights, minority -- Chicano -- rights, women's rights] ? If
> you haven't, you certainly should.  But also be aware that that excellent
> film, made in 1953 and based on a hard-fought 1950-52 Mine-Mill strike in
> southwestern New Mexico, was filmed on location near Silver City.  Union
> members and  the courageous Hollywood  people [most of them blacklisted
> Hollywood folk] were harassed constantly by Klan-type red-baiting
> night-riding elements.  Armed hard rock Union miners -- yes, many with
> handguns as well as deer rifles! -- guarded the film set night and day.
> they not done so, the mining bosses, HUAC, and Joe McCarthy et al. would
> have succeeded in killing this splendid film [which, even so, became the
> first and only film in the history of the U.S. to be blacklisted
> nationally.] "Salt" was recently picked by the Library of Congress as one
> the 100 most important films ever made in this country.
> And I'm  certainly someone who is alive because I know guns -- had my
> at age seven -- and  I very much know how they can be very effectively
> sensibly used in critical self-defense situations.
> If anyone is interested in the "hand-gun control" dimension, with especial
> reference to intelligent self-defense, I recommend  Don B. Kates, Jr,,
> Restricting Handguns: The Liberal Skeptics Speak Out, North River Press,
> 1979.  Although I am loath to consider myself a "liberal" -- have always
> been an identified  left radical since  my late Teens -- I did write a
> chapter for the book.  The enthusiastic foreword, by the way, was done by
> then U.S. Senator from Idaho, the extremely liberal and very decent Frank
> Church.  Too damn bad he isn't still with us -- especially as Congress
> set to tangle once again with perennial FBI chicanery.
> Yours -
> Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]
> Hunter Gray
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
> -------------------------------------------------
> I continue to appreciate those critics of my "gun position" who are
> thoughtful.  And when I disagree with them, "I do so politely."  Racists
> violent racist organizations are, sadly, going to be part of the poisonous
> scenery for some time to come -- until we eliminate the causal factors --
> many inherent in contemporary capitalism -- that produce them.  By the
> token,  many union organizers and other social justice activists are
> going to be targets of company thugs and other violently reactionary
> forces -- until we can make the really basic systemic changes most of us
> committed to effecting.  And it's going to take a long time to end crime
> violence -- even under the best socialist democracy -- forces that are now
> very often levied against "the people of the fewest alternatives."
> People need protection -- very often in the dark, lonely  and marginal
> places.  Who do we get that protection from?  The cops?  Some are OK, some
> are OK in some situations only , some are not OK at all, and some are
> certainly goons in the purest sense.
> And a gun is no better or worse than the person who holds it.
> I've been the target of a good deal of violence and some of it, frankly,
> very serious.  And there were and are many, many indeed just like me. Now
> and then, the violence levied against us got a great deal of  useful
> publicity [as David McReynolds thoughtfully indicates] and a very well
> case in point would be the most famous of the '60s sit-in photos: ours, at
> Jackson, May 28 '63 -- the most violently attacked sit-in of that decade
> the bloodiest.  It's a very well known photo.  You've all  seen us all in
> it. That situation helped the cause enormously. But most of the  violent
> attacks were in the lonely and isolated situations -- dim, dark,
> out-of-the-way.   I don't want anyone who wasn't really doing something
> activist in the '60s to second-guess me or anyone else from that era on
> those issues of that epoch. [If you were there, then -- anywhere in the
> troubled country -- and have a  "gun" perspective contrary to mine, I'll
> certainly listen.]  And, in many of those instances, protective firearms
> were certainly very useful.

   Here's  the link to our  sit-in photo:
> [Medgar Evers, who I knew very well indeed right up to the point of his
> murder, had nine firearms and always traveled with a .45 automatic.  When
> became Mississippi NAACP field secretary in 1954, many -- including his
> friends -- told him he had only a year to live at best.  He lived for nine
> very effective years.]
> And, of course, firearms continue to be very useful.  I can cite many
> personal and observational examples from multi-ethnic South/Southwest Side
> grassroots Chicago organizing in the late '60s well into the '70s;
> New York Native and other organizing in the late 1970s; anti-uranium
> activism and organizing in the Southwest at the end of the '70s into the
> beginning of the '80s; Northern Plains Native rights organizing in the
> into the '90s; many trips over many decades into the unreconstructed parts
> of the Deep South; and -- to bring it right up to date -- our presently
> hostile Idaho situation which has gone on now for four years.  And, again,
> I'm one of a great many.
> [And, on a very quick parenthetical note:  Take a good look at the oral
> written Framer discussion of the 2nd Amendment when it was being
> constructed -- a good, thorough look -- and then come back and tell me
> unlike all of the other specifically enumerated rights in the Bill of
> Rights, the 2nd is not an individual right.  I'd be interested in how
> can make that spin!]
> In Solidarity - Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]  Micmac/St Francis Abenaki/St
> Mohawk
>  Other identifications: Became a DSOC member in the late '70s, am DSA; and
> also CCDS; and SPUSA. -- H
> Hunter Gray
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
> ---------------------------------------------
>  I come from the  Mountain West, and I've lived in many parts of the
> States -- but I've never lived in New York City [a very attractive place,
> full of all sorts of friends of mine -- I like to visit there --but it's
> my Mecca -- actually, I have no Mecca!]  I assume you, as do I, think
> pretty well of the Bill of Rights.  That's a statement of individual
> and the Second Amendment, in that context, is not a whit different than,
> the First or the Fourth.  [I may agree with Major Owens on much, but I
> agree with him that the Second Amendment should be repealed -- any more
> I agree with the wish of the Christian Right  to knife the First or the
> and the other police statists to kill the Fourth.]  But, though not a
> lawyer, I did teach Federal Indian Law [about as complex a surreality as
> could ever find] for thirteen years.  In two major  United States cases
> involving the admission of oral history into Native treaty disputes, Jones
> Meehan (1899) and Tulee v Washington (1942), the Supreme Court sided with
> the Indians, ruling that oral history could be admitted in determing the
> validity of the Native position -- a position that endures.  If you look
> the many speeches and comments emanating from the Framers around the 2nd,
> it's absolutely clear they saw it as an individual right, no more and no
> less.
> I'm alive today because I knew how and know how to use firearms.  We have
> our problems right here right now. And I know many other people who, from
> personal experience, would be only too happy to join me on that one.
> from someone else's essay on the matter, gives some of my personal
> This sampling of my experiences -- under my former name of John R Salter,
> Jr -- is accurately stated:
> "In the 1950s and 1960s, a new civil rights movement began in the South.
> White supremacist tactics were just as violent as they had been during
> Reconstruction. Blacks and civil rights workers armed for self-defense.
> John Salter, a professor at Tougaloo College and chief organizer of the
> N.A.A.C.P.'s Jackson Movement during the early 1960s, wrote, "No one knows
> what kind of massive racist retaliation would have been directed against
> grass-roots black people had the black community not had a healthy measure
> of firearms within it." Salter personally had to defend his home and
> several times against attacks by night riders. After Salter fired back,
> night riders fled.
> The unburned Ku Klux Klan cross in the Smithsonian Institution was donated
> by a civil rights worker whose shotgun blast drove Klansmen away from her
> driveway.
> State or federal assistance sometimes came not when disorder began but
> blacks reacted by arming themselves. In North Carolina, Governor Terry
> Sanford refused to command state police to protect a civil rights march
> Klan attacks. When Salter warned Governor Sanford that if there were no
> police, the marchers would be armed for self-defense, the Governor
> police protection."
> Solidarity --
> Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]

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