News and culture through the lens of Southern California.
Hosted by A Martínez
Airs Weekdays 2 to 3 p.m.

Balancing being black with the right to bear arms




File: Guns are piled on the ground during the destruction of approximately 3,400 guns and other weapons at the Los Angeles County Sheriffs'• 22nd annual gun melt at Gerdau Steel Mill on July 6, 2015 in Rancho Cucamonga.
File: Guns are piled on the ground during the destruction of approximately 3,400 guns and other weapons at the Los Angeles County Sheriffs'• 22nd annual gun melt at Gerdau Steel Mill on July 6, 2015 in Rancho Cucamonga.
David McNew/Getty Images

Listen to story

15:00
Download this story 21MB

The fatal shootings of two black men last week renewed protests over the use of deadly force by police, and renewed charges of racism within law enforcement.  

Complicating all this is the fact that Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were both carrying guns when they were confronted by law enforcement officials.

The Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms, but many activists believe that Sterling and Castile's guns left them more vulnerable to deadly force — even if they were within their rights to carry those guns.

To help us take a closer look at the history of being black and the right to bear arms, we' spoke with The Atlantic's David A. Graham, the author of "The Second Amendments Second Class Citizens."

Interview Highlights

On how the right to bear arms has affected black citizens

This is a really a long historical current. If you look back at some of the earliest ideas of a personal to bear arms rather than a militia, you see that it involves Black Americans. After the Civil War a lot of black men in the south wanted to carry guns as protection against night riders and other marauders. And officials in places like South Carolina revoked that right and decreed blacks could not carry guns. The federal government stepped in on that case to insist that they could. And so you see a history like this that goes on. It runs from the 1860's up to the 1960's when, for example, Malcolm X talked about the need to carry a gun for personal protection and you had the Black Panthers actually visiting the California  capitol carrying arms openly as a demostration of their right.

Also joining the program is Kenn Blanchard, the host of the podcast "Black Man with a Gun"

On why he became a gun fan

It started as a child. I grew up in a time when all my heroes had firearms, from the secret agents to the westers. And it was normal... Think about "A Christmas Story" about 'that's gonna put your eye out!' That was a big thing to get your Daisy Red Rider BB Gun. That was my era. 

On when his gun enthusiasm divided him from other black people

It didn't hit me until I was an adult trying to start a business as a firearms instructor back in 1986. I had been trained by the best in the world. I went through the military; I'd gone through the federal government; I had been tutored by some specialty schools; I thought I was going to be the guy who helps the community out; who stops the violence from innocent people and stops the accidents in the home with children. I went to a couple of gun stores ad held up my shingle as a firearms instructor and my community were like 'Why are you promoting this gun stuff? Don't you know guns kill black people?' And I thought, 'Wow! Where have you guys been?' But I was the one who wasn't aware of the cultural bias in my own community.