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Blacks and guns: What the president should know before his State of the Union address Facebook Screenshot, Derrick Grayson for Senate
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Pictured: Derrick Grayson, Georgia candidate for United States Senate, and family.

There is little doubt that guns will be brought up during President Obama’s State of the Union Address Tuesday night. After his recent announcement of new gun control measures and a subsequent town hall on the subject, the president needs a better understanding of the history of firearms in America.

George Mason, the Founding Father who co-authored the Second Amendment, said that “To disarm the people is to enslave them.”

Black Americans probably understand this best.

During American slavery, “slave codes” banned blacks from obtaining anything that might empower them. Slaves were banned from learning to read, robbing them of a basic education that could lead to awareness of their own abilities outside of manual labor.

Perhaps the most restrictive legislation was bans on blacks from owning guns and ammunition. One of the reasons why slaves in the Caribbean successfully took their freedom approximately 100 years before America’s abolition of slavery was due in part to their access to weapons.

These laws, including firearms restrictions, were reflected in the form of “black codes,” laws put in place to restrict blacks’ freedoms after they were emancipated from slavery.

The law was often not on the side black Americans. Racist groups, like the Ku Klux Klan and others, were commonly aided by local law enforcement in their violence against blacks and other minority communities.

Black Americans like Robert F. Williams of Monroe, North Carolina pursued armed self-defense measures against these violent attacks. The head of his local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter, Williams also chartered a National Rifle Association (NRA) chapter to form a group of armed black citizens to protect the citizens of his community.

Gun rights have historically aided the black community, from the time of American slavery through the Civil Rights Era.

Even today, support for conceal carry weapons in the black community are on the rise.

While concerns of gun violence today are not unfounded, gun control advocates must take into account the very real benefits of gun ownership, especially for minority communities.

If the president wants to have a real discussion about guns, he should at least recall this history.

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