MLK, evil and gun control

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By Tom Holmes

Contributing Reporter / Religion Blogger

Can you imagine Martin Luther King, Jr. packing a sidearm?

I ask that question, because the holiday named after Dr. King is next Monday, which comes about a month after the killings in Newtown which have sparked renewed interest in the gun control debate.

I'll ask the question again.  Can you imagine Dr. King with a holstered revolver on his hip, much less an assault rifle? 

Why not?  It has to do with how you believe we humans are to respond to evil.  For example, Wayne LaPierre from the National Rifle Association contends that the only way to stop bad guys with guns is to have good guys with guns.  I have to agree with Mr. LaPierre to a degree.  Unless you are a pacifist, i.e. a person who will never use violent force ever even in self-defense, you have to acknowledge that the guy has a point.

Most of us, I assume, would say that we were justified in using lethal force against Hitler and Hirohito in World War II.  Most of us also have no problem seeing our Forest Park Police officers carrying side arms.  While most of us pray for peace, few of us are actually pacifists.

Back in the 1960s there was debate in the African American community about how to respond to the evil of racism.  On one side were advocates of black power in groups like the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.  The iconic image of that position is of Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising black gloved fists during the medal ceremony at the 1968 Olympics.

Black Panther Party leaders Huey Newton and Bobby Seale advocated "policing the police," that is black neighborhoods had to organize to protect themselves against the bad guys who in this case were abusive police officers.  At times they publicly displayed loaded shotguns.   Sounds like Wayne LaPierre, doesn't it?  A lot of black folks in that day looked at the Panthers as Robin Hood like heroes who had the courage to stand up against evil oppressors.

The debate, however, seems to have eventually been won by Dr. King's non-violent approach.  What Dr. King showed us, I think, is that the most violent force can do is to prevent evil from happening to us.   His nonviolent approach to confronting injustice was based on what he had learned in seminary by reading Mahatma Gandhi, i.e. if you want to overcome evil, you have to do it in a way that doesn't add more evil to the world.  You have to be willing to suffer.  That gives you moral authority.   That also made us white folks feel that racism was the enemy, not us.  

My friend, Bob Sherrell, was one of those clubbed and tear gassed in the March on Selma in 1965.  "There were men," he recalled, "who wanted to get their guns in retaliation for the abuse we suffered. It was Andy Young in Brown's Funeral Parlor who admonished that no one would be allowed in the protest movement who advocated force (ie guns)."

It was especially the members of black churches, students and their white allies who became convinced that King's approach was more consistent with their values, while the Black Panther approach got bogged down in criminal activity.  While racism still exists, there's no doubt in my mind that the non-violent protests led by King actually swayed the national conscience and changed this country, because they held the moral high ground.  They behaved in harmony with the non-violent future towards which they were working.

The reason those civil rights marchers had moral authority is that they were willing to suffer for what they believed in.  They were tear gassed, knocked over by water from fire houses and bitten by growling police dogs and they kept on singing, "Oh deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome some day."  That kind of moral authority changed a nation.

LaPierre is right to a degree.  Some bad guys with guns are only stopped by good guys with guns.  Ultimately however, Mr. LaPierre and Second Amendment extremists will be judged by history like the Black Panthers have been.  The best that violence can do is protect us.  The worst it does is to perpetuate itself in an accelerating downward spiral.  Look at Chicago.  More Americans were killed there by guns in 2012 than in combat in Afghanistan.

My reading of the Bible informs me that there is evil in the world, not just phenomena which the social sciences can explain.  I think Mr. LaPierre would agree with this.  My reading of the Bible also tells me that God is concerned about overcoming evil even more than protecting innocent people from it.  My reading of the Bible, finally, compels me to attack evil with the same weapons Dr. King used. 

Disclaimer: If we follow Dr. King's way or Jesus' way, some of us won't be "protected" in the conventional sense of the word.  Some of us will shot at, verbally or with guns.  Do we have a culture with enough fortitude to engage in that kind of battle?

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Reader Comments

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Larry Skiver from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 22nd, 2013 4:04 AM

I was wondering if anyone has heard of the term "foot in the door". When the door is shut you have control on what comes through the door. When someone gets their foot in the door you don't. Let's think about this, I don't smoke and I think it's a nasty habit, so let's tax the hell out of it. That's okay with me because I don't smoke. Yeah good for society-less smokers-better health-less doctor visits for smoke related issues. More tax money in the coffers, good. While we are at it, let's tax the hell out of alcohol. I don't drink so it is ok with me. Yeah more money, we'll teach those smokers and drinkers. So when the tax man comes around to something you do care about and wants to tax the hell out it , then what are you going to do?. Society has the foot in the door and your way of life is threatened. So here we have a true tragedy with the School shootings. Right away some people are calling for the ban on guns or stricter gun control laws (which have not worked). If we jump to fast and ban guns and change the second the govt. has their "foot in the door". Hey while we are at it let's change the nasty first amendment, the people let us change the 2nd amendment so let's change that one too. By the way we'll just change them all because we know what's best. Be careful what you wish for.

Julie C  

Posted: January 21st, 2013 7:41 PM

Why, this was just a few days ago. Oh, and this: Overconfidence is horrible public policy. Because, as I said, nothing says freedom more than threatening to kill people. "Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." - MLK


Posted: January 21st, 2013 5:53 PM

Jackie - Bring it on - we can handle it. But why don't you define what a patriot is in your world. Come on give it a shot. We already agree on Bill Ayers. I'm sure if given the chance we could agree on many issues but draw the line on how to achieve results that both the left and right could agree on. That's where things get ugly. Civility works both ways.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: January 21st, 2013 5:30 PM

Jackie - by definition a tool is something useful. I support a conservative agenda, I am a life member of the NRA and I am willing to defend what I believe. I also defend your right to express your opinion. As a matter of fact I encourage you to spew your hatred, at will.


Posted: January 21st, 2013 5:05 PM

Ray--not sure if you are a tool of the right, a tool of the NRA or just a tool. Not sure it matters much, but you lack credibility because you are all 3. Stop your whining and put on your big boy pants or get off the blog.


Posted: January 21st, 2013 5:00 PM

@Unfortunately--sounds like your just a sore loser...always an excuse for losing--not the A-Team, not a good resume? When are we going to see the A-Team with the good resume if not for leader of the free world? Are your jamokes waiting for a "real important election" to bring out the real candidates, like Bachman and Santorum. Oops, you used them too. Last thing, if you don't like it here, then leave. Alabama is always looking for wankers like you.


Posted: January 21st, 2013 4:52 PM

rj--neither you nor Wild Bill are patriots or believers in the Constitution. I don't support Bill Ayers and have always questioned his beliefs. You, on the other hand, have fully embraced the insanity and extremism. You, my friend, are a cancer to society, not its savior.

Thomas from Chicago  

Posted: January 21st, 2013 2:59 PM

MLK had armed body guards and applied, though was denied, for a carry concealed permit. He may have been non violent, I am non violent, but I don't think he nor I are non gun. Point being there is a difference between being non violent and non gun. Nobody in their right mind wants to shoot another person. The gun owners I know, including myself, never ever want to have to use our firearms; but will if we have to. And that's the point.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: January 21st, 2013 2:51 PM

Jim - I guess your definition of extremist is tempered by where you are standing. Many of us see your position as extreme left, so you would naturally see us as way off to the right. That is OK we are all where we are and calling names and applying labels isn't going to change anyones mind. I guess I fail to see why you judge me because of some cat fight you have created for your self. If you find Jackies arguments credible I guess I will have to consider that in any future discussions we might have.


Posted: January 21st, 2013 2:44 PM

Jackie - Not that I have to justify the credibility of my sources. I verified what I posted last night. Wild Bill, a patriot & believer of the Constitution disturbs you yet wild Bill Ayers, a US & international terrorist, fugitive, self admitted communist professor & close friend of O, wrote he didn't regret setting bombs and felt he didn't do enough has never been questioned by the left. His words," kill all the rich people. Bring the revolution home, kill your parents." This is extremism!


Posted: January 21st, 2013 1:55 PM

@Jackie, yes, "Unfortunately," Obama defeated Romney - who certainly didn't reflect the A-team for Republicans. Heck, neither did Bush. Like Obama, Bush (skipping aside the TX governor part) had a resume that was a bit thin. However, at least Bush didn't believe that it was his "mandate" to work hard to enlarge the divisions of this country. If you recall, Mr. Hope & Change once campaigned on a "One America" theme - discarded promptly on Feb 1, 2008. What REALLY hurts is living in DemIllinois!!

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 21st, 2013 1:09 PM

Ray, I didn't post in defense of Jackie. She's seems quite capable of expressing her opinion. My concerns related to her, in your words, being "rude, obnoxious and irrelevent. I thought that you should appy the same labels to "rj". Since you now offered that you are both politcally aligned; I will take take that into account if you and I have another occasion to discuss an issue. Knowing that you willingly embrace the extremism of "rj" may make a difference in how to view your position or value your opinion. That's all.


Posted: January 21st, 2013 1:08 PM

@unfortunately--yeah, but you lost 100% of the White House. That had to hurt.


Posted: January 21st, 2013 1:05 PM

Ray-and you are the worst form of hypocrite. You, and others like you, use invective and then cry like a baby when someone responds in kind. A civil discourse is never possible with a tea bag republican. have made my are aligned with rj and rest of whack jobs, politically, spiritually and otherwise.You have added nothing to the resolution of gun violence, and continue to spout the NRA talking points without any independent thought.


Posted: January 21st, 2013 1:02 PM

@Jackie, etc. Why do you write "are the reasons why the GOP can't win"? Are you not aware that a 60 percent of Governors are Republican? That a majority of Americans voted for them? Did you miss the 2010 election where the R's took away Pelosi's majority? I understand that in 2012 more D's received votes than R's for the House, but wasn't this less than 1% differential primarily due to CA anomaly? And in Illinois they control everything - and this is something to brag about?!?


Posted: January 21st, 2013 12:58 PM

rj--on what basis do you profess truth? "Wild Bill" is your source? He, and you, are tea-bag lunatics. Listening to the voices in your head does not make it a citable or truthful source.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: January 21st, 2013 12:37 PM

Jim - please read Jackie's most recent post and tell me what she contributes to the conversation. It is that level of incivility I was commenting on. I do not side against rj because we both are politically aligned - I think. Many of us see you as being just as dedicated to your politics and willing to defend your position with equal vigor. .


Posted: January 21st, 2013 12:23 PM

You"re both quite predictable -The mere mention of fellow democrat loons who take out people and children in public places is sure to bring out the venom which proves the debate has hit a wall. You're both so far off the reservation you're not equipped to see the difference between heat and truth.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 21st, 2013 12:02 PM

Ray, you've got me wrong. I have no interest in engaging in any type of debate or discussion with "rj". The heatseeking rhetoric posted by this individual does not demonstrate a reasoned thought process. It is disappointing to read that you will not attempt to distance yourself from that type of nonsense. I'll accept your decision.


Posted: January 21st, 2013 11:51 AM

rj-you are what you are, a whack-a-doodle. Ray, you are an apologist for rj and his ilk.You two are the reasons why the GOP can't win. You peddle in fear and ignorance. Anyone citing to "Wild Bill", and those defending such lunacy, are not patriotic or sane. You folks are not conservative or Republican--you are just idiots who should not own weapons.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: January 21st, 2013 11:48 AM

Jim- I was calling out Jackie for her gutter talk and mindless name calling. You have spoken out in disagreement with rj and I see no reason to take sides or gang up. It looks as if the two of you are involved in oh yea - Oh Yea - Oh Yea debate style. I Pass.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 21st, 2013 11:29 AM

Ray, I'm just asking about the pass you seem to be giving to "rj". If you are calling out someone for what you view as "repugnant" comments, that same principle should be applied to what we have on record from "rj". It's hate speech disguised as personal opinion and commentary on the issues of the day.


Posted: January 21st, 2013 10:55 AM

Jackie forever chained to her five pillars of liberal faith - hysteria, denial of reality, thought control, name calling and projection of guilt. Not too hopeful of her speedy recovery. MLK would be shocked at what his party has become.


Posted: January 21st, 2013 10:49 AM

Jim - you have proven to be one of the most troubled individuals posting of late. Always questioning facts over and over again and entertaining typical liberal illusions of fantasy. I do feel sorry for you and your denial of reality and hope for your speedy recovery.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: January 21st, 2013 10:21 AM

Jim- Julie and I have a philosophical difference and we both believe strongly in our positions. Not one disrespectful word has been spoken and you have distorted who said what to whom. To quote your previous comment "SHAME"

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: January 21st, 2013 10:11 AM

Jim - please read posts more accurately - my comment was to jackie and I bet you quietly agree that her comments are repugnant.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 21st, 2013 10:06 AM

Ray, if you're going to be tagging Julie C for being "rude, obnoxious and irrelevant" please extend the same to "rj". I don't understand why you haven't taken any action to distance yourself from bizzare and factually innaccurate rants posted by this obviously troubled individual. You don't present yourself or post comments that would indicate support for anyone who seems to be aligned with the extremist fringe. It may not be your place to do so but does reflect poorly on you by failing to call out this heatseeker.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: January 21st, 2013 9:48 AM

Julie - can you furnish a single case where your scenario has ever happened? You ask for solutions, yet find fault with any practical attempt. Your ideal world solution just will never happen so why pine for Valhalla?

Julie C  

Posted: January 21st, 2013 8:54 AM

Actually it is way more likely that one of these "patriots" guarding a school will commit a negligent or reckless act with a gun. And because a gun is designed to kill, that negligent/reckless act will likely maim or kill someone. Just like at home. Then there' the message all this sends to the kids: nothing says "freedom" like living behind walls and being armed to the teeth.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: January 21st, 2013 8:51 AM

Jackie - congratulations - you have started the new year just as rude, obnoxious and irrelevant as you ended the last.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: January 21st, 2013 8:39 AM

JulieC- What can go wrong? Introduce a crazy young man who only answers to the screaming voices he hears in his head. The last thing on his mind is whether Julie C will anguish over what he has done and so, decide not to act out his irrationality. We cannot live our lives in total fear of the chance that a bad thing might just happen to us. With 300 million citizens and less than a dozen mass murderers, what are the odds of preventing just one more? If we spend billions to find a reason for this aberration the whole of society might benefit. Those expenditures will never guarantee that another Sandy Hook will never happen, but hundreds of individuals with less extreme problems would probably be helped. None of this will even touch the rampant street violence we see in our inner cities. That is a societal problem that can only be resolved within the community.


Posted: January 21st, 2013 8:29 AM

@rj--you and "Wild Bill" are now exposed as tea-bagging wack jobs. You are why there should be universal background checks and why right wing nutjobs should be exposed and medicated.


Posted: January 20th, 2013 11:18 PM

Fort Hood shooter Maj Hassan was a registered democrat, Virginia tech shooter sent hate mail to 'W', James Holmes, Aurora, CO shooter was a registered democrat, Obama supporter & Occupy Black Bloc member, Adam Lanza, Sandy Hook shooter was a registered democrat and hated Christians. Ray, go to Liberals With Guns video! and many more!

Julie C  

Posted: January 20th, 2013 9:28 PM

And what could possibly go wrong?

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: January 20th, 2013 1:06 PM

Remember tho old adage about it being better to have a gun and not need it than to need one and not have it. The mass murderers we have seen in recent times were not evil people they were sick people. Not a little sick but a whole lot sick. The armed guard solution will go unused 99 + percent of the time, but when needed no one will anguish over their being at hand when instant response is required. I watched a presentation by a company that is setting up video surveillance of schools. They do low profile surveillance of every one around or entering a school and if a questionable thing happens the person is not allowed through any of the doors till a police officer arrives. Additionally all of the doors to class rooms are secured. This is all accomplished at a lower cost than having a cop in every school. The kids are being protected without obvious intervention by armed forces.


Posted: January 20th, 2013 12:11 PM

King kept firearms for self-protection. In fact, he even applied for a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

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