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Let’s talk about how we’d have more gun safety reforms if more Black people had weapons.

On May 24, 2022, 18 year old Salvador Ramos entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas equipped with two semi-automatic rifles and proceeded to shoot and kill two teachers and 19 children. After 77 minutes of being in the school, he was eventually shot and killed by Texas border patrol officers.

Days later on May 27th, the National Rifle Association hosted its 151st annual conference just 300 miles away from Uvalde in Houston, Texas. In response to the disheartening event, the NRA released an online statement saying, “meeting attendees will ‘reflect on’ the Uvalde school shooting, ‘pray for the victims’, recognize our patriotic members, and pledge to redouble our commitment to making our schools secure.”

Twenty-three years earlier on April 20, 1999, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris stood outside of their high school in Littleton, Denver and began firing guns at their fellow classmates. Armed with semi-automatic rifles, pistols and explosives, the Columbine High School Massacre (which was the deadliest school shooting since the 1960s) resulted in 19 deaths, including the shooters. 

Members of the Black Panther Party march into the California state Capitol, May 2, 1967

Black Panthers march with legal guns, Mulford Act signed in response

Immediately after Columbine, leaders of the National Rifle Association held a conference call to “deal” with the crisis and discuss if they should move forward with hosting their 128th annual conference in Denver which was scheduled 10 days after the shooting. The decision was made not to cancel the event because it would give them a platform to respond to criticism and also a cancellation would be an opportunity for attacks by the national media.

Finally, in the late 1960s, 30 Black Panthers stormed the California state capitol building with legally owned rifles and shotguns. However, it wasn’t to commit a  massacre like what we saw in Uvalde or Columbine. Nor was it an insurrection like what we witnessed on January 6, 2021

The Black militia group went to the capitol to protest the Mulford Act which would ban public carry and disarm the Panthers. While there, they presented a counterproposal to the legislation that was drafted largely in response to and fear of the group legally carrying firearms.

The Mulford Act for gun control was sponsored by the NRA and signed into law by Governor Ronald Reagan who was also a member of the NRA. Reagan would later become President of the United States and continue an onslaught of assaults on the Black community.

No action on gun violence for decades

Between 1999 and 2022, 311,000 students have experienced gun violence at school with no meaningful action or response from the NRA.  I also mentioned the deadliest school shooting before Columbine was in the 1960s but the NRA failed to respond to that, too. 

But in the 1960s, when the Black Panthers started carrying their weapons throughout the streets of Oakland to protect Black people from police terrorism, the NRA and government acted swiftly.

With these three examples, the writing’s on the wall. As the country has a history of grappling with devastating gun violence and mass shootings, the government and NRA have obviously been more concerned with Black people having guns to protect their communities than White people carrying out acts of domestic terrorism on children. 

So now, with Black people living in fear that they might be the next victim of a racially charged mass shooting, it may very well be time to revisit Black Panther philosophy and arm ourselves. And with America’s documented fear of gun-toting Black people, we could find ourselves in a windstorm of racially motivated gun reform legislation that keeps our schools safe.

I never thought I’d see the day when racism might be the problem and the solution. Smh.

Tanesha Peeples is driven by one question in her work--"If not me then who?" As a strategist and injustice interrupter, Tanesha merges the worlds of communications and grassroots activism to push for radical...