I respect the fact that many Americans defend the Second Amendment right to “bear arms” with great sincerity.
However, it is an indisputable fact that throughout the history of the United States, and until very recently, it has been a very mixed blessing, as it has also resulted in mobs of roaming racists taking the law into their own hands.
As Americans debate their gun laws, they would do well to also consider this important historical perspective. An armed citizenry – the “militia’ of the founding fathers – could well be considered a mixed blessing. Especially if you happen to be black.
I would urge you to read this article: http://www.examiner.com/article/armed-and-dangerous-right-wing-vigilantism-american-history
Wellthisiswhatithink says: Whatever gun laws are or are not put in place, the American people surely need to face their history unflinchingly, to understand this dynamic, and guard against it. The law-abiding, responsible gun-owning citizen is not the issue here. It is what guns can do in the hands of the wrong people, or where they are prevalent in the wrong situation.
*Although not specifically about guns – although they played their role – this infamous incident was part of the wave of racial and labor violence that swept the U.S. during the “Red Summer” of 1919 and is very relevant to an understanding of mob violence and vigilantism.
As in the nation at large, it was a turning point in the history of Omaha’s black community.
Following a national pattern, the local daily newspaper carried lurid, sensational accounts of attacks by African American males on white women, without similar coverage of assaults on African American women, by either black or white males.
After one particularly provocative story in September of 1919, Will Brown, an African American man, was arrested and held in the Douglas County Courthouse. Largely due to the newspaper story, a mob gathered. Omaha Mayor Edward P. Smith was nearly lynched himself when he unsuccessfully attempted to disperse the crowd. Then the mob broke into the recently constructed building, tearing off Brown’s clothing as he was being dragged out.
He was hanged on a nearby lamppost and then his body was riddled with bullets.
Finally the body was burned.
Members of the mob tied what remained of his charred body to an automobile, and dragged it around the streets of downtown Omaha. Pieces of the rope used to lynch Brown were sold as souvenirs for 10 cents apiece.
Although some of the leaders of the lynching were placed on trial, most received suspended sentences, or were convicted of minor offenses such as destruction of public property.
Some of the causes of the “Courthouse Lynching of 1919” were linked to Omaha city politics.
The mayor, who was a recently-elected reformer, was at odds with the machine-controlled police department, whose members were conspicuously absent during the height of the riot.
One of the thousands of witnesses to the lynching was a young man named Henry Fonda, who later remembered, “It was the most horrendous sight I’d ever seen.
My hands were wet and there were tears in my eyes. All I could think of was that young black man dangling at the end of a rope.”
Related articles from various perspectives
- Vigilante Fantasies (eschatonblog.com)
- A (Brief) People’s History of Gun Control (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Three Positions on Gun Control (redantliberationarmy.wordpress.com)
- Mexico vigilantes wound tourists (bbc.co.uk)
- ‘Vigilante dad pretends he’s mass-murderer to test grade school security’ (thelastofthemillenniums.wordpress.com)
- Another White Vigilante Murders a 17-Year-old African in Florida (slideshare.net)