Earl Ofari Hutchinson
The Florida school shooting, and the national debate on guns and gun violence, comes just weeks before the nation marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr in April 2018. King was one of America’s most tragic and noted victims of gun violence.
But there’s a curious note to this. One of the great falsehoods propagated by the NRA to beat back any move to put any checks on rampant gun proliferation is that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., would have backed gun owner rights. The NRA bankrolled a promo on this on the King Holiday in 2014 and since then there has been a rash of NRA inspired articles claiming that King was a passionate gun owner. This is based solely on the brief moment in time during the Montgomery Bus Boycott campaign in 1955, when King did possess a gun for protection after the constant threats to his life.
However, King turned the tables and used the experience as a teaching moment on the perils of guns and violence. Here is his admonition for the ages about guns:
” I was much more afraid in Montgomery when I had a gun in my house. When I decided that I couldn’t keep a gun, I came face-to-face with the question of death and I dealt with it. From that point on, I no longer needed a gun nor have I been afraid. Had we become distracted by the question of my safety we would have lost the moral offensive and sunk to the level of our oppressors.”
In the wake of the Florida school shooting, and the dozens of other mass killings that have shattered countless lives in America, King’s moving repudiation of guns, and gun violence, and the NRA’s falsehood about him and guns, stands as a powerful testament to the urgent need to take whatever steps necessary to end gun violence in America. This would be fitting tribute to America’s greatest advocate and practitioner of non-violence 50 years after his death by gun violence.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book, Forty Years Later: Why the Murder of Dr. King Still Hurts (Middle Passage Press). He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.