So desperate is the National Rifle Association booster Dana Loesch to defend all forms of gun ownership that she chose the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s murder to claim the famously non-violent pastor was a gun fancier and would be alive today if had been granted a permit to carry a concealed weapon which he once sought.
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Her comments came as Loesch was attacking an article in The New Yorker by Rich Benjamin titled, “Gun Control, White Paranoia, and the Death of Martin Luther King Jr.”
In the article, Benjamin recalls that after King’s 1968 assassination, there was a move in Congress to use it to get passage of gun-control legislation that had been proposed after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 but had been blocked.
“I hope this brutal, senseless killing will shock the Congress into backing me in this fight to take the guns from the hands of assassins and murders,” said Sen. Thomas J. Dodd of Connecticut.
Loesch sees it very differently, claiming King might have survived if he had been allowed to carry a concealed weapon at the time.
“Despite his attempt to make King’s death a failure of gun control policies at the time,” says Loesch, referring to the New Yorker arrticle, “he finds no room to mention that King himself had sought to own a weapon, for his own self-defense, and he was denied.”
In that one sentence, Loesch mangles the truth and twists the reality of what happened.
The fact is that King owned quite a few firearms because he was concerned that he had been the subject of frequent attacks and death threats, mostly from Southern racists who opposed his efforts to get equal rights for African Americans and others.
It is true that in 1956 after his home was firebombed, King applied for a permit to carry one of his many guns as a concealed weapon in Alabama, but the racist police and government there at the time denied his request.
In early April 1968, King and other leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference had gathered in Memphis to discuss plans for an upcoming march and participate in a sanitation workers strike in that Tennessee city.
As he did repeatedly, King stayed in the same second-floor room at the Lorraine Motel as he always did, where at around 6 p.m. on April 4 he went out on the room’s balcony.
It was there that King was struck by a single 30-60 bullet fired from a Remington Model 760 rifle, that caused his death.
There was no shootout at high noon where King could have used one of the many guns he owned, concealed or otherwise, to defend himself because he was killed from a distance without warning by an ex-con and convicted felon.
Loesch doesn’t get into how it really happened, and that he never had a chance to draw his gun or fight back, or that he was killed by a felon who under a sensible gun control law would never have been able to own that Remington rifle.
Efforts at effective gun control legislation in 1968 were unsuccessful largely because the reaction of most white people to the violence of the era was not to make guns illegal, but rather to buy and own as many guns as possible for their self-defense.
Then as now, gun advocates used the false claim that the government wanted to take away all guns and not just require sensible reforms like registration of owners, keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, and banning the sale of military-style assault weapons that have no purpose in hunting or personal home defense.
The most insulting thing about Loesch’s remarks is that she fancies herself as the heir to the legacy of Dr. King because what she took from his non-violent movement is the need to listen to all sides.
“Everyone wants to be right so bad that no one wants to understand why they’re wrong,” says Loesch, “and why it’s better for them maybe, perhaps, to have a public engagement of ideas instead of screaming at everyone that you’re terrorists or murders.”
The irony, of course, is that it is Loesch and her handlers at the NRA who refuse to hold a dialogue and even consider a few sensible gun control laws, preferring to urge their followers to allow the ownership of all guns, of all kinds,, at as young an age as legally possible, while calling those who disagree a threat to the Second Amendment.
It is the First Amendment, not the Second, that allows Loesch to say all these outrageous things and to try and co-opt the memory of one of the great civil rights leaders of all time.
So the part of the constitution she should be protecting at this moment in history when her hero Donald Trump wants to eviscerate the right of the free press and dissenting public to speak out, and actually welcome a dialogue on guns instead of the obstinate stand that has come to be the hallmark of the NRA.