Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh sought to equate the fight for African American civil rights with opposition to gun safety on Friday, suggesting that the movement could have better protected itself from segregationists had it been armed. Limbaugh specifically signaled out Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), a nonviolent civil rights activist who was beaten during the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery.
“Try this,” Limbaugh said. “If a lot of African-Americans back in the ’60s had guns and the legal right to use them for self-defense, you think they would have needed Selma? I don’t know. I’m just asking. If (Rep) John Lewis, who says he was beat upside the head, if John Lewis had had a gun, would he have been beat upside the head on the bridge?” Listen:
Lewis has issued a response to Limbaugh, noting that “Our goal in the Civil Rights Movement was not to injure or destroy but to build a sense of community, to reconcile people to the true oneness of all humanity.” “African Americans in the 60s could have chosen to arm themselves, but we made a conscious decision not to. We were convinced that peace could not be achieved through violence. Violence begets violence, and we believed the only way to achieve peaceful ends was through peaceful means.”
Civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr — a strict disciple of nonviolent resistance — was shot by an assassin in 1968. In the wake of his death — as well as the murders of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Malcolm X — Congress passed, the Gun Control Act of 1968, the nation’s first comprehensive federal firearms regulation. Unfortunately, gun advocates have seized on King’s legacy to prevent gun safety reforms and are hosting a Gun Appreciation Day for the weekend of President Obama’s second inauguration. Larry Ward, chairman of the event, claims that it “honors the legacy of Dr. King.”