Fact-Check: Did the NRA support gun control when the Black Panthers advocated that minorities arm themselves?

Yes, but it’s complicated.

UCLA law professor, Adam Winkler, explains in a 2011 article for The Atlantic that the National Rifle Association, or the NRA, has been in existence since 1871 and was originally created to be an organization that would provide marksmanship programs. Through most of the NRA’s history it supported, or at least, condoned gun control initiatives including the 1968 Gun Control Act, which expanded the government’s ability to prohibit criminals and those with mental impairments from owning firearms. It wasn’t until 1977, when Harlon Carter took leadership that the organization began its more strict 2nd Amendment Rights agenda.

The reference to the Black Panther Party probably refers to the Mulford Act enacted in 1967 under Ronald Reagan during his period as Governor of California. This act effectively restricted citizens from carrying guns in public and created one of the countries most strict gun control regulations. This was a direct reaction to the Black Panther Movement’s rise in California and in the 1960s, the NRA would not yet have been a hard-line advocate for gun ownership rights. In the 1980s Reagan changed his opinion on the subject. He would begin to actively encourage 2nd amendment rights to keep citizens safe from the despotism that could be enacted by government, just what African Americans had been hoping to achieve in the 1960’s when he had instead endorsed the Mulford Act. The post 1977 NRA endorsed their first presidential candidate, Ronald Reagan, after both had switched to a more strict 2nd amendment rights defense.

So, to a certain extent the statement is true; The NRA was supportive of gun control in the 1960s during the Black Panther Movement. But by the late 1970s the organization’s goals had changed and both groups would advocate minimum restrictions on gun ownership.

By Katie Ledvina
Katie is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay with majors in Psychology, Public Administration, and Political Science and minors in Human Development and Global Studies. Following graduation Katie plans to begin work in administration or research for a public or nonprofit human service provider in the field of public health.

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  1. Two more items concerning post term Ronald Reagan that should be added to this history:

    In 1991 Reagan backed the Brady Bill which placed a 7 day waiting period on purchasing guns and allowed for background checks.

    Along with former presidents Ford and Carter, Reagan signed a publicly posted letter backing the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban.

    It could be suggested that his so called strict 2nd Amendment defense in the ’80’s was his public stance just long enough to get him through his two terms as president.

    1. Excellent point Bill. I wish more folks would be willing to do a little more research and get to the more “complete” truth out there….

      1. Well, here’s the thing. I’m actually open-minded toward reasonable restrictions on gun possession (convicted felons, mentally unstable, etc.) and that implies an openness to background checks, because you have to be able to apply those restrictions effectively.

        The problem, though, is that those on the left of this issue are completely untrustworthy. I have no doubt they would be happy to accept any “middle ground” compromises I offered on the issue, and then would carry right on their agenda of trying to achieve a total ban. If I felt they would negotiate a compromise in good faith and then stick to it, I’d be willing to discuss. But when when the other side’s objective is “total victory by any means,” then you… Don’t. Give. An. Inch.

        It takes two to tango.

  2. It should also be noted that by the time Reagan changed his mind in the 80’s, the Black Panthers had already been “resolved” through the governments Cointel program, thus no longer considered a threat to the status quo.

  3. Please note that it should be “country’s” and not “countries” in the paragraph discussing the Mulford Act.

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