WASHINGTON — Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. said he was inspired to advocate for the protection of the Second Amendment after reading about the efforts to keep guns out of the hands of freed slaves who fought for the right to bear arms.
“The fight by the abolitionists, post-slavery, for blacks to be able to be armed — do you know that gun control, early gun control, was really about keeping guns out of the hands of black people? We as black people have been so separated from our history it’s astounding to me. We should be some of the most ardent supporters of the Second Amendment because our history was not being able to possess arms to be able to defend ourselves from mobs, kidnappings and lynchings,” he said during a Heritage Foundation event, “The Right to Arms and the War on Guns.”
“The 13th Amendment freed the blacks on paper but it wasn’t until the 14th amendment that made the rest of this Constitution including the Second Amendment apply to black people, and we truly became free because we could defend ourselves. It’s the first law of nature — self-defense. We all want to live,” he added.
Clarke read a passage from Stephen P. Holbrook’s book, That Every Man Be Armed, about the “black tradition of arms,” which included a series of partial quotes from Frederick Douglas about the right to bear arms.
“When government failed to protect the just rights of any individual man that man rests of his original right of self-defense even if it means unfortunately shooting down his pursuers,” the passage read. “Slavery is a system of brute force…it must be met with its own weapons.”
After Clarke read the passage, he said, “My ancestors, the abolitionists, fought for me to be able to defend myself and you, but the right already applied to you and you think I am going to cede this back to the federal government after what they went through to obtain this right. I said, ‘you’ve got to be kidding me.’”
Clarke told the audience that supporters of the Second Amendment today are not doing “such a good job” with winning the “emotional” argument on the gun-rights issue.
“We can win the argument on the data and research – but the question is, can we win the emotional argument? Because that’s where we don’t do such a good job, which is why I try to deal with this stuff from a common-sense perspective,” he said.
Clarke argued that the “anti-gun left” knows there is no public support for a huge shift in the Second Amendment through the process of amending the U.S. Constitution.
“They know it. It’s been polled,” he said. “So they do it in a very sneaky way, in a very underhanded way. One of the ways they do it is through activist courts, but one of the things they realize, too, is that this is an elephant — how do you eat an elephant? One spoonful at a time, and eventually you will have consumed that entire elephant – and that’s what they are doing.”
Clarke said Americans have been “conditioned” away from guns over time to the point where people are afraid of them even though automobiles kill more people each year.
“We are not afraid of cars, though, are we? Because we haven’t been conditioned to looking at a vehicle and saying, ‘well, that’s scary stuff. I’ve got to stay out of there.’ As we know in life there’s no such thing as absolute zero risk. There’s risk in everything — just like driving a car. There’s a chance someone could run a red light and kill you, but we assume some of this risk.”
Clarke continued, “All of a sudden with guns we are looking for zero risk. It doesn’t exist.”