America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 24

Ida B. Wells was a journalist who
exposed lynchings in the South in
the late 19th century. She wrote:
" A Winchester rifle should have a
place of honor in every Black home. "

Opponents of the AR-15, America's most-popular rifle, argue that
its repeating capability is exceptional and that such a thing was
not contemplated by the framers
and ratifiers of the constitutional
right to arms.
This is false.
Many versions of repeating firearms were available at the time of
the framing. But the most-vivid
demonstration that the right to
arms was embraced with full appreciation for the capabilities of repeating firearms is the transformative
post-civil war extension of federal
constitutional rights as limitations
on states through the Fourteenth
Amendment in 1868.
The views of the drafters and
advocates of the Fourteenth
24

Amendment are plain. Sen. Jacob
Howard of Michigan introduced
the proposal by explaining that " the
great object " of the amendment is to
" restrain the power of the states and
compel them in all times to respect
these great fundamental guarantees
... secured by the first eight amendments of the Constitution; such as
the right to keep and bear arms. "
The same congress that advanced
the Fourteenth Amendment also
abolished southern state militias,
demonstrating a vision of the right
to arms as an individual right, and
not merely some federal protection
of state prerogatives.
By 1868, the capabilities of repeating rifles were widely understood.
In 1861, B. Tyler Henry's 16-shot,
lever-action rifle already had

FEBRUARY 2021 I AMERICA'S 1 ST FREEDOM

powerful advocates in the Union
Army. The Secretary of War, Edwin
Stanton; Secretary of Navy, Gideon
Welles; and President Abraham
Lincoln all received gifts of presentation-grade Henry rifles. In May
of 1862, the Henry was tested at the
Washington Navy Yard, where one
15-shot magazine was fired in 10.8
seconds. A total of 1,040 shots were
fired with hits made out to 348 feet
on an 18-inch square target. This
was done with .44-caliber cartridges
firing 216-grain bullets.
Commentary from the period
highlights the acknowledged utility
of the lever-action repeater in the
context of civil unrest. In July 1862,
George Prentice, editor of the Louisville Journal, said, " In these days
when rebel outlaws and raids are
becoming common in Kentucky. ...
Certainly the most effective weapon
that could be used with the most tremendous results is the one that we
have mentioned recently on two or
three occasions, the newly invented
rifle of Henry. " Prentice ultimately
bought several hundred Henry rifles
and resold them to loyal Union men.
After the war, the utility of the
repeating rifle was abundantly clear
to Black people who plainly needed
more than the parchment barriers
of the Fourteenth Amendment to
protect them against both private
terrorism and the overtly hostile
state and local governments.
The Black Codes of this era (local
and state laws that aimed to reinstitute slavery in a different form)
reflected the age-old wisdom that
subjugation requires disarmament.
The Freedmen appreciated instinctively that arms were vital to their
survival. They defied local and state
disarmament efforts and defended
their neighbors, friends and selves.
We know from newspapers of the
day, petitions to Congress, and
reporting of Freedman's Bureau
Photo: Mary Garrity / Google Cultural Institute



America's First Freedom - February 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of America's First Freedom - February 2021

Contents
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - CW1
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - CW2
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - Cover1
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - Cover2
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 1
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - Contents
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 3
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 4
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 5
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 6
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 7
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 8
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 9
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 10
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 11
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 12
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 13
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 14
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 15
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 16
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 17
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 18
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 19
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 20
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 21
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 22
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 23
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 24
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 25
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 26
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 27
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 28
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 29
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 30
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 31
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 32
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 33
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 34
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 35
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 36
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 37
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 38
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 39
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 40
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 41
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 42
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 43
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 44
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 45
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 46
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 47
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 48
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 49
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 50
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 51
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 52
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 53
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 54
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 55
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 56
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - Cover3
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - Cover4
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - CW3
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - CW4
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