Clarence Thomas – standing alone in a concurring opinion – took the most fascinating position in the Supreme Court’s Second Amendment decision this week.
It has to be one of the blackest writings ever to come out of the court, including anything authored by Thurgood Marshall. In arguing that gun ownership is “essential to the preservation of liberty,” Thomas dwells on the long and horrifying history of white massacres of unarmed or poorly armed African Americans in the South, especially after Reconstruction fell apart following the Civil War.
Thomas particularly execrates the United States v. Cruikshank decision of 1876, in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that the federal First Amendment and Second Amendment didn’t protect citizens against actions of state and local governments.
The context is important: The case arose from the infamous Colfax Massacre, in which more than 100 blacks were killed by a white militia after they tried to guard the local courthouse against a takeover by pro-slavery Democrats.
Excerpt from his opinion:
Cruikshank’s holding that blacks could look only to state governments for protection of their right to keep and bear arms enabled private forces, often with the assistance of local governments, to subjugate the newly freed slaves and their descendants through a wave of private violence designed to drive blacks from the voting booth and force them into peonage, an effective return to slavery.
Without federal enforcement of the inalienable right to keep and bear arms, these militias and mobs were tragically successful in waging a campaign of terror against the very people the Fourteenth Amendment had just made citizens.