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Copyright (c) 1999 San Diego Law Review Association
San Diego Law Review

ARTICLE: California's Attempts to Disarm the Black Panthers

Fall, 1999

36 San Diego L. Rev. 947




I. Introduction
Imagine this scene: You are a young black male living in Oakland, California in 1966. The police are terrorizing you during random car stops and identification checks. Many of your friends live in substandard housing, and if they make it through high school, are rewarded with a trip to Vietnam. White men are maintaining control over the government and most of the businesses. Your prospects for a successful future seem bleak.

Enter a group calling themselves the Black Panthers. They speak to you about "Black Power" and equality among the races and classes. For African-Americans, they demand full employment, an education, decent housing, and an exemption from military service. They also teach you the benefits of carrying a gun for self-defense. Interested?

On the other hand, what if you are a white state assemblyman in California, and the thought of an armed black community frightens you? You know that if you could somehow disarm this militant black group, you could convince your colleagues and constituents that California would never experience the destructive urban riots that had just devastated Detroit and Newark. Significantly, perhaps, as a member of the mostly white power structure, you would maintain your position of authority over the less fortunate, unarmed classes, and you could prevent an armed force from attacking and crippling the state.

When the Black Panthers screamed of an armed black populace on the verge of a revolution in 1966, the California Legislature responded with a gun control ...
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