More seasoned SGN readers can remember the summers of 1967 and 1968, which were scarred by massive riots in places like Detroit, Newark and Washington, D.C. Hundreds were killed and property damage was in the billions. Damage from the 1968 riot was still easily visible when I arrived in Washington in 1976.
Some seem determined to bring back those "long, hot summers" in the middle of one of the coldest Novembers on record. A grand jury in St. Louis is deliberating whether to indict Ferguson, Mo., policemen Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown. The incident ignited several nights of violence in August. Much of the unrest was initiated by outside agitators who arrived from other parts of the country. Representatives of a motley collection of left-wing and anarchist groups have kept the pot stirring all fall, with plenty of apocalyptic rhetoric about what will happen should the grand jury fail to indict Wilson.
A new ingredient was added to this bubbling stew earlier this week when the "St. Louis Coptalk" forum ran a post from "A Concerned Cop" warning locals to arm themselves in advance of possible rioting (we can't provide a link, since the forum has been closed except to registered members):
"If you do not have a gun, get one and get one soon. We will not be able to protect you or your family. It will be your responsibility to protect them. Our gutless commanders and politicians have neutered us. I'm serious, get a gun, get more than one, and keep one with you at all times."
Now, no one is more in favor of people popping down to their friendly local gun dealer than I am, and news reports from St. Louis indicate that people have avidly been taking Concerned Cop's advice.
I can't, however, resist throwing in a cautionary note. People who read SGN own guns, have generally had them a long time and spend a lot of time thinking about and even practicing for armed encounters. In case of civil disorder, they'll know when to shoot and when to hold their fire. My guess is a good percentage of new gun owners will do just fine, but the smaller percentage who won't, they are cause for concern.
As we learned from the Trayvon Martin case, there are powerful forces in this country who regard gun ownership as a racist white man thing. They'd love nothing better than for some inexperienced new gun owner to get all trigger-happy on what inevitably will be referred to as "peaceful protesters." The anarchist element, many of whom are whites from outside the state, can be counted on to mount provocations, and if someone gets shot, well, it's for the revolution, man.
Political and law enforcement leadership has shoved a lot of chips on the table, too, with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declaring a state of emergency and activating the National Guard. Reports of a large federal presence were given credence when an employee posted photos of 150 Department of Homeland Security vehicles in a hotel garage. Police response to the summer riots, which featured lots of armored vehicles and full-auto weaponry, ignited a national debate about the Pentagon program that provides military arms and vehicles to local departments.
There's a lot about the 1960s to remember fondly: Motown, love beads, mail-order guns. Riots, not so much. Let's hope gun owners, old and new, use their firearms with discretion if the stones start flying.