Lindsey Graham, his AR-15, and the Rodney King riots

Updated
AP Photo/Susan Walsh
AP Photo/Susan Walsh
Susan Walsh

Lawless behavior in the wake of the Rodney King riots—including “marauding gangs” that were “raping” the women of Koreatown—justifies the need for an AR-15 assault rifle in your home arsenal, according to Sen. Lindsey Graham.

The South Carolina Republican delivered that assertion, during Wednesday’s Senate judiciary committee hearing on gun violence in America while challenging the notion Congress should regulate the size of firearm magazines.

Graham cited a question that came during the Google Hangout his “good friend” and vice president Joe Biden held last week on the topic of guns. “What if there’s an earthquake out here and there’s a lawless situation,” Graham said, inaccurately paraphrasing the question from video blogger Philip DeFranco.

Graham then invoked the six days of racially charged rioting that followed the Rodney King verdict and resulted in 53 deaths, thousands of arrests, and ultimately a military presence on the streets to restore calm.

“In 1992 you had the riots in Los Angeles, I think it was the King event, but you could find yourself in this country in a lawless environment through a natural disaster or a riot,” Graham said, making his own jump from earthquake to race riot.

“And the story was about a place called Koreatown,” the Senator said. “There were marauding gangs going through the area, burning stores, looting and robbing,” he continued, with a pause, “and raping.”

Evidence of “marauding gangs” who were “raping” the women of Koreatown is hard to find—and may not exist at all. Two scholars who have written extensively on the Los Angeles riots, which marked a 20-year anniversary in 2012, characterized Graham’s imagery as “unfounded hyperbole” and “political theater.”

To Graham, however, this violent moment in American history 2400 miles away from South Carolina, requires big at-home firepower.

“And the vice president said, in response to—that’s why I want my AR-15 [again, an inaccurate characterization of DeFranco’s question]—he said no, you would be better off with a 12-guage shotgun. Well, that’s his opinion, and I respect it.”

Of course, he also disagrees with it.

“I have an AR-15 at home and I haven’t hurt anybody and I don’t intend to use it,” he flexed. “But I think I would be better off protecting my business or my family if there was law and order breakdown in my community, people roaming around my neighborhood to have the AR-15, and I don’t think that makes me an unreasonable person.”

The political motivation of Graham’s casual description of “marauding gangs” of rapists was further exposed in his strident defense of gun advocate Gayle Trotter, who called the AR-15 the weapon of choice for “millions” of American women and testified that women need high capacity weapons to protect themselves and their children.

“When you start telling me that I’m unreasonable for wanting that women to have more than six bullets, or to have an AR-15 with people roaming around my neighborhood, I reject the concept,” he said.

Lindsey Graham, his AR-15, and the Rodney King riots

Updated