In his latest attempt to equate the civil rights movement with gun rights, Rush Limbaugh during his Friday's radio show questioned how civil rights leaders would have had to march for rights if they had greater access to firearms at the time.
Limbaugh kicked off the tirade by equating gun control activists with Bull Connor, a strong supporter of racial segregation who infamously ordered the use of fire hoses and police dogs against civil rights protesters. "So those of you who are not mobilizing to change the Second Amendment, those of you who are not mobilizing to make it more difficult to get guns and weapons are the modern equivalent of people who sat around and let Bull Connor turn his dogs loose on the marches at Selma," he said.
He continued, "If a lot of African-Americans back in the '60s had guns and the legal right to use them for self-defense, you think they would have needed Selma? I don't know, I'm just asking."
"If John Lewis, who says he was beat upside the head, if John Lewis had had a gun, would he have been beat upside the head on the bridge?" he asked.
John Lewis, now a congressman, was savagely beaten on "Bloody Sunday" during the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights march. He had been committed to nonviolence protests before that incident and remained so afterwards.
Limbaugh was referencing comments made by Tom Brokaw on Thursday's edition of Morning Joe. In a panel discussion on media culture and gun violence, which also included Rev. Al Sharpton and Richard Haass of the Council of Foreign Relations, Brokaw criticized the cultural inaction against gun violence to silence on segregation.
“Good people stayed in their houses and didn’t speak up when there was carnage in the streets and the total violation of a fundamental rights of African-Americans as they marched in Selma, and they let Bull Connor and the redneck elements of the South and the Klan take over their culture in effect and become of face of it. And now a lot of people who I know who grew up during that time have deep regrets about not speaking out,” said Brokaw.
The consensus of the panel's conversation following Brokaw's comments was that reasonable gun owners shouldn't be afraid to speak up in favor of moderate regulation just as moderate First Amendment advocates shouldn't be afraid to consider reasonable regulations on violent video games and other media.
Watch the exchange for yourself:
Limbaugh is not the first to connect the gun rights and civil rights movements as the post-Newtown gun violence debate has taken shape in the last few weeks.
Larry Ward, one of the organizers behind "Gun Appreciation Day" has argued that slavery could have been prevented if slaves had been armed and tried to argue on PoliticsNation this past Tuesday that Martin Luther King Jr. would have advocated for gun rights.
UPDATE - The office of Congressman John Lewis released the following statement in response to Limbaugh's comments late Friday afternoon:
“Our goal in the Civil Rights Movement was not to injure or destroy but to build a sense of community, to reconcile people to the true oneness of all humanity,” said Rep. John Lewis. “African Americans in the 60s could have chosen to arm themselves, but we made a conscious decision not to. We were convinced that peace could not be achieved through violence. Violence begets violence, and we believed the only way to achieve peaceful ends was through peaceful means. We took a stand against an unjust system, and we decided to use this faith as our shield and the power of compassion as our defense.“And that is why this nation celebrates the genius and the elegance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s work and philosophy. Through the power of non-violent action, Dr. King accomplished something that no movement, no action of government, no war, no legislation, or strategy of politics had ever achieved in this nation’s history. It was non-violence that not only brought an end to legalized segregation and racial discrimination, but Dr. King’s peaceful work changed the hearts of millions of Americans who stood up for justice and rejected the injury of violence forever.”