The Truth About Martin Luther King: Cops Denied Him Gun Permit So He Couldn’t Protect Himself

mlk police

Did you know that Martin Luther King Jr’s house was bombed in 1956?

Did you know that after the bombing occurred, he applied for a permit to legally own and carry a firearm for his self-protection?

“Most people think King would be the last person to own a gun. Yet in the mid-1950s, as the civil rights movement heated up, King kept firearms for self-protection,” writes author and UCLA Professor of Law Adam Winkler.



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“In fact, he even applied for a permit to carry a concealed weapon.”

It turns out that police would not approve Martin Luther King’s application for a permit.

Martin Luther King had every justifiable reason to be issued a permit, given that there were unceasing death threats made against him.

Perhaps more than anybody else at the time, Martin Luther King was in need of firearms for basic safety.

Why, then, did the police reject his application?

Professor Winkler remarks:

As I found researching my new book, Gunfight, in 1956, after King’s house was bombed, King applied for a concealed carry permit in Alabama. The local police had discretion to determine who was a suitable person to carry firearms. King, a clergyman whose life was threatened daily, surely met the requirements of the law, but he was rejected nevertheless. At the time, the police used any wiggle room in the law to discriminate against African Americans.

Unsurprisingly, police found Martin Luther King “unsuitable” to own a gun based on the color of his skin.



In fact they denied his application, harassed him, arrested him, and forced him to remain defenseless until the day he was killed.

Even today, police routinely disarm people as part of the US government’s War on Guns. Like the War on Drugs, people of lower income and people of color are disproportionately targeted in the War on Guns.

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Many non-violent people have been locked in cages for violations as frivolous as failing to register their firearms.

We will never know whether Martin Luther King could have prevented his assassination if cops had let him own a firearm for protection.

Were it not for the police intentionally disarming him, perhaps he would still be alive and active today.

Watch the video below to find out what Martin Luther King thought the 3 Evils of Society were.


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About author

Filming Cops
Filming Cops 3399 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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  • bxdanny

    Well, a pistol would hardly have protected him against the long-range rifle shot that killed him. And the permit application and its denial happened 12 years before his death. Obviously, blacks were discriminated against in just about every possible way in 1956, especially in the South. Many of the stories on this website are truly shocking and frightening, but this isn’t one of them.

    • I was surprised to learn that MLK applied for a gun permit, given how the US media typically portrays him. Whether it would have protected him, we can’t say for sure. It might have acted as a deterrent to would-be attackers. In either case, it is a fact that police unjustly prevented him from owning one.

      • Jeff Weinberger

        Please, FilmingCops, I really want to support where you’re coming from but sometimes your exaggerations make it hard. You’re doing bad journalism here, and roaming into the territory of unfounded propaganda which is the realm of Fascists. MLK with a gun would have done nothing to protect him from an unseen assassin. Just get real about that. The rest of the history is worth knowing.

    • MP

      just fyi he put in multiple applications for a permit just saying.

  • Roy

    The picture of mlk at top of page looks Photoshopped. Look around his neck. . Just saying

    • Christopher Jebus Wagner

      My sentiments exactly

    • Jeff Weinberger

      Please get real. It’s a famous photograph which has been public for over 50 years.

  • Christopher Jebus Wagner

    I sweat there’s something not right about that picture

  • Tracy Lund
  • dufas_duck

    Police showing up to celebrate MLK Day is sort of hypocritical, somewhat like the KKK showing up at a ‘Remember Selma Day’………

  • Silence Dogood

    So him being armed would have stopped him from being assassinated from a distance? Wow. What a reach to bash cops. Just dumb.

  • Christopher Aquilino

    To be fair he (King) rejected the idea of keeping firearms after this incident. And that was personally and for the movement in general. Bayard Rustin gets the credit for convincing him to adopt a firearmless non-violent approach. [1][2]

    [1] Last paragraph: http://rustin.org/?page_id=2
    [2] Second To Last paragraph in this section: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayard_Rustin#Influence_on_the_Civil_Rights_Movement