downtown Los Angeles

1992 Los Angeles Riots: ‘There Are No Atheists In Foxholes; There Are No Liberals In Riots’

I haven’t really thought about the 1992 Los Angeles Riots since I put together a piece that appeared on the shooting sports news website AmmoLand.com back at the beginning of May 2012- the twentieth anniversary of the “Rodney King Riots.”

And then racially-charged protests and looting occurred in Ferguson, Missouri.

Last night, I was looking over some of the L.A. Riot-related material I had gone through over two years ago. A couple of news articles of the time stand out as the Missouri National Guard take their turn patrolling the streets of Ferguson tonight:

The police tolerated armed citizens. Jonathan Lovitt reported in the May 4, 1992, edition of USA Today:

Many hundreds of people, alarmed by law enforcement’s inability to control the chaos, took up weapons throughout the riots.

Police were grateful. “You get a guy standing over you with a gun and you’re not going to loot … and that’s fine with us,” said Sgt. George Wright of Los Angeles Police Rampart Division.

Anti-gun types quickly “saw the light.” Lovitt added:

The rush to weapons began almost immediately after the riot’s first vivid images went out over TV.

Shopkeepers said some gun buyers were lifelong gun-control advocates, running to buy an item they thought they’d never need – only to find themselves blocked by gun-control legislation that requires Californians to wait 15 days.

“The customers were angry about the waiting period but they bought the guns anyway,” says Barry Kahn, who owns B&B Sales, one of the region’s largest gun outlets. “These people were different from my usual customers. They were definitely first-time buyers.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

American ingenuity shone. Lovitt wrote:

But many buyers beat the restrictions, purchasing exempt “antique” firearms, made before 1941…

Others employed different tactics. Black-owned shops hung signs saying “Black-owned and operated: Do not Loot” with the name of a prominent gangster, an enforcer, below. Along trendy Melrose Avenue, store owners boarded up windows and hung “for sale” or “for lease” signs, hoping looters would search for visible booty.

Some Los Angeleans prepared accordingly. Phil Sneiderman wrote in the Los Angeles Times on April 9, 1993:

Still, some residents are concerned that police would not be able to halt widespread violence. Area gun shop owners said they have noticed an increase in people buying guns over the past few weeks, well before the federal King beating case neared an end.

“They knew the trial was starting and that there would be a verdict eventually,” said Steve Cotter, whose family runs Hilldale Sales, a Simi Valley gun shop. “They knew about the 15-day waiting period, and they started buying early.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

A memorable quote was born. Ron Soble wrote in the Los Angeles Times on August 17, 1992:

Part of the rush for weapons was caused by police inability to initially control the riot, said her husband, Steve Cotter, who waits on customers with a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson stuffed into his holster.

That spawned a public perception that “if the police can’t handle it, we’ll handle it ourselves,” he said.

Such emotions even motivate liberal advocates of gun control to buy a weapon for the first time, he believes.

“There are no atheists in foxholes; there are no liberals in riots,” he said.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Ammo sales were banned in L.A. Soble added:

On top of the waiting period was an emergency order issued by Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley on April 30, which banned ammunition sales in Los Angeles until May 20.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The California National Guard initially had no ammunition. I blogged on September 14, 2012:

Watch for yourself the following news segment where then-California Governor Peter “Pete” Wilson admits California National Guard troops weren’t initially given bullets:


“LA Riots the GOV explains that the Guard has no ammo”
YouTube Video

Governor Wilson revealed:

There was some hesitation on the part of the Guard officers. I gave the order that they should take the ammunition that they had distributed as I would think they should in any case to those who are platoon and squad leaders making it available as needed.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Finally, guns saved lives and property. According to self-described “anti-gun feminist to armed feminist” Katherine von Tour in 1999 on KeepAndBearArms.com:

One day, just before the riots exploded, I was driving in downtown LA in a scary part of town. It was dusk. As I was stopped at a stop-light, with one car in front of me, two men who had been watching me began quickly and menacingly approaching my car from the sidewalk. One of them was carrying a tire iron.

I grabbed the pistol, which I had laid on the seat beside me, and held it up so they could see it.

The look in their eyes changed in an instant from threatening to fearful, and they immediately turned around and ran in the opposite direction. The light changed. I drove away.

No one was hurt, but a gun in my formerly liberal hand had, I believe, probably saved my life, or at least prevented me from likely injury…

Within a week, the very street where this incident happened had erupted in rioting, looting and killing.

I watched on television as the Korean grocers defended their property with AK-47’s and AR-15’s, and thus prevented it from being torched and looted. The police couldn’t stop the violence and killing.

I had friends who worked in the garment district in LA who barely made it out alive, and who told tales of pulling out pistols and having would-be attackers turn tail and run away.

Guns were saving lives and property.

As the riots threatened to spill over into Beverly Hills, myriad Hollywood types stormed gun stores to arm themselves, only to be told that there was a 15-day waiting period; radio talk shows boiled with people calling in and screaming about how unfair this was, and how the law was leaving them helpless.

Some of them even admitted that they had previously supported the waiting period, and that they were now furious that it had left them unarmed.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Real insightful stuff, much of which I wouldn’t have known about without the Internet even though I watched the riots live on television while attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign a little more than 22 years ago.

And seeing that history never repeats- but often rhymes, as Mark Twain said- how much of the above will ring true in the next major riot on American soil?

We may find out as early as later tonight.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Lovitt, Jonathan T. “Survival for the armed.” USA Today. 4 May 1992. (http://www.jonathanlovitt.com/usa/SurvivalForTheArmed.htm). 18 Aug 2014.

Sneiderman, Phil. “Police Agencies Rehearse Riot Response Plans : King case: Authorities vow to back up one another if disturbances occur. Some area gun shops report brisk sales.” Los Angeles Times. 9 Apr. 1993 (http://articles.latimes.com/1993-04-09/local/me-21047_1_gun-shop). 18 Aug. 2014.

Soble, Ron. “Going Great Guns : Security: The L.A. riots trigger a firearms-buying spree in the county. First-time owners drive the boom in sales.” Los Angeles Times. 17 Aug. 1992. (http://articles.latimes.com/1992-08-17/local/me-5096_1_gun-sales). 18 Aug. 2014.

von Tour, Katherine. “My Transformation From Anti-Gun Feminist To Armed Feminist.” KeepAndBearArms.com. 1999. (http://www.keepandbeararms.com/information/XcIBPrintItem.asp?ID=635). 18 Aug. 2014.

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