When the Black Panthers Lobbied For ‘Open Carry’ Laws

In 1967, Two Dozen Black Radical Activists Entered California's State Capitol With Unloaded Shotguns

In 1966, it was legal to openly carry loaded firearms in the state of California—a legacy of the Gold Rush. In Jackson, a Sierra foothills town that retained the flavor of that era, one state senator was often seen wearing a holstered pistol.

But just a year later, the state legislature abolished open carry. It took a moment of racial dramatics at the state capitol in Sacramento, where I was a reporter at the time.

One day in the spring of 1967, Governor Ronald Reagan was scheduled for …