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This chapter examines the Panthers’ evolving gun politics. It contextualizes the BPP’s stance on armed self-defense as part of a nationwide conversation by black nationalists and elements of the New Left and traces the roots of the Panthers’ engagement with armed self-defense to the political traditions retained by southern migrants to Oakland, as well as the regional influences of initiatives confronting police brutality, such as community action patrols in Watts. The Panthers would come to recognize the limitations of their armed stance and adopt organization-building tactics aimed at providing counterweights to their violent image.

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