A major gun advocate is promoting his pro-firearms stance by saying that had African Americans been given the right to bear arms, "slavery might not have been a chapter in our history."
Larry Ward, chairman of Gun Appreciation Day, appeared on CNN Friday to defend the nationwide gun rally, which is scheduled for Jan. 19 -- just two days before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Talking Points Memo notes.
Ward insists that Gun Appreciation Day, which calls on gun activists across the nation to rally in support of the right to bear arms and against President Barack Obama's “post-Sandy Hook assault on gun rights," actually "honors the legacy of Dr. King."
"We are looking for a peaceful protest," Ward said. Continuing, "I think Martin Luther King, Jr. would agree with me if he were alive today that if African Americans had been given the right to keep and bear arms from day one of the country’s founding, perhaps slavery might not have been a chapter in our history."
Maria Roach, founder of United for Change USA, an organization dedicated to prison reform and gun violence prevention, called Ward's comments simply "ridiculous."
"Slavery means that you are a possession," she said on CNN. "Slaves were a possession, just like a gun." She continued to criticize Ward for celebrating weapons just two days before celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., who was assassinated in 1968 by a single shot.
Think Progress' Aviva Shen notes the caveats in Ward's armed-slaves argument:
Ward also neglects to mention that in fact there were many armed uprisings by slaves, as early as 1526. Armed revolts almost always failed, and often led to retribution by the slave owners, who had the justice system on their side. Most famously, Nat Turner led a rebellion that resulted in 60 white deaths and 100 black deaths. The state later executed 56 blacks accused of being involved in the insurrection, and white mobs beat and killed at least 200 others in revenge.
Gun Appreciation Day, backed by a coalition of conservative groups, not only coincides with MLK Day, but also Obama's second inauguration.
Roach's United for Change USA has launched a petition to stop Gun Appreciation Day, according to ABC News. "Gun groups are planning to have a National Gun Appreciation Day on January 19th, the same weekend that Americans celebrate the life and service of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an American leader who was assassinated by a rifle's bullet," reads the petition. "This is an outrage and a slap in the face to Americans who value life and freedom!"
As of Friday, the petition had garnered more than 26,000 of the 30,000 signatures needed on SignOn.org.