Larry Ward, chairman of Gun Appreciation Day, appeared on CNN on Friday to defend his event. When confronted with the fact that Gun Appreciation Day coincides with the celebration of civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr, who was assassinated with a gun, Ward insisted that his event “honors the legacy of Dr. King.” Ward didn’t stop there; he argued that if African slaves had been armed, they would have been able to prevent slavery from ever happening:
WARD: 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 of United for Change USA pointed out that many people were outraged over the attempted co-opting of MLK Day, calling it a “power play.” Martin Luther King, Jr. a strict disciple of peaceful resistance, was shot by an assassin in 1968. The Gun Control Act of 1968, the nation’s first comprehensive federal firearms regulation, was passed in response to King’s assassination, as well as the murders of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Malcolm X.
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.
Despite the lack of historical evidence, gun advocates have been trying hard to frame their cause in historical terms, comparing the plight of gun owners to the civil rights movement, Nazi Germany, and Cuba.