Commentary: Buy a Gun, Honor MLK?

The chairman of the unofficial “Gun Appreciation Day” says guns honor MLK and that slavery could have been avoided if only Blacks had more guns.

Posted: 01/14/2013 05:43 PM EST

Gun advocates have been trying everything in their power to stave off gun opponents since the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, in which dozens of people — most of them little children — were killed.

The NRA, for instance, hatched a plan to end school shootings by putting an armed guard into every school in America, a plan that was immediately and loudly criticized by nearly every rational person in the country.

Now, another gun proponent is taking a different — but still old school — tactic, warning people that without guns, their safety from tyrants is in jeopardy. In fact, he says, if Black people had been well-armed hundreds of years ago, slavery would have never happened. Yeesh.

Larry Ward, the chairman of the newly founded “Gun Appreciation Day,” says that on Jan. 19, two days before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Americans should turn out to buy guns in order to “honor” Dr. King’s memory and remember that guns are important in combating the forces of racial oppression. In an interview with CNN, Ward explained his twisted ideas:

"I'd like to address the Martin Luther King Day charge," Ward replied. "I believe that Gun Appreciation Day honors the legacy of Dr. King."

He added: "The truth is, I think Martin Luther King 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. And I believe wholeheartedly that's essential to liberty."

Maria Roach, a CNN guest opposing Ward, called his ideas “just theater,” adding that there “is selfish, self-serving intent in a Gun Appreciation Day.” But even if Roach is right, Ward’s words cross over from being just selfish to also being historically inaccurate and offensive. In Ward’s mind, apparently, the only reason slavery came to pass was because Black slaves weren’t heavily armed enough to kill their slavers.

Perhaps Ward learned history in Django Unchained, but in reality, giving Black people a lot of guns wouldn’t necessarily have ended slavery before it ever even began (just as giving one army a lot of guns won’t ensure that that army defeats another army).

In the real world, slavery was created and persisted because a whole host of complex social constructs, institutionalized bigotries and governmental allowances came together to break down generations of Blacks and keep them subjugated. Slavery didn’t happen because slaves didn’t have guns, just as slavery didn’t happen because Blacks are biologically destined to be servile, as Leonardo DiCaprio claims in Django.

Slavery was something so difficult to understand that some academics spend entire careers studying it. That said, it’s telling to hear someone argue that the solution to slavery was as simple as arming slaves. It’s that kind of thinking coming from the most vociferous opponents to gun bans that’s quite terrifying.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: CNN)

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