Larry Ward, the chairman of Gun Appreciation Day, a crypto-racist rally scheduled to coincide with celebrations next week of Martin Luther King’s birthday as well as the second inauguration of America’s first black president, actually said this on national television on Friday:
LARRY 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.
This is a new classic in right-wing counter-factual history — right up there with Michele Bachmann’s claim during the primaries that “the Founders fought tirelessly to end slavery” or former GOP Senate leader Trent Lott’s assertion on the 100th birthday of South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond, who ran for president in 1948 on the neo-Confederate Dixiecrat party ticket, that “…when Strom Thurmond ran for president, we [Mississippians] voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.”
Ward’s statement is equally ludicrous. From time immemorial, slave owners — as many of the Founders were — have never permitted their slaves to be armed. The reason for this is so obvious it need hardly be said. Let’s just say that the concept of “armed slaves” is oxymoronic, and leave it at that.
But even if in Ward’s alternate upside-down universe the Founders had allowed their slaves to arm on “day one,” which would have been in 1789 when the Constitution was ratified, it wouldn’t have erased slavery “as a chapter in our history.” That chapter began more than a 160 years earlier, in the 1620s, when the first slaves arrived in the colonies.
More fundamentally, by sanctioning slavery in the Constitution, the Framers embedded injustice into the law. They guaranteed the “right” of white men to own slaves whom the Framers also explicitly denied freedom in the same set of laws. This flaw in the Constitution eventually drove the country into civil war — but even the temporary vanquishment of the Old South did not guarantee equal rights for African-Americans. It took another hundred years and a crusade for civil rights led by Martin Luther King to rewrite the Constitution so that equal rights for the descendants of the slaves owned by the founding generation was finally codified into law.
Which brings us to the worst aspect of Ward’s statement. Dr. King’s crusade for equal rights, which was based on nonviolent activism, was cut short when he was martyred by a segregationist with a gun. He would be 84 if he were alive today, but the idea that he would support an event promoting the proliferation of guns is an offense to his memory, not to mention common sense.
So who is Larry Ward, and why would he say things that were so factually wrong and outrageously stupid on national television?
He is a right-wing political operative who serves as president and CEO of Political Media, an online conservative development company and propaganda outlet. In his corporate biography, he proudly states that he is a protege of “world-renowned political consultant, and Fox News commentator Dick Morris.”
That speaks volumes.