Larry Ward, chairman of “Gun Appreciation Day (GAD)” and president of Political Media, Inc., raised eyebrows — and debate — today with a controversial statement he made about firearms and slavery. Arguing that guns are essential to preserving Americans’ freedom and liberty, Ward said on CNN that, had African Americans been armed, the institution of human servitude might not color the nation’s past. TheBlaze spoke with the advocate following the segment to clarify his remarks.

“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,” he proclaimed in the CNN interview. “And I believe wholeheartedly that it’s essential to liberty.”

His on-air opponent, Maria Roach of United for Change USA, immediately called his claim “ridiculous,” going on to subsequently dismiss Ward’s GAD efforts.

Watch the exchange, below:

A longer version of the clip can be viewed here:

In a phone interview with TheBlaze, when asked to clarify his comments, Ward explained his reasoning in detail.

“The point — and I think it’s a pretty simple one — is that well-armed citizenry are essential to liberty and without a well-armed people, the government or a group of tyrants can enslave them,” said the GAD leader.

Liberal blog ThinkProgress voiced its angst over the comments in a post earlier in the day on Friday:

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 [...]

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.

When asked to respond to anyone who may be put off by his statements, Ward said that he felt he didn’t say anything offensive.

“I think that slavery was a black mark on this country and it’s — we fixed it — we got rid of it,” he continued. “[But] there’s no harm in looking back and saying, ‘Well, why did that happen?’ I believe one of the reasons why African Americans were enslaved is because they didn’t have the right to fight back.”

While ThinkProgress makes the claim that revolts were attempted and failed, Ward notes that African Americans were not permitted to own guns, with the latter fact, in his view, impacting their ability to seek adequate justice and protection for themselves.

What do you think? Did Ward make a valid point — or no? Let us know in the comments section below.

Related: