In a surprisingly excruciating ass-kicking, Al Sharpton beat the living crap out of gun proponent Larry Ward today on Politics Nation. You know Larry, the guy who decided that guns were undeservedly under-appreciated in this country, and so has been traveling Punditstan touting his Gun Appreciation Day idea, which he claims does not make him a fringe extremist – he is merely a lowly constitutionalist, a righteous everyman populist crusading for the rights of you and me. It is a matter of principal; the gun companies’ money has nothing to do with it, nor is it a reaction to the Newtown shooting – it is, rather, a “reaction to the reaction” to the Newtown shooting.
In response to those on the left who think that Gun Appreciation Day is a really, really bad, offensive, crazy idea, he says he merely aims to “let people know that there is another side of the argument.” (That side seems like it’s already a bit crowded to me, what with the NRA and the Gun Owners of America club, but hey, I’m sure they can make room for one more guy with a nutty idea.) Ward, who usually spends his time being a “conservative media operative” and so is a little tone deaf when it comes to public messaging, has killed two birds with one bullet (which he’ll tell you is definitely the best way to do it) in a poor-judgement double-whammy: he went on record saying “if blacks had guns, slavery wouldn’t have happened” to CNN, and also scheduled his Gun Appreciation Day for January 19th – I suppose to leech as much importance out of the inauguration as possible – which is Martin Luther King Day weekend. To make it look like the latter wasn’t an accident and that he does know how to read a calendar, he has made an even more ill-advised attempt to adopt Martin Luther King Jr. into his argument for Gun Appreciation Day. This is where Sharpton comes in.
I don’t particularly like Al Sharpton, or his show, but some of the stories he covers are bizarrely compelling, and I like to keep the news on as background noise. So when I heard Ward trying to convince Sharpton that Martin Luther King Jr. would have been pro-gun, and would have supported his special day, I perked up.
The most relevant portion begins around 5:20, but it’s worth it to watch the whole thing, if for no other reason than to let the tension build and watch Sharpton test his jabs and crack his knuckles. Ward, to his credit, does keep very cool and composed under pressure – neither retaliating, nor backing down, nor asking for mercy – though I have to imagine that after hauling around his giant turd of an idea for a while, he must be used to it by now.
Understand, I don’t necessarily disagree with Ward’s sentiment. I would probably agree with some of the same gun policy principles that are guiding him, and it does seem like the pro-gun movement needs a little spin and some damage control. I’m making fun of him for the idiotic, disingenuous, poorly planned and executed way he went about it. Creating and promoting something like Gun Appreciation Day makes the pro-gun movement too easy to demonize, and too easy to paint as extremist and unreliable, and with disorganized priorities. Particularly with popular opinion as it so stands, Gun Appreciation Day was a punchline from the outset, so ready-made to be mocked that it could have been thought up by TV comedy writers. It sounds out-of-touch at best, and at worst like mockery or rub-your-face-in-it strutting, like the bone you’d throw a dog because he’s not important or human enough to command a respectful response. The pro-gun movement will not help their cause by being dumb or aloof – or by alienating black people by trying to explain to Al Sharpton, with a straight face, how Gun Appreciation Day “honors the legacy of Dr. King.”