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The past few weeks have seen a plethora of over-the-top reactions and a flurry of right-wing freak-outs over new proposals regarding gun control in the wake of the horrific shooting deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in which a lone gunman armed with an semi-automatic rifle shot and killed 20 children and seven adults, including himself.
One of the reactions is the organization of Gun Appreciation Day (GAD), an event scheduled for tomorrow and organized by Political Media, which calls itself a “Republican New Media consulting firm.” GAD has been touted in conservative media outlets and across the extreme-right blogosphere, encouraging supporters to attend local gun shows and go to local shooting ranges and gun stores in support of the Second Amendment. The website wants to “put the fear of God” into politicians who “infringe” on the Second Amendment and hopes that you’ll donate money to help combat “Big Media and the liberals’ dirty tricks.”
The chairman of GAD, Republican operative Larry Ward, who’s also the CEO of Political Media, even advertised the event on the apocalyptic, anti-gay, anti-Muslim and conspiracy-addled WorldNetDaily website. Ward decries the “liberal gun control crowd” that, according to him, “is using every trick in the book to try and stop us.” One of those alleged tricks, according to Ward, is “to insinuate that our efforts to protect the Second Amendment are racist.”
That’s funny, because as Media Matters noted this morning, GAD’s list of sponsors included American Third Position (A3P), a white nationalist political party. A3P was initially established in 2009 by racist skinheads in California. Attorney William “Bill” Johnson, one of the current leaders, was responsible for pushing the Pace Amendment in California in 1985, which called for the deportation of anyone with “any ascertainable trace of Negro blood.” Kevin MacDonald, one of the other current leaders, is a professor of psychology at California State University, Long Beach who is known for his anti-Semitic views and writings. The A3P website has stated that the party’s goal is to “restore and preserve the legitimacy of White identity, White heritage, and expressions of White interests.”
After the story was posted at Media Matters and then at Huffington Post, the A3P button on the GAD website disappeared (but you can still see a screenshot of it at the MM link above). GAD then released a statement without specifically mentioning A3P, claiming that the event is “not about racial politics” but rather about gun politics and that they “mistakenly missed” a group that might detract from GAD’s overall message.
GAD may have removed A3P, but a few of its other sponsors might also raise a few eyebrows. They include the hard-right, anti-government and conspiracy-ridden Oath Keepers, a group founded in 2009 for ex-military and law enforcement personnel who pledge to uphold the Constitution against foreign and domestic forces, including the “New World Order,” an imagined cabal that will take over America and enslave its citizens. The core of Oath Keepers beliefs are its “10 orders we will not obey,” which relate directly to Patriot fears of a government conspiracy, such as alleged plans by the U.S. government to impose martial law and force Americans into concentration camps. Individual Oath Keepers have also had run-ins with the law (see here, here, and here).
Another sponsor is Wake Up America, a group committed to “awakening Americans to the threats to our freedoms and liberties.” Its list of experts includes anti-Muslim and nativist activists like Gen. Jerry Boykin, now the executive vice president of the anti-LGBT Family Research Council; Walid Shoebat, who claims to be a former terrorist and who charges that the Muslim Brotherhood is part of a biblical prophecy to bring about the end times and that President Obama is part of the Brotherhood; NumbersUSA, a group that is part of a network of nativist groups created by John Tanton, who has ties to white nationalists; and Michael Peroutka, a lawyer who is a member of the neo-Confederate League of the South, a group that opposes “race-mixing” and claims slavery was “God-ordained.”
Tea Party Nation is also listed as a sponsor. Its president, Judson Phillips, has promoted the “birther” theory that Obama was not born in the U.S., while the group’s bloggers have defended the racist National Origins Act of 1924 in one instance and, in another, lamented that the “White Anglo Saxon Protestant population in America is headed for extinction.”
Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised by GAD’s seeming contradictions in its stance. After all, one of the memes it’s disseminating features an image of President Ronald Reagan, with a brief quote from the Second Amendment on it. Interesting juxtaposition, since Reagan and three others were shot and injured in 1981 in an assassination attempt. The bullet barely missed the president’s heart and lodged in his lung while his press secretary, James Brady, was permanently paralyzed.
Although Reagan actually loosened restrictions on guns during his administration, once he left office, he supported the Brady Bill, which created a national background check and mandatory waiting period for handgun purchases. It was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Reagan stated in a 1991 op-ed piece in The New York Times that he supported the bill, and that the assassination attempt 10 years earlier may never have happened had the Brady Bill been law then. In 1994, he co-signed a letter along with former presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter that urged Congress to enact a ban on the domestic manufacture of military-style assault weapons, which, they said, was “a matter of vital importance to public safety.