When Martin Luther King Day and Gun Appreciation Day Come Together


Scenes from a weekend of passionate gun-related rallies across the political spectrum

For Americans of all persuasions, guns were a major theme this Martin Luther King weekend. For those incensed by violence, there were gun-control church sermons. For those who believe in unfettered Second Amendment rights, there were pro-gun rallies. Larry Ward, an organizer of Gun Appreciation Day on January 19, started his week by taking on Al Sharpton on a talk show. Martin Luther King, Ward said, would have approved of Gun Appreciation Day -- the civil rights leader had once tried to get a gun but was denied a permit. Sharpton, outraged, countered that King believed in non-violence and was killed by a bullet.

On Saturday, you had to wait out a two-mile traffic jam to get into a Gonzalez, Louisiana, gun show. In Baton Rouge, more than 200 anti-gun-control activists turned up at the state capital annex at high noon, as part of the national Guns Across America protest. Their message: Weapons are not the problem. If anything, video games and Hollywood movies are to blame for the nation's upsurge in violence. Ben Ernst from Pontchatoula, Louisiana, who held a "Save our Children" sign, explained, "The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. That's why we call police. Our schools need to have more police."

Tom Parker, an announcer for a TV show called Freedom Forum on a Lafayette, Louisana, cable network, worries about Obama's recent executive orders. "The bottom line is they are all over-reaching." He doesn't want the government deciding which citizens can own guns worries that medical confidentiality will erode if doctors have to report mentally ill patients.

On Sunday, meanwhile, two New Orleans churches took part in the Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath, with hundreds attending services. During a sermon in St. Peter Clavent Church, a priest read out the names of people killed by bullets, starting with Martin Luther King and ending with the children and staff killed at Sandy Hook, Connecticut.

When he asked the audience to call out the names of people lost to gun violence, countless voices rang out, including that of Tirza Williams, who lost her 19 year old cousin Joseph Veal. "It is our job to keep our kids as safe as possible." she said. President Obama's 23 executive orders and a ban on assault weapons are steps in the right direction, she said. "My community doesn't need more guns. Too many lives have been ended with bullets."

Meanwhile, on Monday, five people were shot on New Orleans's MLK Boulevard following a parade honoring Martin Luther King's birthday. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, New Orleans police chief Ronal W. Serpas had this to say: "It's the state of affairs in our nation that young men do not heed the words of Martin Luther King Jr."

Jump to comments
Presented by

Julie Dermansky is a multimedia reporter and artist based in New Orleans. She is an affiliate scholar at Rutgers University's Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights. Visit her website at www.jsdart.com.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Time JFK Called the Air Force to Complain About a 'Silly Bastard'

51 years ago, President John F. Kennedy made a very angry phone call.

Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus


Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.


Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.


Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.


Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.


The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air



More in National

Just In