Partly out of dissatisfaction with the National Rifle Association, a D.C.-based media consultant is calling for a nationwide celebration of guns -- and despite accusations that he's leading a fringe coalition, Larry Ward says the backers of Gun Appreciation Day aren't extremists.
"If being a constitutionalist is extreme, so be it," said the man who recently told CNN that if blacks had guns, slavery wouldn't have happened.
Political battle lines have already been drawn over Gun Appreciation Day, the brainchild of Ward, a Capitol-Hill-based conservative media operative who confronted gun protesters on the street shorly after the Newtown, Conn., shooting.
Some liberals have taken offense, and a smattering of conservative groups have signed on in support.
He says the point is to make a case that's not being made.
"We want to let people know that there is another side of the argument," Ward told ABC News. "We had a week when it was just one side -- 'We have to have gun control' -- 24/7. People need to understand there's another side, and there is logic to that side. This is not just an emotional, 'Don't take our guns.'"
Ward is calling on sympathizers to visit gun stores and firing ranges and exercise their Second Amendment rights on Saturday, Jan. 19, two days before President Obama's inauguration and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Ward has set up a website, GunAppreciationDay.com, and he's collected an odd mishmash of sponsors, who've all signed on for free, including libertarian PACs, small-time gun-rights groups, ideologically-driven gun-sellers, non-ideologically driven gun-sellers, a family-operated firing range, conservative nonprofits, a small-government-themed rock band, a landscaping company based outside of Pittsbburgh, and, as MSNBC's Zachary Roth has pointed out, at least one group that traffics in one-world-government conspiracy theories.
Ward started concocting Gun Appreciation Day soon after the Newtown school shooting in response to gun protests outside his office two blocks from the Capitol -- or, rather, outside the National Rifle Association's D.C. office, which happens to be next door.
Ward represents conservative clients through his firm, Political Media; Revolution PAC, the libertarian group launched by Ron Paul supporters, is one of his biggest.
When the protesters showed up on the street outside, he leaned out his third-story window and shouted back at them: "Arm the teachers, arm the principals."
The protesters booed.
A local news affiliate spoke with Ward, and he suggested that if a single teacher at Newtown had been armed, dozens of children could have been saved.
He launched Gun Appreciation Day on Jan. 4, and, predictably, it's caused some controversy. It's highlighted some of the confusion in the gun debate right now.
A liberal group called United for Change USA has launched a petition to stop Ward's day, taking particular offense at the MLK/Inauguration Day coincidence.
It reads: "Gun groups are planning to have a National Gun Appreciation Day on January 19th, the same weekend that Americans celebrate the life and service of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an American leader who was assassinated by a rifle's bullet. This is an outrage and a slap in the face to Americans who value life and freedom!"