The Long Island political consultant who dreamed up the Jan. 19 national Gun Appreciation Day told Human Events the protest was a great success and sent a message to members of Congress wavering on gun rights.
“Like any other angry political advocate, I was watching the 113th Congress and getting hacked off,” said Larry Ward, whose firm Political Media works with conservative candidates. “What I saw was an avalanche of momentum going in the gun control direction—and I figured we needed to put the brakes on it and make a strong statement pretty fast.”
The consultant said another factor was that he felt it would be better for him to take hits in the media instead of his clients. “I’ve been doing this for about 10 years now, but this is the first time I have taken a lead role—usually that is what my clients do.”
Ward said he went through his options and the best way he came up with under the time pressure was to emulate the Chik-fil-a Appreciation Day last summer. “Not only would it get people across the country involved, it was also a great local protest on a national issue.”
The Lindenhurst, N.Y., native said having Gun Appreciation Day rallies across the country also gave members of Congress a headcount in their own districts of how many of their constituents are concerned about gun rights.
To facilitate the GAD, Ward said he set up a website, where visitors could download pre-designed flyers and posters. In the fortnight before the day, more than 500,000 people came to the site for information and resources.
“We didn’t make any attempt to try and organize anybody,” he said. “It was just ‘get out there, do it yourself and stand strong.’”
After he put the ball in motion, Ward said a coalition of individuals, organizations and companies, including many gun stores, took the ball and ran with it.
But, the key was to have a decentralized, national protest that local people took ownership of themselves, which is what happened, he said. “I even saw flyers at a rally that I didn’t provide—which is great.”
He was surprised that New York State had the strongest response in the country, Ward said. The biggest rally was at the New York statehouse in Albany with speeches by legislators, who objected to the Jan. 15 passage and signing into law of the New York Safe Act. The act is a sweeping restriction Empire State gun rights.
“The protest in Albany, the state capital, was enormous,” Ward said. “I’ve been told that there were thousands, and thousands of people there are far as the eye could see.”
Despite hostility towards firearms in the mainstream media, Ward said the press coverage was almost fair and helped promote the cause.
The foreign media was also very interested, he said.
“The international media was all over it,” he said. “I did several stories for an Australian network, which is developing a documentary on guns in the U.S., the BBC and ITN, which is the NBC of the United Kingdom, some Canada, some stuff from SkyNews and the Belgium news network—the world was watching.”
Like the media in America, the foreign media was left-of-center, he said. “Each time, it was interesting sparring match, but I think we certainly got our message across: ‘You can give up your right to defend yourself, but we’re not going to.’”