The National Rifle Association used Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the federal holiday honoring the Civil Rights icon who was assassinated by a man with a sniper rifle in 1968, to point out that King had applied for, and was denied, a concealed carry permit in 1956.
“Today, the men and women of the @NRA honor the profound life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” the tweet from the gun organization stated. “Dr. King applied for a concealed carry permit in a ‘may issue’ state and was denied. We will never stop fighting for every law-abiding citizen’s right to self-defense.”
The tweet sparked outrage, with many pointing out that a gun couldn’t have saved Dr. King’s life when he was murdered years after he applied for the permit.
“Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated with a firearm legally purchased by an escaped felon with a lengthy criminal record, in an era before background checks, waiting periods, or any of the rational reforms the NRA has fought against throughout its modern history,” CNN opinion writer Jeff Yang tweeted.
Media Matters for America’s Timothy Johnson noted that Dr. King stood for gun control in his later years.
“The part the NRA always seems to forget: Dr. King later repudiated gun ownership, saying, ‘How could I serve as one of the leaders of a nonviolent movement and at the same time use weapons of violence for my personal protection?’” Johnson wrote in his tweet.
That quote came from King’s autobiography, in which he explained his evolution on the issue of gun ownership, describing a conversation he had with his wife in those years: “Corretta [Scott King] and I talked the matter over for several days and finally agreed that arms were no solution. We decided then to get rid of the one weapon we owned.”
He added that the decision to disarm himself made him feel safer. “I no longer needed a gun nor have I been afraid,” he wrote. “Had we become distracted by the question of my own safety we would have lost the moral offensive and sunk to the level of our oppressors.”
Malcolm Nance, a former U.S. Navy intelligence specialist with experience in Iraq, tweeted: “Martin Luther King has his brains blown out by a sniper’s rifle. This as insulting as a noose. #DeletetheTweet.”
— Malcolm Nance (@MalcolmNance) January 21, 2019
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also got herself in hot water when she tweeted: “Today we honor a great American who gave his life to right the wrong of racial inequality. Our country is better thanks to his inspiration and sacrifice #MLKDay.”
He was assassinated Sarah https://t.co/SZ14TXQqGq
— Mary Wilson (@MaryWilsonTV) January 21, 2019
King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. King was supporting striking sanitation workers and staying at the Lorraine Hotel; he was shot while standing on his balcony.
James Earl Ray was convicted for the murder of King.