UPDATE: Following the publication of this story, Gun Appreciation Day removed the American Third Position from its list of sponsors and released a statement about its decision. A screenshot of the original listing is available here.
Gun Appreciation Day, a prominent effort backed by conservative media outlets and activists to oppose new gun laws, has accepted the sponsorship of a white nationalist organization to promote and mobilize supporters for its January 19 event.
Gun Appreciation Day (GAD) is partnering with the American Third Position (A3P), a political group that describes itself as representing "the unique political interests of white Americans." According to a party official, the organization is composed of "white nationalists."
GAD's organizers ask supporters to visit "gun stores, gun counters, gun shows, and gun ranges to protest the Obama administration's post Sandy Hook assault on gun rights." The event has received significant media coverage and promotion in recent days.
GAD lists A3P on its "sponsors" page along with its logo, motto ("Liberty. Sovereignty. Identity") and a link to American3rdPosition.com. Other sponsors include prominent conservative media outlets like RedState, the right-wing blog edited by CNN contributor Erick Erickson. The event's main page asks visitors to "Please Support Our Sponsors."
The pro-gun event is teaming with A3P despite ample and easily found evidence of the group's fringe views. The first Google result for the group after its official website is the user-edited Wikipedia page for A3P, which currently states in its opening sentence that the group "promotes white supremacy."
According to its mission statement, "The American Third Position Party believes that government policy in the United States discriminates against white Americans, the majority population, and that white Americans need their own political party to fight this discrimination." The group also states that it "exists to represent the unique political interests of white Americans. It exists to maintain the identity, culture, and way of life of the American people, whose forefathers, from a vast wilderness, carved out an awe-inspiring extension of Western civilization, in order that their progeny--us--might live in relative peace and prosperity."
Civil rights groups have harshly criticized A3P. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) categorizes A3P as a white nationalist hate group, and states that it is a "political party initially established by racist Southern California skinheads that aims to deport immigrants and return the United States to white rule. The group is now led by a coterie of prominent white nationalists." The Anti-Defamation League calls A3P a "white supremacist political party."
In an September 2011 interview with West Virginia Public Broadcasting, Harry Bertram, A3P West Virginia chairman and a failed gubernatorial candidate, explained that "we are white nationalists" who are speaking out against white "genocide":
While the party has been called white supremacist, Bertram says that's totally inaccurate.
"White supremacist is always used by left-wing liberal media types who tend to paint a broad brush on people and try to demonize them," he said. "There's nobody that I know that's a white supremacist because that's like a slave owner, someone who wants to dominate over another person or people.
"What we say, we are white nationalists which means we love our race and are willing to do something to preserve it, nationalist means putting America first.
"When you start to destroy someone's culture and identity, bringing in a different group of people who aren't the same background, that's sort of committing genocide against that group. And we're not going to stand for it without speaking out against it," said Bertram.
A3P's website posts its white nationalist views on a variety of topics. On "race issues," the group writes:
A3P stands to protect White American interests, since no other political party has shown interest in doing so. This does not make us racist, but protective of our rights - which every other race or group is encouraged and praised for doing. Discriminatory "affirmative action" programs and the invasion of illegal immigrants adversely affect the welfare of all Americans, but especially the White majority.
The goal of A3P is therefore to restore and preserve the legitimacy of White identity, White heritage, and expressions of White interests. We want to stop the divisive, orchestrated destruction of America and restore her to greatness.
On immigration, A3P warns that "our people will become a minority in America within only a few decades":
During the 1960's, our immigration system was transformed to favor persons from Third World countries incapable of assimilating into any European homeland. If current demographic trends continue, our people will become a minority in America within only a few decades. We cannot let our children grow up in a nation that is fast becoming the Brazil of the Northern Hemisphere. The vast majority of immigrants, both legal and illegal, come from nations in Latin America, Asia and Africa lacking in education, science, art, law, governance or industrial achievements in any way comparable to ours. Numerous studies have confirmed that there is no net economic benefit to the U.S. economy from Third World immigration due to the added costs of education, infrastructure, health care, welfare programs and law enforcement.
An A3P platform guide urges: "Return to Americans their traditional right of freedom of association, including voluntary racial separation; the abolishment of all forms of government-mandated and corporate-mandated racial discrimination, such as affirmative action, quotas, and all forms of 'racial sensitivity training.'"
The SPLC reported that at the time that he was named A3P chairman, William Daniel Johnson "had been advocating for the deportation of all non-white immigrants and U.S. citizens, including anyone with any 'ascertainable trace of Negro blood,' since 1985, when he wrote a book arguing for a constitutional amendment to do just that."
GAD's website contains a sponsorship registration form, and states: "If you have an Political or Member Organzation [sic], Non-Profit, For Profit, PAC, Blog, Newsletter and/or Facebook Fan Page and want to help spread the message of the first ever national Gun Apprecation [sic] Day we want to add your group to our website as a sponsor." To become a sponsor, "No cash required (we will accept contributions to help us buy ads Online and On Air) , we just ask that you spread the word to your memebers [sic], fans and followers every day until and including January 19, 2013." The website states that prospective sponsors should "fill out the form below and we will be in touch."
A3P, in turn, is promoting the day on its website along with a link to GunAppreciationDay.com and an event flyer. A3P's website posted a "position paper" on gun violence which claims that "commencing in the 60's, psychiatrists leading the liberal political left have been in charge of America's social agenda. They have stricken God from the schools, instead of ethics and morals they teach moral relativism, the entire society has been perverted through misinterpretation of the first amendment to believe that gay is OK, that violence is fine, that the new way is better."
MSNBC.com's Zachary Roth reported on several other groups sponsoring GAD that hold extreme right-wing views.
Gun Appreciation Day is organized by Political Media Inc., a Washington-based Republican consulting firm headed by Larry Ward. Ward, who also serves as GAD chairman, recently came under derision for claiming that "Martin Luther King, Jr. would agree with me if he were alive today that if African Americans had been given the right to keep and bear arms from day one of the country's founding, perhaps slavery might not have been a chapter in our history." Ward has stood by his comment and claims that GAD "honors the legacy of Martin Luther King, but also the entire civil rights movement."
UPDATE: In a statement responding to Media Matters' report, Gun Appreciation Day wrote that while they have attempted to screen out groups "that might detract from the message," "We mistakenly missed one. We have removed the group and reiterate this event is not about racial politics, it is about gun politics." The statement:
The small hard working staff at Political Media, Inc has been working diligently throughout the Gun Appreciation Day Campaign. The volume of support we have received has been overwhelming. We decided to have an open registration for sponsorship for Gun Appreciation Day put a screening process in place to avoid associating the event or Political Media, Inc. with groups or businesses that might detract from the message.
We mistakenly missed one.
We have removed the group and reiterate this event is not about racial politics, it is about gun politics. We believe in equal rights of ALL Americans in every race, gender, religion, location and economic class to keep and bear arms as guaranteed to them in the Bill of Rights.
Gun Appreciation Day also wrote on its Facebook page: "Guys, the screening process of our sponsors was apparently not deep enough - We have corrected the problem, but you should know the left wing media called us out on it as they should have. We know better and I apologize for not catching this...but we are forging ahead - This is about Gun Liberty for all."