Civil rights leaders and advocates sharply criticized conservative commentator Ted Nugent for comparing gun owners to civil rights icon Rosa Parks, calling his views everything from a "very disingenuous comparison" to "offensive" and a "far-fetched fantasy."
Nugent, a Washington Times columnist and National Rifle Association board member, claimed earlier this week that gun owners will become the next Rosa Parks and offer nonviolent resistance if President Obama issues an executive order confiscating guns.
While Vice President Joe Biden has suggested that the White House could take executive action on guns, the administration has not indicated that such action would involve gun confiscation. The Obama administration has reportedly considered executive action in the past to ensure more mental illness records were included in FBI background checks for gun sales.
During an interview with WorldNetDaily, Nugent predicted that if an "actual confiscatory directive" came from Obama, then "heroes of the law enforcement will defy this order." Nonetheless, he worried that there were "enough soulless sheep within our government who would act on such an illegal order" and predicted peaceful resistance from "law-abiding gun owners," who would "be the Rosa Parks and we will sit down on the front seat of the bus."
This did not sit well with top civil rights advocates and organizations who saw Nugent's words as an insult to Parks' memory.
"It's offensive to make a comparison between the right of black people to sit on the front of a bus and the right of gun owners to own guns," said Julian Bond, chairman emeritus of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who was a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating committee in the 1960s and the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center. "Rosa Parks was protesting against a system that discriminated against her because of her race and color and Nugent is fantasizing about an alleged threatened right to carry a gun, to own a gun. As the story said, there's no hint that the administration has gun confiscation in mind. This is paranoia on the part of gun owners and the rights aren't the same either."
Damien Conner, executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a group whose first president was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., offered similar outrage.
"It's a very poor analogy and contrast to draw on his part," Conner said of Nugent in an interview with Media Matters. "Given that Rosa Parks and Dr. King and many of the others who worked with them were anti-violent, against violence and they were actually non-violent, they touted a non-violent philosophy for social change. In that respect, I think that it's a poor analogy and kind of a poor contrast to make that connection between Rosa Parks and gun owners, especially when we're dealing with a really violent culture obviously when we see multiple shootings happening in our country particularly in schools."
He added that such a view "distorts" Parks' legacy.
Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League, called Nugent's view a "far-fetched fantasy."
"The far-fetched fantasy of widespread confiscation of guns, deliberately disseminated by propagandists like Mr. Nugent, is a major roadblock to sensible firearms policy in America," Morial said in an email. "The civil rights struggle of the 20th Century, unlike Mr. Nugent's illusion, was very real, and enormously significant. Mr. Nugent demeans the memory of a courageous and peaceful hero by invoking Rosa Parks to further his insidious and destructive agenda."
Beverly Robertson, president of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, also found no basis for Nugent's fears, and criticized linking them to Rosa Parks.
"That's a bit hypocritical and totally false and dishonest," she said. "Rosa Parks went through a situation down in Alabama where she could not sit on the bus, she was discriminated against. What rights are being discriminated against those who want to own guns? They have the right to bear arms. It is totally and absolutely a false statement to compare an icon like Rosa Parks with the situation the NRA feels they are dealing with today."
She added: "To think they would use one of the icons of the non-violent movement to talk about guns is terrible. It is a very disingenuous comparison."
Gregory Lee, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, said Nugent was "off-base."
"Last I checked the Second Amendment exists still and has always existed," he said. "At the time Rosa Parks decided to sit down on the bus, there were no amendments to protect her. To try to compare gun ownership to civil rights for Rosa Parks is kind of off-base there."
He also criticized using Rosa Parks, a non-violent protester, to promote a violent weapon: "This is a non-violent movement, and guns by their very nature, whether you use them for hunting, it is a violent weapon. To compare those two is a poor parallel."