National Rifle Association News host Cam Edwards compared the experience of opponents of new gun laws in Colorado during the legislative process to the experiences of victims of racial segregation.
Edwards hosted Laura Carno, the founder of conservative nonprofit I am Created Equal that is seeking to remove Colorado Senate President John Morse from office for supporting legislation to require background checks on gun sales and limit high-capacity magazines. During this discussion, Edwards said, "We have seen a great deal of disrespect shown to gun owners throughout this process," and added, "It's not just that our rights aren't being respected, our voices aren't being respected."
He then read from the dissent in the 1896 Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson, which railed against the majority ruling that established the racially discriminatory "separate but equal" doctrine. Quoting from Justice John Marshall Harlan's dissent, Edwards said, "In the view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here," and, "In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful."
From the June 4 edition of NRA News' Cam & Company:
EDWARDS: We have seen a great deal of disrespect shown to gun owners throughout this process. It's funny, on the one hand they say well it's time to have this debate, but a debate requires both sides to be heard. Whether it's lawmakers in Connecticut who were playing solitaire or checking their Facebook while people who had traveled for hours and sat there in meetings for hours finally had two minutes to speak to the type of behavior we saw from these lawmakers including Senate President Morse in Colorado.
It's not just that our rights aren't being respected, our voices aren't being respected. We the people aren't being respected here by those who purport to be our public servants.
CARNO: Right and that's exactly our brand at I am Created Equal, and why we were so interested in jumping into the game here is I the citizen am created equal to you the elected official. You're not the king; you don't get to tell me what to do. And when I heard the Tea Party leader from Wetumpka, Alabama, speaking today and having some of those same kind of words, I thought this really resonates with people, that people are kind of sick of elected officials acting like they're our betters, they know what we should be doing with our lives, and they don't need to listen us. People are sick of that.
EDWARDS: Well, absolutely. Look we joke about the betters and the bumpkins on this program. And I am definitely a member of team bumpkin. But I read a bit, Laura, and I tell you, this message I think has resonated, it's part of the fabric of American society and American tradition. I was reading the dissent in Plessy vs. Ferguson today, the case that set up segregation and separate but equal and in that dissent Justice Harlan said, "In view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here." He went on to say, "In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful." And you know what Justice Harlan was writing in the dissent in that case, I would like to think that if we have progressed in this country since then, we have progressed to the point that we understand that Justice Harlan was absolutely right. We don't have castes. We don't have betters in this country. We the people are equal in the eyes before the law.
CARNO: Yeah, how great is it to live in a country where our founding documents, they document human equality. I mean it was what allowed us to get rid of slavery out of all of the countries where it existed for millennia.
The NRA often references past instances of racial discrimination in the United States when opposing gun violence prevention proposals.
During a May 4 keynote speech at the NRA's annual meeting in Houston, Texas, conservative commentator Glenn Beck adopted the mantle of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in telling the audience to join him in a passive resistance movement that he compared to lunch counter protests.
Beck told the audience, "Our right to keep and bear arms will not be infringed. We will follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ, we will follow the footsteps of Frederick Douglas, Winston Churchill, Thomas Paine, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, [David] Ben-Gurion, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Ghandi, Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King, hear me now. Hear me now. We shall overcome."
NRA board member and conservative columnist Ted Nugent has also co-opted imagery from the civil rights movement, particularly when he stated during a January 9 interview with birther website WND, "there will come a time when the gun owners of America, the law-abiding gun owners of America, will be the Rosa Parks and we will sit down on the front seat of the bus."
During a January appearance on NRA News, past NRA President Marion Hammer compared the prospect of a ban on assault weapons to racial discrimination, stating, "banning people and things because of the way they look went out a long time ago. But here they are again. The color of a gun. The way it looks. It's just bad politics."