Viewing gun rights as under attack after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the National Rifle Association and its backers in conservative media spent 2013 using inflammatory rhetoric to attack critics and promote an uncompromising pro-gun agenda.
Both the NRA and its conservative media allies frequently attempted to draw modern-day parallels between Adolf Hitler's murder of millions during the Holocaust and the Obama administration's post-Newtown proposal to advance gun safety. One ugly event at the NRA's annual meeting saw the NRA's main political opponent illustrated as a Nazi, leading to condemnation from Jewish organizations.
Even victims of gun violence and the families of those killed at Sandy Hook could not escape the wrath of right-wing media, who insultingly called them "props" of the Obama administration, as if they were unable to think for themselves. The NRA similarly politicized the armed protection of President Obama's daughters in a widely criticized TV spot.
Ted Nugent, perhaps the best known member of NRA leadership, turned heads when he dubbed Trayvon Martin a "dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe" after the deceased Florida teenager's killer was acquitted. Even given his past racially inflammatory rhetoric, Nugent shocked many by piling on his Martin comment with a weeks-long tirade in which he endorsed racial profiling and claimed that the African-American community has a "mindless tendency to violence." The NRA declined to comment.
The year also featured a number of bizarre claims from the NRA, including the host of an NRA-produced television show comparing critics of his elephant hunting to Hitler, NRA head Wayne LaPierre's claim that gun ownership was essential to "survival," and NRA past-president Marion Hammer's comparison of an assault weapons ban to racial discrimination.
What follows are 12 lowlights from a year punctuated by extreme NRA rhetoric:
NRA-Sponsored Hunting Show Host Compares Critics Of Elephant Hunting To Hitler, Gets Fired
The NRA's safari-style hunting show Under Wild Skies came under heavy criticism after host Tony Makris shot an elephant in the face during a September 22 episode and then compared critics of his hunt to Hitler. Markis' killing of the elephant and subsequent champagne celebration led to a massive petition campaign to cancel Under Wild Skies. NBC Sports pulled the episode but declined to cancel the show -- until Makris said on NRA News that his critics practiced "animal racism" and shared a philosophy with Hitler. NBC Sports promptly dropped the program, citing Makris' "outrageous and unacceptable" comments.
WSJ Editor Suggests Gabby Giffords' Gun Shot Injury Meant She Was Unable To Write Op-Ed
Wall Street Journal editor James Taranto caused outrage in April after questioning the authenticity of an op-ed in favor of background checks on gun sales written by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who was shot in the head during a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona. Highlighting Giffords' schedule the day the op-ed was published, Taranto wondered how "we are supposed to believe that somehow in less than five hours a woman who has severe impairments of her motor and speech functions was able to produce 900 publishable words." Giffords and the families of victims of the Newtown mass shooting were common targets for conservative media during the national debate over gun laws.
NRA's Wayne LaPierre: Buy A Gun Or You Will Be Killed
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre was ridiculed for a February op-ed on a conservative news website that recommended buying guns and joining the NRA in order to ensure "survival" in the face of possible coming calamities including: "Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Riots. Terrorists. Gangs. Lone criminals," the threat of "Latin American drug gangs," and "the possibility of Euro-style debt riots, civil unrest or natural disaster." LaPierre concluded: "It's not paranoia to buy a gun. It's survival." Widely mocked for its over-the-top rhetoric and factual inaccuracies, the op-ed was also criticized by MSNBC host Joe Scarborough for being "so laced with racial overtones."
NRA's Ted Nugent Has Racist Meltdown, Calls Trayvon Martin A "Dope Smoking, Racist Gangsta Wannabe"
NRA board member Ted Nugent reacted to the July acquittal of George Zimmerman by calling deceased Florida teenager Trayvon Martin a "dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe." The verdict kicked off a racist tirade from Nugent, which included the claims that African-Americans should be profiled in the same way members of a community might profile a breed of dog that was biting children, that African-Americans could "solve the black problem" if they were more honest and law-abiding, and that the African-American community has a "mindless tendency to violence" and an inability to "read or speak clearly." Nugent offered various defenses for his actions including claiming he was not a racist, suggesting that racism had ended by the early 1960s, and that he was being persecuted for his comments like a "black Jew" in Nazi Germany. The high-profile NRA figure also revealed that he is a birther.
Glenn Beck's NRA Annual Meeting Keynote Address Compares Bloomberg To A Nazi
In a lengthy and largely incoherent keynote speech at the NRA's annual meeting in May, conservative radio host Glenn Beck projected onto a giant screen a doctored image of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- who is Jewish -- doing the Nazi "Sieg Heil" salute to criticize Bloomberg's involvement in the gun safety movement. Facing criticism, Beck acknowledged that he showed Bloomberg in "a 'Sieg Heil' salute" yet somehow denied he had depicted him as a Nazi. Anti-Defamation League Director Abraham Foxman called Beck's "Hitlerian salute" stunt "outrageous, insensitive and deeply offensive on so many levels," and called on Beck to stop trivializing the Holocaust. B'nai B'rith called Beck's comparison "inappropriate and unacceptable," while the National Jewish Democratic Council criticized Beck's "use of disgusting imagery" and called on the NRA to repudiate Beck, which it did not. The ADL also condemned then-NRA President David Keene and NRA Board Member Scott Bach in 2013 for their own comments that trivialized the Holocaust.
Adam Kokesh Plots To Overthrow The Federal Government, Ends Up In Jail
The topic of violent overthrow of the government briefly entered into mainstream conversation after conspiracy radio host Adam Kokesh used a popular Facebook page to organize an armed July 4 march on Washington, D.C. that would defy local laws against carrying guns in public. Kokesh later canceled the D.C. event but called on his supporters to march on all 50 state capitols with the goal of dissolving the federal government and warned that if the peaceful marches failed, "we may have passed the point at which non-violent revolution becomes impossible." Kokesh was arrested in July after posting a video online that showed him loading a shotgun in a downtown Washington park in violation of city laws. Kokesh pleaded guilty to weapons charges in November and faces up to six years in jail.
NRA News Claims Honoring Victims Of Gun Violence Makes "The World A More Dangerous Place For Women"
NRA News attacked the November Glamour magazine Women of the Year Awards for honoring several victims of gun violence including Pakistani education reformer Malala Yousafzai -- who was shot by the Taliban -- and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. NRA News host Cam Edwards theorized that Glamour had an "anti-gun agenda" and "the ideas that they're pushing prohibit people from protecting themselves, they prohibit people from exercising self-defense, they make the world a more dangerous place for women across this country." Guest Laura Carno, a Colorado conservative activist, suggested that Yousafzai could have defended herself from the Taliban with a gun, in contrast to Yousafzai's statement at the Glamour event that "the gun has no power at all."
Gun Rights Activists Plan "Guns Save Lives Day" On Newtown One-Year Anniversary
Influential gun rights organization the Second Amendment Foundation announced plans to hold a "Guns Save Live Day" on December 14 -- the one year anniversary of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that claimed the lives of 20 children and six educators -- at a September gun rights conference. SAF founder Alan Gottlieb said he hoped protests and meet-ups held nationwide on December 14 would "show America that there is a good side to guns." Gottlieb later moved the date to December 15. A website for the event said it would "honor" Newtown victims "by doing everything within our power to prevent misguided gun control laws from leaving Americans defenseless or worse victims." A Republican consulting firm that organized "Guns Save Lives Day" was also behind the January "Gun Appreciation Day," which came under after it was revealed that it was sponsored by several far-right organizations and a white nationalist group.
Past NRA President Claims Banning Assault Weapons Is Like Racial Discrimination
During a January discussion on NRA News about a proposal to ban assault weapons, past NRA president and current NRA lobbyist responsible for Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law Marion Hammer likened banning assault weapons to discrimination based on skin color. Hammer said, "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." Comedian Stephen Colbert mocked Hammer on The Colbert Report, citing her comment as evidence that guns are the "real victims" of gun violence and adding, "I'm sure if Dr. [Martin Luther] King were alive, he'd be standing with the NRA. Because, folks, it's just a little too convenient to be blaming guns for gun violence."
Right-Wing Media Pushes "Inappropriate" Holocaust References In Gun Debate
After conservative media repeatedly invoked the Holocaust and made ahistorical comparisons to the Obama administration's agenda to prevent gun violence, the Anti-Defamation League published a blog in January that stated the "inappropriate" comparisons "are not only misplaced and offensive, relying on factually incorrect premises and exaggerations, but also deflect attention away from an important national discussion." Members of conservative media didn't get the memo; in April Fox News host Mike Huckabee warned of an Obama plot to use gun confiscation to create a Nazi-style dictatorship. Members of NRA leadership also frequently trafficked in Nazi comparisons. NRA board member Ted Nugent even compared Obama to a Nazi who put Jewish people on trains to concentration camps.
Rush Limbaugh Asks: If Civil Rights Icon John Lewis "Had A Gun, Would He Have Been Beat Upside The Head On The Bridge?"
In January, Rush Limbaugh wondered if civil rights icon and U.S. Representative John Lewis -- who suffered a fractured skull at the hands of Alabama law enforcement on "Bloody Sunday" in 1965 while leading a non-violent march from Selma to Montgomery -- "had had a gun, would he have been beat upside the head on the bridge?" Lewis responded to Limbaugh by explaining how using violence would have undermined the purpose of the civil rights movement: "African Americans in the 60s could have chosen to arm themselves, but we made a conscious decision not to. We were convinced that peace could not be achieved through violence. Violence begets violence, and we believed the only way to achieve peaceful ends was through peaceful means. We took a stand against an unjust system, and we decided to use this faith as our shield and the power of compassion as our defense."
NRA's "Beyond The Pale" Ad Politicizes Obama Daughters' Security, And Even Conservative Media Object
In response to Obama correctly expressing skepticism that armed guards offer a solution for school shootings, the NRA released an ad in January calling the president an "elitist hypocrite" because his daughters are protected by armed guards. The White House as well as members of conservative media expressed disgust with the ad's claims. MSNBC host and former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough said the ad evidenced a need for new leadership at the NRA and stated, "This extremism is so frightening and just, over, over, over the line." Noting the "unique degree of threat" reportedly faced by the Obamas, conservative Daily Beast writer David Frum concluded that "the NRA's sneering references to the president's family are beyond the pale." Fox News host Megyn Kelly criticized the ad, saying that "obviously the president's children are in a special circumstance."
Top image via Flickr user coolrevolution