Larry Pratt, the leader of far-right Gun Owners of America (GOA), claimed that the murders of nine people at Mother Emanuel AME Church were a consequence of Reverend Clementa Pinckney's advocacy for "disarmament of people in the state of South Carolina."
Pinckney, along with eight others, was killed in a June 17 attack inside the Charleston, South Carolina church. A 21-year-old man with a history of racist beliefs was charged with the killings.
Pratt, who has suggested that politicians should fear being shot by GOA supporters and has flirted with the conspiracy theory that high-profile mass shootings are government-staged events, was forced to leave Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign in 1996 after his past ties to white supremacists were revealed. Still, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz heaped lavishly praise on GOA a recent town hall event.
During a June 24 appearance on Sky News to discuss the Charleston killings, Pratt said the parishioners "would have at least had a chance if they had a firearm to respond to the threat. As it was, their pastor, who was also a state senator, was a leading anti-Second Amendment advocate who had supported disarmament of people in the state of South Carolina. Ideas have consequences, and that's what we are talking about -- the idea of gun control is deadly."
Pratt went on to cheer the armed standoff between supporters of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the federal government. Pratt said, "Even more recently there was an effort by our federal government to throw a man off land he had contractual rights to use, federal lands, and at Bunkerville, Nevada people came from around the region to defend him with arms until the government finally withdrew. So the Second Amendment is alive and well and that's its main function, to keep the government under control as a servant of the people."
Despite Pratt's decades-long history of inflammatory rhetoric and questionable associations, Cruz recently praised GOA while addressing its members in a May 27 "Tele-Town Hall." Cruz opened his remarks by saying, "GOA endorsed me early on when I ran for the Senate and played a critical part in helping get me elected and sending me from the State of Texas to represent 27 million Texans,"and added that GOA supporters are "patriots."
Later in his remarks, Cruz added, "I agree with Ronald Reagan, who said we must paint in bold colors and not pale pastels - that's why I'm running and that's one of the things I love about GOA - is GOA has never been accused of painting in pale pastels."
Pratt is not the first pro-gun advocate to attack Rev. Pinckney. Shortly after the shooting, NRA board member Charles L. Cotton wrote online that Pinckney "voted against concealed-carry. Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue."
Larry Pratt, the head of extremist group Gun Owners of America, argued that "the Second Amendment was designed for people just like the president and his administration" in comments uncovered by Right Wing Watch.
Pratt, who has suggested that politicians should fear being shot by GOA supporters and has flirted with the conspiracy theory that high-profile mass shootings are government staged events, was forced to leave Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign in 1996 after his past ties to white supremacists were revealed. In spite of this track record of extremism, Pratt is still treated by Republican politicians and by certain media outlets as a credible authority on gun issues. On May 27, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz addressed Pratt's group, and said GOA support was "critical" to his election as a U.S. Senator. Pratt was on Fox News as recently as June 2 in order to defend comments about guns made by actor Vince Vaughn.
Right Wing Watch published audio on June 4 of Pratt appearing on a far-right radio show in April to talk about a since-withdrawn proposal by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to ban a particular type of armor-piercing ammunition. During the discussion Pratt said, "the Second Amendment was designed for people just like the president and his administration" and added that if the present government wants "to go tyrannical on us, we got something for 'em":
ROGER FREDINBURG, HOST: I think the next revolution is going to start and be won by people with rifles and Leupold [brand] scopes. I don't think it's going to be won by guys in the trenches with machetes.
PRATT: We figured that that was kind of what they were up to and the Second Amendment was designed for people just like the president and his administration. And, yes, if The New York Times and the Rolling Stone and whoever else wants to have a hissy-fit, yes our guns are in our hands for people like those in our government right now that think they want to go tyrannical on us, we got something for 'em. That's what it's all about. The Second Amendment is not about hunting, it's not about target shooting, it's about Democrats who want to take our rights.
The same day as Right Wing Watch's post, GOA put online audio of Cruz's May 27 "Tele-Town Hall" appearance. Cruz opened his remarks by effusively praising GOA, saying, "GOA endorsed me early on when I ran for the Senate and played a critical part in helping get me elected and sending me from the state of Texas to represent 27 million Texans" and that supporters of GOA are "patriots":
CRUZ: Let me start by just saying thank you to all the men and women of Gun Owners of America. GOA endorsed me early on when I ran for the Senate and played a critical part in helping get me elected and sending me from the state of Texas to represent 27 million Texans and to stand up and to fight for our rights and I'm grateful to be with each of you because the men and women on this call are fighters, you are men and women of action, you are patriots, and this is the time when that is exactly what is needed in our country.
Fox News hosts and guests relied and expounded upon recent comments by actor Vince Vaughn in support of carrying guns in public and in schools to push numerous falsehoods about gun violence that expert analyses have debunked.
Fox News hosted Larry Pratt, the leader of far-right group Gun Owners of America, to defend actor Vince Vaughn's recent comments on the Second Amendment, even though Pratt has repeatedly said politicians who support gun safety laws should fear being shot.
In a recent interview with British GQ, Vaughn argued that the purpose of the Second Amendment is "to resist the supreme power of a corrupt and abusive government":
"I support people having a gun in public full stop, not just in your home. We don't have the right to bear arms because of burglars; we have the right to bear arms to resist the supreme power of a corrupt and abusive government. It's not about duck hunting; it's about the ability of the individual."
During a June 2 appearance on Fox & Friends, Pratt defended Vaughn's insurrectionist view of the Second Amendment, stating, "I think Vaughn's point really needs to be emphasized. The right to keep and bear arms is enshrined in our Constitution in order to protect the people's right to protect themselves from tyrannical government."
Fox & Friends hosted Pratt despite his long history of inflammatory commentary and radical interpretations of the Second Amendment. Notably, he has repeatedly stated that politicians who endorse gun violence prevention laws should fear being shot by GOA supporters. During a November 2014 interview, when Pratt was asked about his oft-made claim that politicians should have a "healthy fear" of being shot, he responded: "Sure, that is what the Second Amendment is all about."
Pratt, who is considered to be one of the founding members of the 1990s right-wing militia movement, has engaged in extremism on the gun issue for decades.
In 1996, Pratt was forced to leave the presidential campaign of Republican Pat Buchanan after The New York Times reported "that he had spoken at rallies held by leaders of the white supremacist and militia movements" and published articles about guns the magazine of a white supremacist group. The Boston Globe subsequently reported Pratt "had attended a 1992 conference of militant white supremacists in Colorado in the aftermath of the shootout with federal agents at Ruby Ridge, Idaho," whose attendees included the leader of the racist and anti-Semitic Christian Identity movement, a former KKK leader, and Aryan Nation officials. Pratt reportedly spoke out in favor of the creation of "armed militia" units at the meeting.
In the wake of the 1995 Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building bombing, Pratt suggested that far-right anti-government extremist Timothy McVeigh was justified in carrying out the attack as a response to the government's conduct during the 1993 Waco standoff at the Branch Davidian compound. And in 2014, Pratt claimed that President Obama supports stronger gun laws to prevent Americans from using firearms "to keep people like him from becoming tyrants."
In addition, Pratt has proposed that the government itself stages violence and civil unrest. Appearing on right-wing conspiracy theory radio shows, Pratt suggested that the 2012 mass shootings in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater and at Sandy Hook Elementary School may have been government-staged events.
More recently, Pratt claimed it was "reasonable" to suspect that Obama orchestrated the civil unrest in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, going on to argue that police should have shot and killed rioters to bring calm to the city.
Despite Pratt's history of extreme right-wing views, national news shows sometimes treat him as a credible source on gun violence in the wake of mass shooting tragedies. Over the year-and-a-half following Sandy Hook, Pratt made 13 appearances on evening and Sunday cable news programs, even appearing on Fox News Sunday to discuss the one year anniversary of the mass shooting.
His reputation also hasn't been enough to scare away GOP presidential candidates. In May, Senator Ted Cruz agreed to remotely address a town hall meeting hosted by GOA.
Despite his history of extremism, Pratt continues to make appearances on cable television to discuss gun issues. When asked why major media outlets continue to host Pratt, freelance reporter Alexander Zaitchik, who has extensively written about Pratt, explained in a video series on Pratt's role in the gun-rights movement, "I think a big part of it is just attention span... and historical memory is getting shorter and shorter," explaining that news outlets "seemed to think he was you know, springing up out of the ground and didn't have this long, multi-decade history of radicalism and extremism." According to Zaitchik, Pratt also moderates his message while appearing on national television, saving his more extreme commentary for the fringe right-wing radio shows he frequents.
Gun Owners of America -- a far-right gun group whose leader has been linked to white supremacists and has suggested that mass shootings are staged by the government -- will host Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz to address the group's "activists."
GOA is headed by Larry Pratt, a conspiracy theorist who frequently espouses extreme views on gun regulation. The group is considered to be to the right of the National Rifle Association touts itself as "the only no-compromise gun lobby in Washington."
According to an e-mail sent to GOA supporters, Cruz will speak at a "Tele-Town Hall" meeting on May 27. GOA "is surveying and interviewing all of the candidates," but Cruz is the first to agree to address the group:
Cruz, who has received campaign contributions from GOA, previously praised the group as "strong defenders of the Second Amendment."
Although media sometimes ignore GOA's extremism, the group and its leader ascribe to a hard-right ideology. In 1996, Pratt was forced to leave Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign after it came to light that he had spoken at a militia conference alongside leaders of the white supremacist movement. GOA also donated "tens of thousands of dollars" to white supremacy group CAUSE in the 90s.
On the issue of gun violence, Pratt has flirted with the idea that the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting and the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater mass shooting were carried out by the government. Pratt has also suggested that politicians who support gun violence prevention laws should fear being shot and recently claimed that rioters in Baltimore should have been shot on sight. Among Pratt's lowlights:
Fox News Radio host Alan Colmes confronted Gun Owners of America (GOA) executive director Larry Pratt with several of Pratt's inflammatory comments. Media outlets frequently give Pratt a platform to push for weaker gun laws without pressing him on his extremist views.
Pratt, whose GOA group is considered to the right of the National Rifle Association, is one of the founding members of the 1990s militia movement and has had past associations with white supremacists. He often appears on fringe right-wing radio shows to offer incendiary commentary, recently stating that Obama supports stronger gun laws to keep Americans from using firearms "to keep people like him from becoming tyrants."
But Alan Colmes provided a textbook case of how interviewers should handle Pratt during a November 18 interview on his radio show, forcing the gun activist to address and expound on past comments suggesting politicians should fear being shot by GOA supporters and that President Obama may foment a race war.
Gun Owners of America executive director Larry Pratt said in an interview that President Obama "clearly doesn't like the fact that the American people can own guns because we might just want to use them to keep people like him from becoming tyrants."
Pratt, who heads a gun rights group considered to the right of even the National Rifle Association, made the comment during a November 17 appearance on Newsmax TV's America's Forum. He also bragged that his group was responsible for the 2013 defeat of a U.S. Senate bill to expand background checks on gun sales.
The latest inflammatory remark from Pratt comes hours after the release of a video project by The American Independent Institute (TAII) and gun safety group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) on the state of the gun lobby that discusses how media turn to Pratt for commentary on the gun issue, often while ignoring his lengthy history of extremism and past association with white supremacists.
Pratt's claim on America's Forum came during a discussion of the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The purpose of the treaty is to prevent the transfer of arms to human rights abusers and it would have no impact on domestic gun laws. Nonetheless, GOA, the NRA, and conservative media often advance the conspiracy theory that the ATT will be used by international entities to register or even confiscate privately held guns in the United States.
While the Senate has thus far refused to ratify the ATT -- as it has been dogged by right-wing conspiracy theories -- Pratt suggested that Obama would use "international community agreement" to unilaterally enact the provisions of the ATT. According to Pratt, Obama's motivation for this extra-constitutional action would be "because he clearly doesn't like the fact that the American people can own guns because we might just want to use them to keep people like him from becoming tyrants."
The media's short "attention span" has given Gun Owners of America executive director Larry Pratt access to a mainstream television audience despite his "long, multi-decade history of radicalism and extremism," according to journalist Alexander Zaitchik, who recently profiled Pratt for RollingStone.com.
Zaitchik discussed his investigation in a three-part series of videos chronicling the state of the pro-gun movement produced by The American Independent Institute (TAII), which funded Zaitchik's profile, and the gun safety group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV).
In part one, released on November 12, Zaitchik and CSGV executive director Josh Horwitz discussed how media turned to Pratt for analysis during the gun debate following the Sandy Hook mass shooting in 2012, often while ignoring Pratt's history of extremism. Part two is a conversation about the gun rights movement's embrace of insurrectionist ideology, while part three covers the role of money in gun rights groups and the National Rifle Association's efforts to reach out to a younger and more diverse audience while retaining inflammatory figures like board member Ted Nugent.
Watch part one here:
A new profile of Larry Pratt, the odious executive director of fringe group Gun Owners of America (GOA) documents Pratt's lengthy history of extremism while noting that he is still treated by media as an authority in the gun debate.
The Pratt profile, authored by The American Independent Institute (TAII) fellow Alexander Zaitchik, was published July 14 as part of a RollingStone.com package, "America's Gun Violence Epidemic." Other articles in the series include an interview with former New York City mayor and gun violence prevention advocate Michael Bloomberg, a message from Richard Martinez, whose son was murdered in the recent Isla Vista, California mass shooting, stories from gunshot wound survivors, and an interactive map on gun violence in America.
Interspersed with accounts of Pratt's association with anti-Semitic and white supremacist groups, his call for the quarantine of AIDS victims, his support for the death squads of a genocidal dictator, and his longstanding engagement with bizarre anti-government conspiracy theories, Zaitchik recounts how Pratt is regularly called on by mainstream media outlets to participate in the debate over gun laws.
Indeed, a Media Matters analysis of cable news and major newspapers finds that media regularly turns to Pratt despite his place in the far-right wing fringe. Since the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Pratt has appeared during evening and Sunday programming on CNN seven times and three times each on MSNBC and Fox News.
Larry Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America, praised lawless Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy's actions in a sparsely attended speech outside the National Rifle Association's annual meeting.
"I think that this is a very positive development that came out of the confrontation out on that ranch," said Pratt, who regularly sits for credulous interviews with mainstream media outlets. "And hopefully we will look back on what happened there as a turning point in modern American history. The American people are saying 'Enough, no farther.'"
After Bundy refused for decades to pay the government fees required for his cattle to graze on public land, federal officials attempted to execute court orders to confiscate and sell the cattle to pay off the more than $1 million he owes the public. Bundy became a right-wing folk hero after he threatened violence against those officials, drawing the support of both conservatives in the media and hundreds of armed men -- including militia extremists -- who descended on Bundy's ranch, triggering an armed standoff with the government.
When the government stopped the confiscation fearing an outbreak of violence, Bundy's supporters cheered, but most of those allies abandoned him last week after The New York Times reported Bundy's racist comments, in which he questioned whether black Americans were "better off as slaves" or "better off under government subsidy."
But on April 26 Pratt praised the rancher's standoff with the Bureau of Land Management, which he described as "an illegitimate entity" whose employees "shouldn't have guns, not as government officials." He linked the event to the surge in sheriffs who have said they will refuse to enforce expanded federal or state gun laws.
"I think we really are hopefully on an upswing," he said to a group of roughly 20 onlookers, including a Media Matters reporter. "We are seeing, finally, a proper, legitimate, lawful response to illegitimate, unlawful exercise of government power, particularly on the federal level."
Pratt frequently appears in the media as an advocate for gun rights, most recently responding to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's expanded gun safety efforts in a New York Times article earlier this month. The Times profiled Pratt and his "upstart group" that takes positions "farther right" than the NRA in April 2013, featuring praise from Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Dean Heller (R-NV), and reported that the organization has been successful in "freezing senators, particularly Republicans" from taking positions in support of gun violence prevention legislation.
But Pratt also has a long record of anti-government extremism; he was forced out of his position as co-chair of Pat Buchanan's 1996 presidential run following the "disclosure that he had spoken at rallies held by leaders of the white supremacist and militia movements," as the Times reported at the time. More recently, he has suggested that the shooting at the Aurora, CO, movie theater may have been staged and flirted with the claim that the Sandy Hook shooting was a government "programmed event" designed to build support for stronger gun laws.
Pratt's speech came during a "Safety & Self-Protection Showcase" held in the park across the street from the Indiana Convention Center, where 70,000 members of the NRA were meeting this weekend. The event was sponsored by groups including Moms With Guns Demand Action, Gun Rights Across America, American Gun Rights, Indiana Moms Against Gun Control, 1 Million Moms Against Gun Control, 2A Friendly, and Armed American Women. Other speakers included Jan Morgan of Armed American Women, Indiana state representative Jim Lucas, Doc Greene of Raging Elephants Radio, and Nikki Goeser, author of "Denied A Chance."
Fox News Sunday allowed Gun Owners of America Executive Director Larry Pratt, who has a history of making extremist and conspiratorial claims, to push lies about the gun debate the day after the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
During his appearance on December 15, Pratt pushed the myth that "gun-free zones" are invitations for mass shootings, lied about the popularity and effectiveness of background checks on gun sales, and suggested gun violence could be prevented by putting people with mental health conditions in jail.
Fox hosted Pratt despite his past ties to white supremacists and history of making conspiratorial claims. In 1996, Pratt was forced to leave the presidential campaign of Republican Pat Buchanan after, as The New York Times reported, it was disclosed that he "had spoken at rallies held by leaders of the white supremacist and militia movements." More recently, Pratt has flirted with the claim that Sandy Hook was a government "programmed event" designed to build support for stronger gun laws. Carlee Soto, whose sister Victoria Soto was one of the teachers killed at Sandy Hook, and Mark Kelly, who is the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) who was wounded in a 2011 mass shooting, also appeared on Fox News Sunday to discuss gun policy.
Here are four false claims about gun violence made by Pratt on Fox News:
Larry Pratt, the leader of a gun rights group considered to be to the right of the National Rifle Association, will appear on Fox News Sunday to discuss the debate over gun laws in the year following the deaths of 20 children and six educators during a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
According to FoxNews.com, Pratt will debate Gulf War veteran and former astronaut Mark Kelly, whose wife former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was wounded during a mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona in 2011. Kelly and Giffords head up gun violence prevention group Americans for Responsible Solutions while Pratt is the executive director of Gun Owners of America, which despite its extremist record was reportedly influential with Republican opponents of the Senate's failed background check legislative proposal.
Despite his prior links to white supremacist groups and history of trafficking in absurd conspiracy theories, Pratt is nonetheless regularly hosted on cable news to discuss gun policy. During a representative appearance on CNN on September 11, Pratt suggested that opponents of guns in schools "like bodies piling up." Days later on CNN's Crossfire, Pratt said he "would strongly encourage" putting firearms in kindergartens. Fox News Sunday previously turned to Pratt on January 13 to discuss Newtown.
Pratt, who has said he will talk to "anyone that will let us have their microphone," is a fixture on the conspiracy theory radio circuit. He has flirted with theories that the Newtown mass shooting was a "programmed event" put on by the government. Right Wing Watch has also documented numerous conspiracy theories and outlandish charges against the Obama administration promoted by Pratt. During a January appearance on a far-right radio show, Pratt endorsed as plausible the host's claim that a race war could occur between "Christian, heterosexual white haves" against "black, Muslim and/or atheist -- not that there's much difference -- black have-nots."
Here are four reasons why mainstream outlets should stop hosting Pratt to discuss gun violence:
From the September 17 edition of CNN's Crossfire:
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CNN hosted Gun Owners of America Executive Director Larry Pratt -- who has suggested the government may have been behind a recent mass shooting -- to discuss the status of the national gun debate following the recall of two Colorado state senators over their support for stronger gun laws.
During his September 11 appearance on CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper, Pratt expressed opposition to background checks on any gun sale and suggested that fellow guest Jim Kessler, the co-founder of centrist think tank Third Way, "like[s] bodies piling up," because of Kessler's opposition to guns in schools:
To support his attack on Kessler, Pratt claimed that "all the mass murders occurred in gun-free zones, pure gun-free zones, in the last 20 years, all of them." In fact, an analysis conducted by Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that 13 of 56 mass shooting incidents that occurred between January 2009 and January 2013 took place where guns were prohibited. Schools, where guns are typically not allowed, are actually among the safest places for young people.
Gun Owners of America Execuive Director Larry Pratt is happy to appear on talk shows hosted by conspiracy theorists who believe 9/11 was an inside job, think white Christians should arm themselves for the coming race war, or want to shoot Hillary Clinton in the vagina.
Pratt told Media Matters in a lengthy interview this week that outlandish, discredited claims by the likes of talk show hosts Alex Jones and Pete Santelli do not bother him as long as his interviewer "has an audience and he provides a microphone for us to reach that audience."
"As long as I have a chance to present what Gun Owners of America is doing ... ideally seek support for Gun Owners of America, get [people] on our alert list, receive the alerts, then that's all good," Pratt said.
In the interview, Pratt also defended conspiratorial claims he had made on extremist programs, including his suggestion that the government might have been involved in the 2012 mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.
Pratt's organization has become an important player in the gun debate, with The New York Times in April heralding their role as an "increasingly potent group" that was "emerging as an influential force" over then-pending Senate gun legislation. This high-profile role has come in spite of Pratt's long record of extremism.
As Media Matters has documented, discredited conspiracies and outlandish and offensive statements are the stock-in-trade of several radio talk show hosts whose regular guests have included Pratt, as well as gun advocates Ted Nugent and former NRA President David Keene.
Among the radio shows that Pratt has frequented are those hosted by Jones, Santelli, and Stan Solomon and Gary Franchi.
Solomon, a race-baiting host who is convinced a war between a "black force" and a "white resistance" is set to break out at any moment, also believes the December 2012 mass shooting at the Sandy Hook elementary school was a "programmed event" designed to help pass gun legislation.
Franchi is an avid conspirator who drew unwanted attention when NBC News highlighted his history of promoting conspiracy theories, including his extensive involvement in the "9-11 truth" movement and his belief that the government is secretly building FEMA concentration camps to round up American citizens.
Jones believes the government actively carried out or was otherwise involved in the 9-11 attacks, the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the mass shooting in Newtown. (He also recently suggested a government "weather weapon" could possibly have created the devastating tornado in Oklahoma.)
Santelli in recent weeks has been in the news for repeatedly expressing his desire to shoot Hillary Clinton "in the vagina" over her supposed treasonous acts.
Asked if he agrees with these hosts or finds any problem with their views, Pratt stated, "If they will provide an audience, we're happy to speak to their audience."