CNN Mainstreams Gun Extremist Larry Pratt

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.

Pratt's extremism on guns and other issues is well documented. According to The New York Times, he was forced to leave the presidential campaign of Republican Pat Buchanan in 1996 after it was disclosed that Pratt “had spoken at rallies held by leaders of the white supremacist and militia movements.” The Boston Globe also reported in 1996 that 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.” Conference participants included figures from the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nation. Pratt reportedly spoke out in favor of the creation of “armed militia units” at that meeting.

More recently, Pratt has made numerous appearances on fringe radio shows to promote conspiracy theories and make outlandish claims about President Obama.

During a July 2012 appearance on 9-11 truther Alex Jones' radio show, Pratt gave credence to Jones' claim that the government may have staged the July 20, 2012, mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, that left 12 dead and scores wounded. After Jones asked Pratt, “Am I wrong for being suspicious?” Pratt responded, “I don't think you're wrong,” and later added, “We have to admit that maybe this is something that our government is capable of.” Pratt also treated as plausible the claim by fringe radio host Stan Solomon that the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School may have been a “programmed event” to effectuate further gun restrictions.

Pratt also faced criticism after Right Wing Watch highlighted his participation in discussions about an impending race war in America on Solomon's show. During a February appearance, Pratt said, “I do agree that the Obama administration would definitely be capable of something as evil as you were suggesting,” after Solomon described a scenario where Obama “will put together a racial force to go against an opposite race resistance, basically a black force to go against a white resistance.” In an earlier January appearance, Pratt agreed with Solomon warning of attacks “on Christian, heterosexual white haves by black, Muslim and/or atheist -- not that there's much difference -- black have-nots” during the Obama presidency, saying the radio host wasn't “stretching to say that.”

In recent weeks, Right Wing Watch has documented Pratt claiming "Obama is consistently helping Al Qaeda throughout the Middle East" and calling a debunked conspiracy theory about the Department of Veterans Affairs supposedly disarming veterans evidence of "a return to Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia."