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:
- In 1996, The New York Times reported that Pratt was forced to leave the presidential campaign of Republican Pat Buchanan after it was revealed “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 offered more detail on Pratt's actions, reporting 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,” 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.
- While appearing on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' radio show, Pratt suggested that the 2012 mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, could have been staged, saying, “Now we have to admit that maybe this is something that our government is capable of.”
- During a January 2013 appearance on a conspiracy theory radio show, Pratt gave credence to the host's theory that the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a government “programmed event” to drum up support for gun restrictions.
- Pratt has repeatedly stated that politicians should fear being shot being shot by GOA supporters if they endorse gun violence prevention laws.
- Claiming that it was “reasonable” to suspect that Obama orchestrated recent civil unrest in Baltimore, Pratt argued that police should have shot and killed rioters to bring calm to the city.
- In November 2014, Pratt claimed that President Obama supports stronger gun laws to keep Americans from using firearms “to keep people like him from becoming tyrants.”
- During a February 2013 radio appearance, Pratt said the conspiracy theorist host wasn't “stretching” to predict that Obama would foment a race war between “Christian, heterosexual white haves” and “black, Muslim and/or atheist -- not that there's much difference -- black have-nots.” Challenged with his acceptance of the bizarre theory by Alan Colmes in November 2014, Pratt said, “If that were something that the president could utilize then he would certainly do it.”
- During an event outside of the National Rifle Association's annual meeting in 2014, Pratt praised the actions of lawless Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy after Bundy had lost most of his supporters over widespread coverage of his racist commentary.
- Three days after the April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City Bombing, Pratt spoke at a Christian Identity gathering and suggested that the bombing's perpetrator, far-right anti-government extremist Timothy McVeigh, was justified in his actions because of the government's conduct during the 1993 Waco standoff.
- Pratt served as “a contributing editor” to the publication of United Sovereigns of America, an anti-Semitic group.
- Pratt directed Gun Owners of America to donate “tens of thousands of dollars” to white supremacist group CAUSE to aid in legal representation for those present at Waco.