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.”