As media turn to cover a high-profile gathering of potential Republican presidential contenders at the National Rifle Association's annual meeting, the extreme stances taken by the NRA on a wide range of gun issues over the past year will also be on full display.
Numerous Republicans expected to run for president in 2016 are scheduled to appear on April 10 at a NRA Institute for Legislative Action “leadership forum” during the NRA's 2015 annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee.
But as candidates seek to improve their stature in the eyes of the NRA, they will be ingratiating themselves to an organization whose continued opposition to popular expanded background checks on gun sales represents just one extremist position it has taken in the debate over gun regulation.
According to the NRA, this year's “leadership forum” will feature Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconin Gov. Scott Walker, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham, Ben Carson, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and Donald Trump. NRA's bombastic executive vice president Wayne LaPierre and top lobbyist Chris Cox, as well as a handful of non-contenders, will also address the forum.
Since last year's meeting, the NRA has taken several extreme positions in policy debates, including opposing legislation to disarm convicted stalkers, backing “open carry” extremists who carry assault weapons in public, attempting to hijack the issue of campus rape to push guns on campus, and floating the idea of requiring children to learn how to use a gun to advance in school.
The NRA's leadership has also expressed outrageous views. NRA head LaPierre unleashed a signature paranoid rant just prior to the 2014 midterm elections, fearmongering over the threat of an EMP attack and other calamities to encourage supporters to back NRA candidates. LaPierre also indulged an Islamophobic conspiracy theory that targets one of the NRA's own board members in order to appease Glenn Beck. NRA board member Ted Nugent continued to offend, including suggesting just weeks before the meeting that veterans are committing suicide because Obama is “the enemy.” Another board member who represents the NRA in New Jersey insulted a family who lost a child in the Newtown mass shooting as a “prop,” garnering outrage.
Read below for more information on these topics and descriptions of other examples of NRA extremism over the past year:
NRA Head Wayne LaPierre Gets Out The Vote Using Threat Of EMP Attack, ISIS Beheading
In a “special two-cover election issue” published in October 2014, NRA magazine America's 1st Freedom printed a paranoid column from LaPierre that fearmongered about terrorist attacks and social unrest in the United States before calling on supporters to “vote our guns” on Election Day.
The cover of the magazine featured a gun-toting Islamic State militant, while LaPierre's column was illustrated with a graphic that combined an image of Islamic State executioner "Jihadi John" and the exterior of a suburban home:
In a column that urged supporters to own guns and vote for NRA-endorsed candidates, LaPierre raised the specter of several calamities, including an electromagnetic pulse attack that could kill 9 of 10 Americans, terrorist attacks similar to the 2008 Mumbai attacks or the Westgate shopping mall attack, and people rioting “just for the sheer hell of it.”
NRA Indulges Glenn Beck's Islamophobic Conspiracy Theory
The NRA agreed to open an “ethics investigation” into conservative activist and NRA board member Grover Norquist because of baseless charges made by radio host Glenn Beck, who often delivers the keynote speech at the NRA annual meeting.
For at least 15 years, Norquist has been targeted by Frank Gaffney, the head of Islamophobic think tank Center for Security Policy, with the claim that Norquist is an agent of the Muslim Brotherhood. One high-profile conservative group investigated the claim in 2012 and found it to be meritless. Norquist has called Gaffney his “stalker” and has accused Gaffney of also spreading rumors that he is gay and a member of “the Jewish-Russian mafia.”
In March, Beck hosted Gaffney on his radio show and began to champion Gaffney's smear with threats that he would leave the NRA if Norquist was reelected to the board of directors during elections to be held at the 2015 annual meeting.
During a later radio show, Beck revealed that he spoke at length with NRA leader LaPierre and that LaPierre assured him that the gun group would start “an ethics investigation” into Norquist to determine “once and for all” whether he is an agent of the Muslim Brotherhood. The NRA confirmed the investigation with a letter from Beck posted on the group's website.
NRA Magazine Runs Sexist Feature On Prominent Gun Safety Activist
The NRA was panned in the media in August 2014 after America's 1st Freedom published a sexist feature on Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America founder Shannon Watts that was illustrated with a picture of Watts surrounded by housekeeping tools:
The accompanying article trafficked in sexist tropes to bizarrely challenge Watts' description of herself as a stay-at-home mom because Watts has also held several paid positions at different points during her career. In a separate incident, the NRA's radio show Cam & Company also defended sexist comments about Watts made on the show by a guest.
NRA Board Member Ted Nugent Shows No Sign Of Letting Up On Toxic Rhetoric
Musician Ted Nugent -- who is a prominent member of NRA leadership and a mainstay at the NRA's annual meeting -- continued to offer invective after terming President Obama a “subhuman mongrel” and subsequently becoming a toxic association for Republican office-seekers in early 2014.
Among the past year's lowlights, Nugent: said veterans are committing suicide because Obama “is the enemy”; called Al Sharpton a “mongrel”; mocked individuals who have mental disabilities; lashed out at “black klansmen” while discussing Ferguson, Missouri; called for the “evil carcasses” of Obama and other liberals; claimed that Obama is not a Christian; suggested American Indians could have resisted settlers with “less peyote” and “less whoopin & hollerin”; used a racial slur for Japanese people while discussing World War II; demonized “stupid” poor Americans that have “bling-bling” and access to clean water; and said the only Jewish Republican serving in Congress at the time practiced Nazi-style politics.
Nugent will deliver a presentation at this year's meeting called, “Freedom is not Free and We the People Must Keep It Alive!”
NRA Quietly Opposes Legislation To Take Guns Away From Convicted Stalkers
In June 2014, it was revealed that the NRA had circulated a letter stating it “strongly opposed” a proposal from Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) to prohibit individuals convicted of a stalking offense from buying and possessing firearms.
In a letter obtained by Huffington Post, the NRA wrote the proposal was “a bill to turn disputes between family members and social acquaintances into lifetime firearm prohibitions,” and criticized the legislation for allegedly “manipulat[ing] emotionally compelling issues such as 'domestic violence' and 'stalking' simply to cast as wide a net as possible for federal firearm prohibitions.”
NRA News Wades Into Campus Sexual Assault Debate, Says Gun Opponents Are “OK” With Women Being Raped
The NRA's weekday radio and television programs, both called Cam & Company, spearheaded efforts by advocates of guns on college and university campuses to hijack concerns over campus sexual assault in order to push a pro-gun agenda. (Evidence actually suggests that students who carried guns at school were more likely to report being sexually assaulted.)
At times, the commentary on Cam & Company proved inflammatory. During a February broadcast, host Cam Edwards argued that opponents of guns on campus as a solution to rape on college campuses “are OK with” some sexual assaults occurring that could have supposedly be prevented by guns.
In March, Edwards lashed out at a college newspaper editorial that argued against guns on campus and suggested telling women to carry guns unfairly places the “burden” of stopping sexual assaults on those women. Claiming he was “dumber [for] having read” the editorial, Edwards said, “the burden of stopping that assault is not going to be on the person committing that assault, not at that moment in time, the burden of stopping that assault is on the victim, it is on the victim.”
Before the issue of campus sexual assaults became the top talking point for guns on campus advocates, Edwards agreed with a guest who said “so many” campus sexual assault allegations are cases of “two people being drunk at a party hooking up and then somebody, usually the girl, regretting it the next morning.”
“Heartless” NRA Board Member Insults Sandy Hook Families While Parent Org. Defends Corporate Donor That Made The Murder Gun
In April 2014, NRA board member Scott Bach, who heads the NRA's official New Jersey affiliate, angered a prominent New Jersey legislator by dismissing the family of a child who died during the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre as “a prop” in response to the family's support for gun safety legislation.
New Jersey Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald criticized Bach, stating, “Mr. Bach's heartless and offensive comments about the parents who lost their children to senseless and tragic gun violence in Newtown are the lowest of the low. Mr. Bach's statements, which suggest that somehow these families should not have a voice in this debate, are truly offensive, shocking and wrong.”
The NRA also offered several defenses of NRA corporate donor Bushmaster, which manufactured the gun used in the December 2012 school shooting and is now being sued by several Sandy Hook families. In one instance, NRA News hosted an attorney who has done high-profile legal work for the NRA in the past, who used the opportunity to call the Sandy Hook families “extremely irresponsible” for suing Bushmaster.
NRA Exploits The Holocaust And Jim Crow To Push Extremist Agenda
The NRA made inapt references to genocide and systematic racial discrimination while trying to make pro-gun points.
In July 2014, audio emerged of an NRA lobbyist arguing that a Washington state ballot initiative to require background checks on gun sales was comparable to the policies of Adolf Hitler. Specifically, NRA lobbyist Brian Judy said that a prominent backer of the ballot initiative, who is Jewish, was “stupid” because “he's put half-a-million dollars toward this policy, the same policy that led to his family getting run out of Germany by the Nazis.” Judy also mocked the intelligence of “any Jewish people I meet who are anti-gun.” The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle condemned Judy for his comments.
The NRA also argued in a commentary video that any laws regulation buying, owning, and carrying firearms were “equally as unconstitutional” as Jim Crow laws.
NRA Responds To Isla Vista Massacre By Blaming Gun Violence Prevention Efforts, Gay Marriage
After refusing to comment for nearly two weeks on a May 2014 mass shooting in California, the NRA's top lobbyist appeared on an NRA radio program to place “the blame” on politicians who support gun safety efforts.
On May 23, a man reportedly motivated by anger towards women stabbed three people to death before going on a public shooting spree in Isla Vista, California, that left eight wounded and three dead. Several other people were injured by the shooter's car during the rampage.
During an appearance on Cam & Company eleven days later, NRA Institute for Legislative Action executive director Chris Cox said, “The blame needs to be placed on the politicians in California who time and time again their answer to these issues are more and more gun control laws.”
NRA Grovels To Gun Activists Who Carry Assault Weapons In Public
An increasingly popular tactic of gun rights activists is to openly carry assault weapons in public places and at restaurants and shopping centers. The NRA initially criticized this practice, but later backed down after facing outrage from the gun rights community.
While the purported goal of these gun rights activists is to cause a cultural shift where Americans feel more comfortable in the presence of assault weapons and openly displayed handguns, the tactic has backfired, largely due to the intimidating tactics of the activists.
In a May 2015 statement, the NRA suggested that activists open carrying in public were showing “poor judgment” because their conduct could scare the public and was not helpful in encouraging members of the public in joining the gun-rights cause. As the NRA's statement explained, “To those who are not acquainted with the dubious practice of using public displays of firearms as a means to draw attention to oneself or one's cause, it can be downright scary. It makes folks who might normally be perfectly open-minded about firearms feel uncomfortable and question the motives of pro-gun advocates.”
Following outrage in gun rights circles, the NRA's top lobbyist, Chris Cox, appeared on the NRA's radio show to issue a public apology for the statement, which he called a “mistake” that “shouldn't have happened.” Cox also said that the NRA's official policy was to defend the right of people to openly carry guns in public.
NRA Floats The Idea Of Compulsory Gun Training For Children
In a July 2014 commentary video, NRA News commentator Billy Johnson suggested that children be required to learn how to use a gun in order to advance to the next grade in school. In the video, which was widely mocked, Johnson said, “Just like we teach them reading and writing, necessary skills, we would teach shooting and firearm competency. It wouldn't matter if a child's parents weren't good at it. We'd find them a mentor. It wouldn't matter if they didn't want to learn. We would make it necessary to advance to the next grade.”
Johnson also floated other ideas, including making some places “gun-required zones” and that like “education, healthcare, food, [and] retirement,” entitlements should exist to subsidize ammunition purchases and shooting range time.
Following backlash, the NRA lied about the video, with Johnson appearing on NRA News to claim that he had never suggested children participate in compulsory gun training. In an attempt to bolster his lie, the NRA then aired a deceptively edited version of the commentary video that left out the line about gun proficiency being “necessary to advance to the next grade.”