The National Rifle Association released a video responding to recent mass public shootings in which NRA CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre grouped together mass shooters with politicians and other prominent figures who seek to address gun violence as supposed threats to the Second Amendment. The video is one of the first high-profile communication efforts that the NRA has undertaken since the group pulled the plug on its messaging operation NRATV in June amid massive infighting.
The three-minute NRA video responds to mass public shootings that occurred earlier this month in El Paso, TX, and Dayton, OH, that left 31 people dead and dozens more injured. In both cases, the shootings were carried out with military-style assault weapons equipped with high-capacity ammunition magazines.
In the video, LaPierre pushed typical NRA disarmament conspiracy theories, claimed that efforts to regulate firearms would “defame” NRA members and concluded, “Let’s fight to make sure no madman, or billionaire, or elitist politician ever takes away our God-given right to protect our lives, our homes, and the people we love.” In essence, LaPierre grouped together the people who carry out mass shootings with some of the people who seek to address gun violence by regulating firearms.
Notably, LaPierre never mentioned the motive of the El Paso shooter who admitted that he used an AK-47-style rifle to target Latinx shoppers at a Walmart. Prior to opening fire, the gunman posted a manifesto online in which he raged about the “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” Language in the gunman’s manifesto echoed the rhetoric often found on NRATV before it was shuttered.
Although one might think NRATV was mostly focused on gun-related issues, it was not. According to a Media Matters analysis, during the 2018-19 government shutdown -- which was triggered by President Donald Trump’s demand for Congress to fund a border wall -- 54 out of 95 live news updates that NRATV aired demonized undocumented immigrants, most often by falsely portraying them as violent. NRATV hosted an anti-immigration writer who is a contributor to a white nationalist magazine 32 times dating back to March 2018, including for discussions about an undocumented immigrant “invasion.” NRATV also pushed a remarkably similar conspiracy theory to the one that motivated the Pittsburgh synagogue mass shooter; in one such segment, an NRATV correspondent said a caravan of asylum-seekers was “an invasion under the guise of migration.” And during a January broadcast, an NRATV host told viewers that laws governing the concealed carry of guns in public should be loosened because of “the issues we face with immigration and crime.”
The latest NRA video release comes as the NRA stumbles on through months of internal turmoil and scandal, which has included an ouster of an NRA president who LaPierre accused was trying to extort him, revelations of LaPierre lavishing spending NRA funds on things like expensive Italian suits and destination travel, the dissolution of the relationship between the NRA and its longtime ad firm Ackerman McQueen (which also produced NRATV), dueling lawsuits filed by Ackerman and the NRA each seeking tens of millions of dollars in damages from the other entity, and an investigation by the New York attorney general’s office that threatens the NRA’s tax exempt status.
Some of the most recent developments include LaPierre and the NRA being sued by a major donor in a class action fraud lawsuit which alleges misuse of NRA donations, and reports showing that LaPierre schemed to have the NRA pay for a $6 million mansion for him to live in.
While LaPierre attempted to frame the debate over gun policy as between out-of-touch elites and ordinary Americans, a recent Politico/Morning Consult poll found that 70% percent of voters would like to see the kind of weaponry used in these latest public mass shootings banned. Another federal policy proposal that has been much discussed in the wake of the shootings -- extreme risk protection orders that allow guns to be temporarily removed from people who are a danger to themselves or others -- garnered 89% support in another recent poll, including 86% of Republicans and 84% of gun owners.