The National Rifle Association responded to the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history with an editorial written by its top lobbyist that barely acknowledges the victims, fails to mention that the target of the attack was a gay nightclub, and fails to mention the number of victims.
During the early morning hours of June 12, a gunman launched a terror attack at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL, killing 49 people and wounding 53 others before he was killed by law enforcement.
While NRA social media accounts went silent in the immediate wake of the attack, as they do after nearly all high-profile mass shootings, by the evening of June 13 the NRA had issued a response at USA Today written by the organization's top lobbyist, NRA Institute for Legislative Action executive director Chris Cox.
The NRA’s response barely acknowledges the victims, offering no condolences to the survivors or their families, and instead attacks President Obama as weak on terrorism. The response does not mention the LGBT community and does not list the number of victims of the attack. The closest the NRA comes to acknowledging the nature of the attack is a single line that argues, “It’s time for us to admit that radical Islam is a hate crime waiting to happen.” The NRA chose to have Cox byline the response even though just weeks ago he made a number of anti-LGBT attacks during a speech at the NRA’s annual meeting, claiming that societal acceptance of transgender people is “twisted” and “perverted.”
While the NRA routinely argues that people who call for stronger gun laws following mass shootings are “exploiting” tragedy for political gain, the group itself offered a number of political arguments against the Obama administration relating to terrorism following the Orlando attack.
According to the NRA, “the Obama administration’s political correctness” bears blame for the shooting, and “Radical Islamic terrorists are not deterred by gun control laws”:
The terrorist in Orlando had been investigated multiple times by the FBI. He had a government-approved security guard license with a contractor for the Department of Homeland Security. Yet his former co-workers reported violent and racist comments. Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s political correctness prevented anything from being done about it.
Radical Islamic terrorists are not deterred by gun control laws.
While the NRA blamed supposed actions by the Obama administration for the attack, Obama and his administration have advocated for policies that could have prevented the attack or lessened its severity.
Just two weeks ago, Obama lamented that individuals on terror watchlists are not prohibited from legally purchasing firearms, noting, “I just came from a meeting today in the situation room, in which I’ve got people who we know have been on ISIL websites, living here in the United States, U.S. citizens. And we’re allowed to put them on the no-fly list when it comes to airlines, but because of the National Rifle Association, I cannot prohibit those people from buying a gun.”
Indeed, the Senate GOP, at the behest of the NRA, has blocked both attempts to regulate assault weapons and proposals that would prohibit gun sales to certain individuals suspected of having terrorism ties.
The NRA’s editorial concluded, “The only way to defeat them is to destroy them -- not destroy the right of law-abiding Americans to defend ourselves.” But the NRA’s quick attempt to use the Orlando massacre to argue that permissive gun ownership is needed to ward off domestic terror attacks is indicative of the organization’s hypocrisy on mass shootings.
When NRA leaders see a facet of a high-profile shooting that they think they can exploit, they comment almost immediately. However, when they think that is not the case, the organization goes silent, aside from attacking anyone making policy arguments surrounding the shooting as disrespectful to the victims.
The hypocrisy is made clear by the NRA’s response to the June 17, 2015, racially motivated mass shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, SC.
While the NRA offered a response the day after the Orlando shooting, slamming Obama and others, days passed following the Charleston shooting without an NRA response. Only on June 20, three days after the attack, did the NRA release a statement, which claimed that “out of “respect” for the victims, “we do not feel that this is [an] appropriate time for a political debate,” adding, “We will have no further comment until all the facts are known.”