NRA Says “Race-Baiting” “Mainstream Media” Puts On A “Modern-Day Minstrel Show”

But The Gun Rights Group Has A Long History Exploiting Racial Fears

Image from leaked 2006 NRA graphic novel showing man guarding his home against looters following a natural disaster.

A new “Commentators” video from the National Rifle Association (NRA) accuses the “mainstream media” of pushing negative stereotypes about African-American gun ownership “with their modern-day minstrel show they call journalism.”

Left unsaid in this “analysis” is the NRA's long history of stoking and exploiting racial fears, prime examples of which are racially charged comments by both NRA leader Wayne LaPierre and NRA board member Ted Nugent, an NRA-produced graphic novel that critics say had “deliberate racial overtones,” and an NRA report that claimed race, not access to guns, plays a “significant” role in murders.

In a “Commentators” video posted July 8 to the NRA News website, Colion Noir, an NRA News commentator and host of an NRA web series, blamed “anti-gun politicians and the mainstream media” for negative stereotypes surrounding the ownership of firearms by African-Americans. Noir said, “The image of black gun ownership has been hijacked and vilified by an anti-gun mainstream media, the same way they vilified the Cubans, the Italians, the Irish, and the Mexicans. They project and glorify this D Boy gangbanging image as if African-Americans are nothing more than that.”

Under Noir's theory, instead of “addressing the real issue,” the mainstream media is interested in “race baiting” and heightening racial tensions so they can “rake[] in the dough with their modern-day minstrel show they call journalism.” He went on to blame the mainstream media for promoting negative stereotypes about African-American gun ownership because “the same liberal mainstream media that claims to want to end gun violence in the inner city is the same liberal-minded Hollywood production companies and major record labels that glorify and perpetuate the drug-dealing-gang-banging-black-man-with-a-gun stereotype.”

This latest charge against the media -- a frequent target of criticism from the NRA -- ignores that the gun group has routinely negatively stereotyped minorities as dangerous, often with the purpose of promoting gun ownership among its members.

In particular, NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre was criticized in 2013 for a racially-charged column he wrote for the conservative website Daily Caller that suggested owning a gun was essential to survival. Published in the wake of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey, LaPierre made up claims about “hellish” looting in “south Brooklyn” and fearmongered about “Latin American drug gangs” who have supposedly “invaded every city of significant size in the United States.”

Conservative MSNBC host Joe Scarborough reacted to LaPierre's claims by saying, “This is so laced with racial overtones that the Republican party, if they were smart, their leaders today would condemn it.”

LaPierre has also joined in conservative media's racially-charged narrative about the “knockout game,” repeatedly suggesting in red meat speeches to supporters that Americans need unlimited guns because of “knockout gamers” and other threats.

One of the highest profile members of the NRA leadership, board member Ted Nugent, also routinely engages in the kind of race-baiting that Noir criticizes in the video.

Building on his claim that murdered Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was a “dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe,” Nugent went on a weeks-long racial tirade following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in July 2013. During a podcast appearance, Nugent suggested that African-Americans should be profiled the same way members of a community might profile a breed of dog that was attacking children, explaining, “If a Dalmatian has been biting the children in the neighborhood, I think we're going to look for a black and white dog.” Days later, Nugent wrote that African-Americans have a “mindless tendency to violence.”

Nugent's regular column at WND routinely features racially-charged rants about black criminality, using terms like "urban street rats," "street savages," and "fatherless, directionless, school dropout gangbangers."

In 2006, a leaked NRA graphic novel titled, “Freedom In Peril: Guarding The Second Amendment In The 21st Century” cast an unflattering light on the gun group's use of “deliberate racial overtones.” The novel warned of the imminent “disarmament of law-abiding Americans” and catalogued a long list of supposed threats, including, “The Illegal Alien Gangs.”

In text accompanying a picture of several minority men flashing gang signs, the NRA warned, “America's unfolding Latino gang crime wave will make the record-setting violent crime rates of the 1980s and '90s look like a schoolyard scuffle.”

The NRA also continues to honor late board member Jeff Cooper, a virulent bigot who defended slavery on several occasions. While a member of NRA leadership, Cooper published a racist newsletter that routinely included the type of stereotyping of African-Americans Noir criticizes.

In one issue, Cooper advised his readers to pull out a gun if approached by group of “pickaninnies” (a racist term to describe black children) who asked for money:

The NRA has even explicitly done what Noir accuses the “mainstream media” of doing -- publishing a report in 1996 that suggested race, rather than gun availability, explained murder rates.

According to a report in The Washington Post, “In an effort to rebut research linking rising homicide rates to wider availability of firearms, a top National Rifle Association researcher has said that such analysis is flawed because it often ignores the 'significant' role race plays in murder.” At the time, then-Rep. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) criticized the NRA, stating, “The NRA has consistently refused to admit the obvious: The number of guns on our streets increase the number of murders of police, children and others. Now they are going to a new extreme. To say it's not guns, but the genetics of race, is a tawdry and evil form of race-baiting.”