National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent wrote that opponents of gun safety laws “must learn from Rosa Parks and definitely refuse to give up our guns,” citing a Connecticut law that banned assault weapons following the use of an AR-15 in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
Nugent's claim in his regular column for conspiracy website WND that Parks is his “hero” because of her efforts to fight segregation came on the same day that Media Matters made available a copy of a 1990 interview where Nugent defended the apartheid, a system of racial segregation enforced in South Africa, with the claim, “All men are not created equal.”
In his March 26 column, Nugent wrote, “If anyone believes that gun confiscation is not a real threat here in America or that it couldn't happen here like it did in the U.K. and Australia, just look to what is happening in Connecticut.” Connecticut's new law prohibits the future purchase of assault weapons and requires current owners of assault weapons to register their guns. Despite a federal court ruling that the law is a constitutional means of regulating weapons under the Second Amendment, thousands of gun owners are reportedly refusing to register their weapons.
Nugent, who is also a spokesperson for the Outdoor Channel, went on to compare the supposed plight of gun owners to the experiences of victims of racial discrimination who fought against segregation:
In 1955, my hero, Rosa Parks, refused to give up her seat on a city bus. Good for her. In 2014, gun owners must learn from Rosa Parks and definitely refuse to give up our guns. As Rosa Parks once said, “You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right.”
Nugent has previously claimed, “I'm Rosa Parks with a Gibson,” and has called for gun owners to “sit down on the front seat of the bus.” He also considers himself an “anti-racist” and believes “racism against blacks was gone” by the 1970s.
But Nugent offered a lengthy defense of racial segregation in South Africa during a 1990 interview with the Detroit Free Press Magazine, arguing that, “Apartheid isn't that cut-and-dry. All men are not created equal,” and claiming that the indigenous people of South Africa are a “different breed of man,” because, among other reasons, "[t]hey still put bones in their noses":
The 40,000-acre ranch he manages in South Africa is a particularly sore point. The ranch is used exclusively for bow hunting, Nugent's passion.
“My being there isn't going to affect any political structure,” he says. “Besides, apartheid isn't that cut-and-dry. All men are not created equal.”
“The preponderance of South Africa is a different breed of man,” Nugent says. “I mean that with no disrespect. I say that with great respect. I love them because I'm one of them. They are still people of the earth, but they are different. They still put bones in their noses, they still walk around naked, they wipe their butts with their hands. And when I kill an antelope for 'em, their preference is the gut pile. That's what they f***ing want to eat, the intestines. These are different people. You give 'em toothpaste, they f***ing eat it...I hope they don't become civilized. They're way ahead of the game.”
In the same interview Nugent also said, “I use the word nigger a lot because I hang around with a lot of niggers, and they use the word nigger, and I tend to use words that communicate.”
Nugent's racism continued through the years. For instance, during a 1995 radio interview, Nugent said “real America” is comprised of “working hard, playing hard, white motherfucking shit kickers, who are independent and get up in the morning,” and challenged the host to name an African-American who fit a similar profile.
Following the acquittal of George Zimmerman on charges he murdered Florida teenager Trayvon Martin -- who Nugent infamously called a “dope-smoking, racist gangsta wannabe” -- Nugent called for the racial profiling of African-Americans, said the African-American community has a “mindless tendency to violence,” and claimed that African-Americans could fix “the black problem” if they just put their “heart and soul into being honest, law-abiding, [and] delivering excellence at every move in your life.” He has also said that civil rights leaders Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton speak in “ebonic mumbo-jumbo.”
Nugent's most recent racial dustup came in January where he claimed at a gun industry trade show, while representing the Outdoor Channel, that President Obama is a “subhuman mongrel.” The comment resurfaced in February when Republican Texas gubernatorial candidate Gregg Abbott tapped Nugent to campaign with him, kicking off a firestorm of controversy. Fallout from the “subhuman mongrel” comment has continued, as a Texas town recently announced it would pay Nugent not to show up for a planned performance at the town's Fourth of July music festival.
Gun activists frequently attempt to co-opt the civil rights movement to advance their position, often by comparing rules attached to gun ownership to the experience of racial discrimination.
During a keynote speech at the NRA's 2013 annual meeting, conservative commentator Glenn Beck adopted the mantle of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in telling the audience to join him in a passive resistance movement that he compared to lunch counter protests.
In January 2013, past NRA president and current lobbyist Marion Hammer compared the prospect of a ban on assault weapons to racial discrimination, stating, “banning people and things because of the way they look went out a long time ago. But here they are again. The color of a gun. The way it looks. It's just bad politics.”
NRA News programming has also compared the conditions of gun ownership to segregation. In August 2012, NRA News host Cam Edwards criticized a University of Colorado policy that would require students who keep guns on campus to live in a designated dormitory by saying, “Segregated dorms. Yes. How progressive. We are back to segregation now.” In 2013, Edwards cited the famous blistering dissent to the 1896 Supreme Court decision Plessy v. Ferugson -- which upheld the legality of segregation -- to compare the experience of Colorado gun owners with the states new gun laws to the experiences of those victimized by racial segregation. Appearing on NRA News in June 2013, Washington Times senior opinion editor and gun blogger Emily Miller compared a proposal to tax firearms to fund medical treatments for gun violence survivors to racially discriminatory poll taxes.