The National Rifle Association is holding its four-day annual meeting April 27-30 in Atlanta, GA.
In promotional materials for the meeting, the NRA wrote: “Georgia was a pivotal location in the civil rights movement. So, it is fitting that the NRA, the oldest civil rights organization in the country, is holding its 146th Annual Meeting of Members in Atlanta.”
The NRA has repeatedly hyped itself as both the oldest and the largest civil rights organization in the country. But in fact when the organization was founded in 1871, its primary goal was to “‘promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis.’” It did not actively begin lobbying for gun rights until nearly six decades later in 1934, when its Legislative Affairs Division was formed “‘in response to repeated attacks on the Second Amendment Rights,’” according to an analysis by the National Association for the Deaf (NAD). Both the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) founded in 1909 and NAD founded in 1880 are older civil rights organizations than the NRA.
Although the NRA praised Atlanta as the location for this year’s meeting because of its history with the civil rights movement, the NRA has previously lobbed multiple attacks against Atlanta-based congressman and civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). On June 22, 2016, following a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL, Lewis led a sit-in on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to protest gun violence and push for gun safety legislation. During the sit-in, NRATV host Cam Edwards compared Lewis and other participants to “criminals and terrorists," because like terrorists, the sit-in participants were not following the rules. During a subsequent broadcast, Edwards lectured his audience on “what sit-ins were about in the civil rights movement” in an attempt to separate Lewis’ actions from the civil rights movement.
In January 2017, Lewis took a stand against President Donald Trump, calling him illegitimate and said he planned on skipping the inauguration ceremony. During the January 16 edition of NRATV’s Stinchfield, host Grant Stinchfield claimed, “Dr. King would be ashamed of John Lewis” and said that Lewis has “forgotten what Dr. King stood for.” During an interview with NRA commentator and spokesperson Dana Loesch, Stinchfield called Lewis' refusal to attend the inauguration “anti-American,” “unpatriotic,” and “sad.” Loesch agreed with him and called Lewis’ comments “unfortunate” and “a threat to democracy.”
Despite targeting a civil rights hero, the NRA has routinely attempted to co-opt the civil rights movement by, among other things, calling gun regulations “equally as unconstitutional” as Jim Crow laws and bemoaning that “too many Americans don’t think of the Second Amendment as a civil rights issue.” In August 2015, NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action media liaison Lars Dalseide compared a Seattle ordinance that would fund gun violence research by imposing a tax on the sale of guns and ammunition to Jim Crow-era poll taxes.
In March 2014, NRA board member Ted Nugent wrote in a column for conspiracy website WorldNetDaily that gun owners “must learn from Rosa Parks and definitely refuse to give up our guns,” in response to a law that banned assault weapons following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Nugent went on to call Rosa Parks his “hero” and has previously called himself “Rosa Parks with a Gibson.”