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An NRA op-ed argues the gun group is being unfairly attacked as racist. But its actions speak for themselves.
In the October edition of the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) magazine America’s 1st Freedom, NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre takes on what he calls the “false notion” from the “gun-ban media” that “somehow the NRA is racist.”
Outlets covering the NRA and race should consider these examples -- starting with LaPierre himself -- in evaluating his claims:
After Hurricane Sandy struck New York City and other parts of the East Coast in 2013, LaPierre was criticized for writing an op-ed in which he falsely claimed that “looters ran wild in south Brooklyn” and fearmongered about “Latin American drug gangs.” Conservative commentator Joe Scarborough described the claims as “so laced with racial overtones.” Progressive commentator Touré pointed out that LaPierre “spoke of supposedly rampant crime and murder in some place he called South Brooklyn. … Put aside that no reporting bears that out. I live in Brooklyn, I have for a long time, and there is no place referred to as South Brooklyn, but I think it’s safe to say that when he says that, much of the country envisions a place clogged with black people.”
During the NRA’s 2015 annual meeting, LaPierre referenced the end of the Obama administration and told the crowd, “Eight years of one demographically symbolic president is enough.” Reacting to the comment, Pulitzer-winning columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. wrote, “LaPierre traded his dog whistle for an air horn.”
During a 2014 speech, LaPierre adopted conservative media’s racially charged claims about the (nonexistent) “knockout game” phenomenon -- in which black youths supposedly assault unsuspecting, mostly white, victims on the street for fun -- to hype gun ownership.
Despite its purported hyperfocus on terrorism, the NRA’s news show was silent after a neo-Nazi rammed his car into a group of anti-racist demonstrators, killing activist Heather Heyer and wounding 19 others, during a white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, VA, in August.
NRATV, one of the NRA’s media outlets, recently hired conservative commentator Bill Whittle, who has a long track record of making race-baiting comments. Whittle has promoted discredited theories that posit black people are less innately intelligent than members of other races and claimed that African-Americans commit voter fraud on behalf of Democrats as a condition of ongoing slavery. Whittle also once said that people in inner cities are “unemployable -- unemployed and unemployable -- they’ve been on assistance their entire lives, they’ve never had to work before,” and that these people should get jobs because a job “beats the laziness” out of people and “disciplines” them into “civility.”
Another recent NRATV hire, Grant Stinchfield, who anchors the NRA’s “news” show, once wrote on social media concerning gun violence: “Blame minorities killing each other not law abiding conservatives.”
Following Donald Trump’s presidential election victory, Chuck Holton, an NRATV correspondent who is a daily guest on the gun group’s programming, wrote on Twitter that the “party’s over” and it's time to scrub “Obama’s mocacchino stain off of America!” using a term for a chocolate coffee drink.
In 2016, Holton claimed on an NRA program that white privilege is “just simply the culture that we have created, that our fathers and grandfathers have worked hard to create,” before saying that it would be nice if blacks joined whites in “respecting authority and taking responsibility for your own actions.”
In July, Holton warned on NRATV about the prospect of Black Lives Matter members committing mass murder and rape against whites in the United States.
Long-serving NRA board member Ted Nugent devoted an entire 2015 column at conspiracy website WorldNetDaily to praising the word “nigger,” including its use as a racial slur.
In 2016, Nugent posted a racist meme on Facebook about a fake moving company called “2 niggers and a stolen truck.”
Nugent attempted to smear Philando Castile on social media by promoting a false report that Castile was a suspect in an armed robbery implying Castile did not have “enuf brainmatter (sic)" to avoid being shot.
Nugent responded to a critic on Facebook with a Spanish name by calling the man “beanochimp.”
Amid controversy over Nugent’s labeling of murdered black teenager Trayvon Martin as a "dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe,” Nugent made racist claims in several media interviews, including saying people should profile African-Americans in the same way members of a community might profile a breed of dog that was biting children, that African-Americans could solve “the black problem" if they were more honest and law-abiding, and that the African-American community has a "mindless tendency to violence" and an inability to "read or speak clearly."
Nugent infamously called Obama a “subhuman mongrel” in 2014.
The NRA did not publicly condemn or dispute any of Nugent’s comments, and he was re-elected for another term on its board in 2016.
NRA News, the prior name for NRATV, attempted to rewrite the history surrounding a series of incidents after Hurricane Katrina in which white residents in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans shot at least 11 black people in racially motivated attacks.
In August 2016, the NRA told its supporters to read a “laugh-out-loud funny” newsletter that was published by the late Jeff Cooper, a former NRA board member. Called “Jeff Cooper’s Commentaries,” the newsletter frequently defended slavery, often featured racial slurs, and compared black South Africans to orangutans.
A leaked 2006 NRA graphic novel was filled with racial overtones including via images of “illegal alien” gang members included to promote gun ownership.
In 1996, an NRA researcher attempted to blame race rather than gun availability for high rates of gun violence in the United States, leading then-Rep. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to respond, "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."
A trade group representing publishers including The New York Times, The Associated Press, 21st Century Fox, and dozens of other major news outlets sent a letter to the National Rifle Association (NRA), slamming the gun organization’s “incendiary language” against the media and calling their actions “un-American.”
Through its online news outlet NRATV, the gun group has launched a series of attacks against the New York Times in recent months with videos featuring NRA national spokesperson Dana Loesch and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. In the video, which was released in April but resurfaced in recent weeks and caused controversy, Loesch said to the Times staff: “Consider this the shot across your proverbial bow. We are going to fisk the The New York Times and find out just what ‘deep and rich’ means to this old gray hag, this untrustworthy, dishonest rag that has subsisted on the welfare of mediocrity for one, two, three, more decades. We're going to laser-focus on your so-called ‘honest pursuit of truth.’ In short, we're coming for you.”
On September 5, Digital Content Next called out the NRA's videos in a letter addressed to Loesch, stating that while it is her right to express “disagreement” with the Times and other publications, “it is our right to suggest in the strongest terms that your behavior is blatantly irresponsible” and that it is “un-American to threaten journalists.” A CNN.com article about the letter noted that the NRA “has increasingly criticized media outlets” and that experts believe this is being done “to motivate existing members and recruit new members”:
A trade group that represents The New York Times, the Associated Press and other major publishers is calling out the NRA, accusing the gun rights group of crossing a line and threatening journalists.
"We were taken aback by your recent criticism of The New York Times," the group Digital Content Next wrote in a letter to NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch on Tuesday.
In a viral video last month, Loesch harshly attacked the Times as an "untrustworthy, dishonest rag." She said her video was a "shot across your proverbial bow."
"We're going to laser-focus on your so-called honest pursuit of truth," Loesch said. "In short: We're coming for you."
The video received ample attention in conservative media circles. Fox News said the NRA was "targeting" the Times.
Without a Democratic president in power to be a focus of its messaging, the NRA has increasingly criticized media outlets like The Times. Analysts have speculated that the group is doing so to motivate existing members and recruit new members.
Michael Luo, editor of NewYorker.com, wrote last month that Loesch's web videos are "strikingly bellicose even by the standards of the association."
In July, NRATV host Grant Stinchfield released a video accusing The Washington Post of playing a “role in the organized anarchy of the violent left,” and claimed the Post's reporting has done “more damage to our country with a keyboard than every NRA member combined has ever done with a firearm.”
In previous comments on his NRATV show, Stinchfield has called critical reporting on Trump and his transition team “anti-patriotic” and a plot by the media to “destroy our republic” and claimed that reporting on allegations of sexual assault against Trump was part of “the mainstream media’s assault against freedom and the Constitution.”
Loesch also caused controversy this summer for narrating another video released on NRATV in which she claimed the left uses the media “to assassinate real news” and that “the only way we save our country and our freedom is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth.” Vox.com called the video “chilling” and the Washington Post called it “an ad designed to provoke fear, if not incite violence.”
NRA To Launch Ads Against The “Anti-Freedom” “Propaganda Machine” New York Times
The National Rifle Association’s news outlet NRATV announced a new “series of messages” against The New York Times that will air on the Fox News Channel beginning Monday. The NRA previewed the ad with the claim that the newspaper has “gone on the offensive to take away your liberties.”
The new NRA ad evidences a new phenomenon since the election of President Donald Trump where the gun group now routinely labels protected speech reporting that it doesn’t like as oppositional to traditional democratic values.
On the April 7 edition of NRATV’s Stinchfield, host Grant Stinchfield called the Times “a liberal propaganda machine that is out of control,” and claimed the newspaper has carried out an “assault on journalism.” He then played a preview of a message featuring NRA’s CEO Wayne LaPierre in which LaPierre claimed the media has “weaponized the First Amendment against the Second,” and that America “would have fallen long ago” had people placed their trust in the “failing American news media.”
GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): Well, they will lie, they will deceive, they will exploit the ignorance of so many Americans, all with one goal. They will lie, deceive it all, all with the goal to push an anti-freedom agenda that includes an assault on your Second Amendment rights. I’m talking, of course, about The New York Times. A liberal propaganda machine that is out of control. This machine has gone on the offensive to take away your liberties. This machine has gone on the offensive to make an assault on journalism and weaponize it. The New York Times is upping its fight, so are we here at NRATV. So sit back, we are going on the offensive with a series of messages that will air on Fox News Channel starting Monday. Here is a preview.
WAYNE LAPIERRE (NRA EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND CEO): To every dishonest member of the failing American news media, let me explain why you’ve never been less trusted, less credible, or less respected. For decades you ignored calls from millions of gun owners to just tell the truth. All you had to do was just get the facts right about our guns, and our freedom. But you never even pretended to listen. Instead, you weaponized the First Amendment against the Second. And now the whole country sees you for the mockery we’ve always known. Your claim to the truth is as legitimate as a thief’s. If the fate of individual freedom had rested in your hands, America would have fallen long ago. But Americans put their trust somewhere else, and now in that place stands the most trusted defender of individual freedom in American history. We’re the National Rifle Association of America, and we’re freedom’s safest place.
The NRA has previously run messages against The New York Times for fact-checking the Trump administration. On February 3, after the newspaper corrected Trump aide Kellyanne Conway for her “Bowling Green Massacre” falsehood, NRATV issued a tweet that claimed the Times was “aiding terrorists” by correcting Conway as opposed to covering the “threat of ISIS.”
— NRATV (@NRATV) February 3, 2017
On February 27, days after the Times aired a promotional TV ad during the Oscars about the importance of journalism in the Trump era, the NRA fired back with its own 75 second ad claiming Americans have “stopped looking to The New York Times for the truth.” The NRA ad claimed the Times ignored several major news stories because they didn’t show liberals in a positive light, but according to a February 28 ThinkProgress post, the ad missed “that the newspaper did, in fact, cover every event it mentions, often with extensive reporting.”
Since Trump was elected, NRATV has effectively become a pro-Trump propaganda arm that routinely labels protected speech fact-checking and reporting on the president as an “assault against freedom and the Constitution,” and a plot to destroy the United States. Stinchfield has gone as far as to say the reports raising critical questions about Trump’s transition team were “anti-patriotic.”
In a November 14 video released on NRATV, NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre claimed “Hillary Clinton made her hatred for the Second Amendment a central issue of this campaign and as a result of that fatal mistake, she’s on permanent political vacation”:
WAYNE LAPIERRE: On November 8th you, the five million men and women of the National Rifle Association of America, along with the tens of millions of gun owners all over this country who followed your lead, achieved a truly extraordinary, historic, even heroic accomplishment. In northern Florida and Pennsylvania, throughout Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan, in small towns and communities all across America, you were the special forces that swung this election and sent Donald Trump and Mike Pence to the White House. You did this. Don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise. In the wake of this historic event, the same disgraced group of so-called experts, talking heads, pundits, and pollsters that got everything wrong before the election are trying to deceive you again. So let me remove all doubt: Gun owners made this election happen. Hillary Clinton made her hatred for the Second Amendment a central issue of this campaign and as a result of that fatal mistake, she’s on permanent political vacation.
But the NRA’s framing of the election outcome doesn’t make sense, even assuming the election was decided on policy grounds (which it apparently wasn’t). The pro-gun safety presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, received substantially more votes than NRA-endorsed President-elect Donald Trump.
Setting that aside, all available data indicates Democrat, Republican, and Independent voters overwhelmingly supported the types of gun safety measures that Clinton advocated for.
According to polling released just before Election Day, measures including “expanding background checks on gun purchases; barring those convicted of a hate crime from buying a gun; and prohibiting those convicted of stalking or domestic abuse from buying guns” received widespread support among voters polled by Public Policy Polling in Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The Center for American Progress noted that the polling shows “anywhere from 80 percent to 93 percent of Democrats in these states support them, along with 58 percent to 86 percent of critical independent voters, and even 64 percent to 80 percent of Republicans.”
There is no evidence in exit polling that the gun issue was determinative in the election outcome either, as the economy was clearly the top priority for voters. (And as The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza noted, Clinton actually won on the economy, suggesting “people weren't voting on issues. Like, at all.”)
The results of several ballot initiative votes also debunk the NRA’s attempt to create a false narrative about the election. Three out of four ballot measures where issues of gun policy were directly decided by voters passed. Ballot initiatives in California (requiring background checks for ammunition purchases and banning high-capacity ammunition magazines, among other measures), Nevada (expanding background checks on gun purchases), and Washington (the creation of a legal mechanism to keep guns away from individuals who are a danger to themselves or others) were all victorious. A background check expansion ballot initiative in Maine was narrowly defeated.
Gun safety advocates were also successful in the New Hampshire U.S. Senate race where, unlike other races, gun policy was a significant issue. Proponents of expanded background checks had consistently and loudly expressed their displeasure with Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) over her 2013 vote against background check legislation in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting. As Politico reported in its recap of Democrat Maggie Hassan’s victory, the race had become “a referendum on gun control.”
It’s apparent that these are facts the NRA does not want to grapple with. In his video message LaPierre said that anyone claiming that the election was not a rejection of gun safety proposals is trying to “deceive you.” But that’s just another half-baked conspiracy theory from LaPierre. The facts speak for themselves.
NRA Tactics Include Showing Images Of Dead Children Before Calling For Leaders Who Will Say “Radical Islamic Terror”
That hypothetical was described in an October 18 NRA Commentator video, with NRA News commentator Dom Raso saying he was going to “think like ISIS” before suggesting that the terror group could take down the United States’ entire power grid.
According to Raso, as time passes after the power goes out, “food and water would be almost impossible to find and whatever stockpiles were left would become war zone. … I guarantee police would abandon their duty, to protect their own families. … Sewage would pile up in homes and run out into the streets. There would be no safe water for showers, and disease would inevitably start to spread. With their ruthless methods and superior organization, Mexican cartels and urban street gangs take advantage of everyone and take control.”
Raso then said, “At this point, ISIS doesn’t have to kill anyone; they’ve already won”:
In an October 11 video, Raso described another doomsday scenario, pre-emptively blaming President Obama for ISIS setting off a hypothetical nuclear device in Times Square. In this scenario, ISIS would smuggle the nuclear device across the U.S.-Mexico border.
While showing images of Obama, Raso intoned, “If, God forbid, a massive attack is carried out on our own soil by terrorists who gained entry by crossing that border, it will be exactly because we decided to put the feelings and opinions of those politicians whose closest interaction with ISIS is watching the Paris attacks happen on CNN over the safety of the American people”:
In an October 4 video, Raso claimed that Obama “talks about universal values we all share as if Islamic terrorists are just like us,” before predicting an ISIS terror attack against a school in the U.S. similar to the 2004 Beslan, Russia, hostage crisis that left hundreds dead.
Without mentioning Trump by name, the video demanded that we elect federal leaders who will say “radical Islamic terror.”
The NRA video is graphic and includes footage of dead and wounded children:
The NRA most recently amped up its fearmongering with an “urgent message” to members from the group’s leader, Wayne LaPierre, in which he described the U.S. as an unlivable hellscape following eight years of Obama as president.
Before the 2014 elections, the NRA’s election edition of its magazine fearmongered about terrorist attacks and "angry mobs" rioting "just for the sheer hell of it" in the U.S. before calling on supporters to "vote our guns" on Election Day. That magazine cover suggested that ISIS is at “our door”:
The leader of the National Rifle Association insisted he wasn’t “crazy,” “paranoid,” or “nuts” before ranting to NRA members in an “urgent” video message where he made claims at odds with reality, including claiming that his widely ridiculed prediction that President Obama would come for Americans’ guns “came true.”
During a six-minute get out the vote video, NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre described America after eight years of Obama as president in hellish terms unrecognizable to anyone who actually lives here, claiming that the president has “laid waste to the America we remember” causing the country to “completely unravel.”
After describing a calamitous America, LaPierre claimed, “I told you exactly what [Obama] would do. The media said I was nuts. But in the end, America knows I was right.” You decide whether LaPierre was right:
LaPierre said his prediction that Obama “would come for our guns and do everything in his power to sabotage the Second Amendment” “came true” following the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, when Obama “exploited a horrible tragedy to launch a blizzard of gun bans, magazine restrictions, and gun registration schemes against law abiding gun owners all across the country.” (Nothing proposed by Obama would have violated the Second Amendment as understood in the Antonin Scalia-authored Supreme Court decision District of Columbia v. Heller. The background check bill that was voted on in the Senate after the massacre specifically prohibited the creation of registries.)
Following terror attacks carried out by ISIS, LaPierre claimed Obama “attacked you harder than he attacked ISIS. He used the terrorism his own weaknesses and failures made possible to try to gut your right to shoot back at the terrorists he refused to kill.” (As commander-in-chief, Obama is actually carrying out a military campaign against ISIS which routinely kills the group’s leaders and fighters. Nothing Obama has ever proposed would bar citizens from shooting back at terrorists.)
LaPierre claimed that Obama “has transformed America into a sanctuary nation for felons, criminal gangbangers, drug dealers, repeat offenders, and illegal aliens” and that “our inner cities now rank among the most dangerous places in the world.” (Although there have been upticks as well as dips, violent crime has continued to fall under President Obama.)
LaPierre said Obama “handed nuclear bombs to the Iranian mullahs who dream of killing us all.” (In fact, the deal negotiated with Iran will make it much more difficult for that country to make a nuclear bomb.)
Under Obama, LaPierre claimed, “Our economy is on life support. Health care is an utter failure. Our schools have never been worse. You can see the despair in every parent's eyes.” (The economy is growing, the uninsured rate is an all-time low, and the high school graduation rate is at a record high.)
LaPierre claimed Clinton “will come for your guns, she will attack your right to carry, she will attack your most basic right to defend your family with a firearm in your home.” (Independent fact-checkers have repeatedly debunked the claim that Clinton opposes gun ownership or that she has indicated she would abolish the Second Amendment.)
If the present-day America described by LaPierre is frightening, the scenario he describes if Clinton were to be elected is outright terrifying. According to LaPierre, Clinton’s election would harken “the creation of a new, post-freedom America that you won’t even recognize” as Clinton twists “a knife into the heart of the one freedom that separates us from the rest of the world.”
Displaying his trademark paranoia, LaPierre -- irresponsibly and without evidence -- claims that guns would be “forcibly” confiscated during Clinton’s presidency and “if you refuse to witness the self-destruction of the greatest nation the world has ever known” then NRA voters must ensure Clinton’s defeat so that America “will be great again.”
LaPierre offered one more falsehood in his video message: He said that NRA supporters “are the Special Forces that swing elections.” The idea that the NRA has the ability to determine election outcomes has actually been vastly overstated.
LaPierre’s entire paranoid rant:
WAYNE LAPIERRE: I spent my entire life fighting for the Second Amendment and I’ve got the scars to prove it. The media and many in the political class have reserved some of their most vicious, nasty insults for me. Because they truly hate the freedom that I stand for and they hate that I tell the truth. They’ve called me crazy, paranoid, evil, and far worse. But the media is so focused on me, they forgot about you, the tens of millions of gun owners all over America. The men and women who come up to me at guns shows in places like Tulsa and Harrisburg, the mechanics and taxi drivers and Waffle House waitresses who tell me, “Never ever back down.” You give me the strength to speak the plain honest truth in the face of all the hate.
When I said Barack Obama would come for our guns and do everything in his power to sabotage the Second Amendment, they savaged me. They called me a liar. But every one of those predictions came true. As soon as it was politically convenient, he exploited a horrible tragedy to launch a blizzard of gun bans, magazine restrictions, and gun registration schemes against law-abiding gun owners all across the country.
I stood in front of the country and said, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” I said our children deserve at least the same level of protection that surrounds our jewelry stores, banks, office buildings, celebrities, and the political and media elite. They attacked me like never before. But you stood your ground, and you told me to stand mine.
While radical Islamic terrorists shot, bombed, and butchered innocent Americans on our own soil, Barack Obama attacked you harder than he attacked ISIS. He used the terrorism his own weaknesses and failures made possible to try to gut your right to shoot back at the terrorists he refused to kill. Thank God we stopped him in his tracks. But while his term ends in a matter of months, his two Supreme Court appointees, easily among the worst justices to ever sit on that bench, will come after our guns for the rest of their lives. Eight years of his policies have laid waste to the America we remember. Through a deliberate lack of prosecution, he has transformed America into a sanctuary nation for felons, criminal gangbangers, drug dealers, repeat offenders, and illegal aliens. Our inner cities now rank among the most dangerous places in the world. Teenage girls are trafficked in sex trade that begins south of our porous border and ends up right under the noses of the elites in cities like Washington, D.C.
His foreign policy enabled and inspired ISIS, handed nuclear bombs to the Iranian mullahs who dream of killing us all, emboldened Russia, China and North Korea, and left Europe on the brink of absolute implosion. Even the weakest leaders of third-rate countries feel free to publicly mock and disrespect our president while the world’s most cunning, power-hungry negotiators played him for a fool.
Our economy is on life support. Health care is an utter failure. Our schools have never been worse. You can see the despair in every parent's eyes. Eight years; that's all it took for our country to completely unravel. I told you exactly what he would do. The media said I was nuts. But in the end, America knows I was right.
So feel free to mark my words: If, God forbid, Hillary Clinton is elected, she will launch an all-out war on the Second Amendment. She will come for your guns, she will attack your right to carry, she will attack your most basic right to defend your family with a firearm in your home. And she will continue the disastrous policies of this administration to their inevitable conclusion: the creation of a new, post-freedom America that you won’t even recognize.
There is no red line President Hillary Clinton will not cross when it comes to attacking your rights and forcibly taking your guns. She dreams of twisting a knife into the heart of the one freedom that separates us from the rest of the world. The only thing that can stop her is you. The NRA's 5 million members are history’s most committed, most elite defenders of freedom. You are the Special Forces that swing elections, and I need you now more than ever.
Fight with me; stand by my side like you have at all these years. If you cherish the freedom that was won for you at Lexington and Concord and on the shores of Normandy, if you believe that this freedom makes America better and stronger than every other country, if you refuse to witness the self-destruction of the greatest nation the world has ever known, then join me: Arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder, we will fight for each other, for our children and for future generations, and for our shared dream that American can and will be great again. On November 8th, you are freedom's safest place.
The NRA has gone out on a limb for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, but the candidate is in the process of sawing it off as his campaign flails amid a rapidly increasing number of new sexual assault allegations.
While other outside groups that traditionally spend a lot on elections have taken a more measured approach in backing Trump, the NRA has already spent nearly twice as much on independent expenditures in this presidential race as it did in 2012, when it attempted to elect Mitt Romney.
The NRA’s outsized promotion of Trump began during its May 2016 annual meeting. Previewing the group’s endorsement of Trump, NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre told a roaring crowd, “The revolution to take America back starts here, it starts on this day, and by God we will elect our next president, we will save our freedom, and America truly will be great again.” Moments later Trump joined the stage to receive the NRA’s official endorsement from NRA top lobbyist Chris Cox.
Such an early endorsement of a presidential candidate was “virtually unprecedented” for the NRA, which did not endorse John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012 until October.
The NRA has backed its enthusiasm for Trump with massive spending -- even as other conservative groups have backed off. In August, The New York Times reported that “Donald J. Trump’s candidacy has driven away throngs of Republican elected officials, donors and policy experts. But not the National Rifle Association.” Calling the NRA “the institution on the right most aggressively committed to his candidacy, except for the Republican National Committee itself,” the Times reported, “The association has spent millions of dollars on television commercials for Mr. Trump, even as other Republican groups have kept their checkbooks closed and Mr. Trump’s campaign has not run any ads of its own.”
Indeed, according to FEC filings viewed on October 13, the NRA has spent the second most of any organization on independent expenditures opposing Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and supporting Trump, behind only pro-Trump super PACs:
Because the NRA spends with two committees -- the NRA Institute for Legislative Action and the NRA Political Victory Fund -- the figures above do not even represent total NRA spending on the 2016 presidential race. According to NBC News, the committees have spent a combined $21 million so far attempting to elect Trump. In contrast, the NRA spent $12 million trying to elect Romney in 2012 in a spending campaign the gun group termed “all in.”
The largest pro-Trump NRA ad buy to date -- reportedly worth $6.5 million -- could not have come at a worse time. On October 5, the NRA released an ad that falsely claimed Hillary Clinton opposed the notion that “every woman has a right to defend herself with a gun if she chooses.” The ad featured a woman who defended herself with a gun against a violent attacker.
— NRA (@NRA) October 6, 2016
On October 6, the NRA predicted the ad would give Trump a “big boost” in an article in its online magazine, touting “the largest advertising push to date for the National Rifle Association’s support of the Trump campaign":
The next day, The Washington Post released a video of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women, sending his campaign into a free fall. Following the release of that tape, numerous women have come forward accusing Trump of more sexual assaults.
Following these revelations, it is unclear what the NRA will do, having already invested so much money into the race and already touted themselves as "the key" to delivering the election for Trump. According to the NRA’s upcoming election edition of its magazine America’s 1st Freedom, the gun group shows no sign of backing down, with the group’s leadership setting Trump up as necessary to “save our freedom”:
The National Rifle Association’s lobbying arm attacked former Massachusetts governor and Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee Bill Weld as “anti-gun” because of statements Weld made about assault weapons and allowing gun sales to suspected terrorists. Weld’s positions on those issues are similar to positions held by GOP nominee Donald Trump, whom the NRA has endorsed.
Outcry over GOP nominee Donald Trump’s claim that “Second Amendment people” could do something about Supreme Court nominations made by Hillary Clinton follows years of National Rifle Association efforts to normalize the notion that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to overthrow a “tyrannical” government. As NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre has put it, “The guys with the guns make the rules”
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National Rifle Association (NRA) executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre railed against “elites” in a new NRA video, complaining that powerful people in politics, Hollywood, and the media “run our country.”
In a July 5 video titled “We Don’t Need You,” released as part of the NRA’s “national campaign,” LaPierre complained that there is “no longer any difference between our politicians and the elite media who report on them, and the Hollywood elites who bankroll them both.”
According to LaPierre, these groups of elite figures “work together, in some newsrooms and boardrooms and Washington back rooms and star-studded champagne fundraisers, to decide for the rest of us what's news and what's not, what's true and what's not, who gets protected, who goes to prison, who gets our money, and who gets our vote.”
LaPierre added: “These elites threaten our very survival, and to them we say: We don't trust you, we don't fear you, and we don't need you. Take your hands off our future.”
But if being elite means wielding outsized influence, LaPierre and the NRA are perfect definitions of the word.
LaPierre gets more than $1 million each year in pay and other compensation from the NRA and is registered as a federal lobbyist for the organization. The NRA also wields outsized influence over Congress due to the longstanding, but false, belief that the organization has the ability to use elections to remove politicians from office who refuse to go along with its agenda. (Actual analyses of federal election outcomes and of NRA election spending have proved that the conventional wisdom is wrong, but the attitude persists in some respects, impacting congressional behavior.)
While LaPierre put forward a populist message in the NRA video, it is the NRA that blocks broadly popular legislation and congressional action. The organization is widely credited as the reason Congress cannot pass legislation to expand background checks, a proposal favored by between 88 and 93 percent of voters. The NRA is also key in blocking legislation to prevent individuals on the terrorist watch list from purchasing firearms, a proposal favored by 86 percent of Americans. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has cited the NRA’s opposition to Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland -- pointing to its distortion of Garland’s judicial record -- as justification for obstructing his nomination, even though strong majorities of voters want Garland to receive a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
After presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump said clubgoers at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL, where a gunman killed 49 people June 12, should have been carrying guns, many media outlets noted that Trump had staked out a position on guns in bars that was even more extreme than the National Rifle Association’s.
Several media outlets, however, also incorrectly reported that the NRA opposes guns in bars generally.
In fact, for years the NRA has made state-level efforts to allow concealed guns to be carried in bars so long as the person with the gun does not consume alcohol. The alcohol prohibition would largely operate on an honor system, as most concealed carry laws require that the gun remain concealed at all times unless being used for lawful self-defense or some other legal purpose.
On June 17, Trump said while discussing the Orlando mass shooting, “If some of those wonderful people had guns strapped right here -- right to their waist or right to their ankle -- and … one of the people in that room happened to have it and goes 'boom, boom,' you know what? That would have been a beautiful, beautiful sight." (Trump later dishonestly claimed he was referring only to the arming of employees or security guards.)
Two NRA officials were asked about Trump’s remark during Sunday show appearances on June 19. NRA Institute for Legislative Action executive director Chris Cox said people drinking in clubs should not carry guns while NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said, “I don’t think you should have firearms where people are drinking.” The NRA later clarified that LaPierre was expressing opposition only to people drinking while carrying guns in bars.
So while Trump’s position is further out there compared to the NRA’s position, the NRA’s position itself is out of the mainstream.
Several outlets misreported the NRA’s extreme position in guns in bars, amid confusion over both Trump and LaPierre attempting to “clarify” remarks made about guns in bars:
USA Today: “But NRA officials said Sunday that having armed patrons in bars with alcohol was not such a good idea.”
NBC’s Peter Alexander on the June 20 broadcast of Today: “Trump’s argued that if more people at that Orlando nightclub were armed with guns strapped to their waist, and that they fired back at the shooter, the carnage would have been much less. But even the NRA pushed back against that, insisting it does not believe people should carry guns in drinking establishments.”
Associated Press: “Donald Trump is backtracking from his contention that victims of the Orlando massacre should have been allowed to carry arms into the nightclub where they were attacked -- a stance even the NRA says is untenable.”
The two National Rifle Association officials who appeared on Sunday political talk shows to respond to the June 12 massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL, both made anti-LGBT remarks as recent as a month ago.
One week after a gunman wielding an assault weapon killed 49 people and wounded 53 others during a terror attack at Pulse nightclub, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre appeared on CBS’ Face the Nation and NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) executive director Chris Cox appeared on ABC’s This Week to advocate against passing stronger gun laws in response to the mass shooting.
As in the NRA’s official response to the shooting, which was authored by Cox, both Cox and LaPierre failed to mention that the shooting targeted a gay nightclub.
Both LaPierre and Cox made anti-gay statements during a May 20 event at the NRA’s annual meeting. During the annual NRA-ILA Leadership Forum, Cox and LaPierre both delivered speeches that led into the NRA’s endorsement of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Cox spoke first, and attacked societal acceptance of transgender people as “perverted” and “twisted” just seconds into his remarks. Cox lamented that “the America we know is becoming unrecognizable. Everything we believe in, everything we’ve always known to be good, and right, and true has been twisted, perverted, and repackaged to our kids as wrong, backwards, and abnormal.”
Citing examples of America’s supposed downfall, Cox went on to say, “Who are our kids supposed to respect and admire? The media tells them Bruce Jenner is a national hero for transforming his body, while our wounded warriors, whose bodies were transformed by IEDs and rocket-propelled grenades, can’t even get basic healthcare from the VA.”
During his speech, LaPierre said the Obama administration was “in the toilet” because of efforts by the administration to prevent schools from discriminating against transgender students.
While ostensibly an organization focused on issues relating to guns, members of the NRA’s leadership have attacked LGBT people for years, including blaming a mass shooting on same-sex marriage, claiming gay people “created” the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and labeling or supporting the depiction of gay people as “despicable,” “perverts,” and “degenerates.”
While the NRA is ostensibly an organization focused on gun rights, members of its leadership have attacked LGBT people for years, including blaming a mass shooting on gay marriage, calling societal acceptance of transgender people “perverted,” claiming gay people “created” the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and labeling gay people “despicable,” “perverts,” and “degenerates.”