Gun Owners of America executive director Larry Pratt said in an interview that President Obama “clearly doesn't like the fact that the American people can own guns because we might just want to use them to keep people like him from becoming tyrants.”
Pratt, who heads a gun rights group considered to the right of even the National Rifle Association, made the comment during a November 17 appearance on Newsmax TV's America's Forum. He also bragged that his group was responsible for the 2013 defeat of a U.S. Senate bill to expand background checks on gun sales.
The latest inflammatory remark from Pratt comes hours after the release of a video project by The American Independent Institute (TAII) and gun safety group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) on the state of the gun lobby that discusses how media turn to Pratt for commentary on the gun issue, often while ignoring his lengthy history of extremism and past association with white supremacists.
Pratt's claim on America's Forum came during a discussion of the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The purpose of the treaty is to prevent the transfer of arms to human rights abusers and it would have no impact on domestic gun laws. Nonetheless, GOA, the NRA, and conservative media often advance the conspiracy theory that the ATT will be used by international entities to register or even confiscate privately held guns in the United States.
While the Senate has thus far refused to ratify the ATT -- as it has been dogged by right-wing conspiracy theories -- Pratt suggested that Obama would use “international community agreement” to unilaterally enact the provisions of the ATT. According to Pratt, Obama's motivation for this extra-constitutional action would be “because he clearly doesn't like the fact that the American people can own guns because we might just want to use them to keep people like him from becoming tyrants.”
Pratt claimed moments later that GOA was the “singular entity” that blocked the passage of an expanded background check bill in the U.S. Senate following the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Indeed, an April 2013 profile in The New York Times called GOA an “influential force” that “has already been successful in both freezing senators, particularly Republicans, who have appeared to be on the fence about supporting bills to expand background checks and increase penalties for illegal gun purchases, and empowering those who have a strong gun rights background.” (Other observers have given the NRA credit for blocking the bill, which failed in April 2013.)
Despite his ever-growing list of extremist comments, media outlets continue to give Pratt a platform. This phenomenon was discussed by journalist Alexander Zaitchik and CSGV executive director Josh Horwitz in a November 17 video project on the inner workings of the gun lobby:
Zaitchik, who profiled Pratt for RollingStone.com in July, called the Times article on Pratt and his group “a complete whitewash of his radicalism. I mean this is a guy who is instrumental in the creation of the militia movement in the '90s, who had, you know, all sorts of connections to the Neo-Nazi [movement] and the extreme right.”
The Times had failed to mention that Pratt was forced to leave Republican candidate Pat Buchanan's 1996 presidential campaign after reporting by the Times and other major media outlets brought widespread attention to Pratt's prior association with white supremacist groups.
According to Zaitchik, Pratt has been booked for national television appearances because “attention span, and time, and, you know, historical memory is getting shorter and shorter. You've got these bookers and producers who are in their mid-twenties, they don't do a lot of research before they book a guest, they don't really know their history and there is not a lot that has been written recently for them to even look at.”
The American Independent Institute is headed by Media Matters founder David Brock.