Please welcome Christopher W. Brown, a researcher for the Coalition To Stop Gun Violence. This is his first guest post at TPC:
History Repeating Itself At The NRA’s Annual Meeting.
How The Worst Moments Of The NRA’s 2013 Annual Meeting Showed The Organization’s Ugly History Repeating Itself
The world was following the NRA’s annual meeting with greater levels of attention than ever before and the NRA lived up to their reputation with a series of shocking, embarrassing and offensive moments. While these events show the extremism of the modern NRA, many of them also show the NRA is in fact embracing and repeating the ugliest moments in the organization’s sordid history. Here’s some of the worst moments of the 2013 annual meeting and their historical antecedents:
1. New NRA President James Porter Demands A New Culture War.
James Porter didn’t waste any time before stoking controversy telling his fellow gun activists it was their responsibility to wage a new “culture war.” The extremism on display at the convention is nothing new for Porter who has previously called President Obama a “fake President” and referred the American Civil War the “War of Northern Aggression.”
Porter’s words echoes long time NRA President Charlton Heston’s racist and homophobic culture war speeches. In 1997 Charlton Heston, who served as the NRA’s President from 1998-2003, listed a variety of purported grievances against whites in a speech delivered to the Free Congress Foundation. Heston’s remarks were denounced by former President of the NAACP Julian Bond as “bigoted and homophobic.” In 1999 Heston returned to the subject in a speech titled “Winning the Culture War” where he lamented that the term “white pride” was viewed as racist.
The relevance of Porter’s decision to start his term as NRA president mirroring the language Heston used to express barely veiled bigotry shouldn’t be lost on anyone.
2. Glenn Beck Suggests That A Shooting Was A “Set Up” Meant To Discredit The NRA.
One day before the convention opened it’s doors a highly disturbed man opened fire in Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport drawing counter fire from security personnel before turning the gun on himself. The shooter brought an AR-15 assault rifle to the airport, but never used it. Sadly and unsurprisingly Glenn Beck suggested the incident could have been a “set up” by the “uber-left” meant to discredit the NRA.
In fact it would be surprising if pro-gun extremists weren’t pushing a conspiracy theory in the wake a well-publicized act of gun violence. Most recently, Alex Jones called the Boston Marathon bombings a “false flag” and we saw the sickening outbreak of Sandy Hook truther videos suggesting the mass shooting was fake and the victims families were “crisis actors.” The NRA didn’t touch those two smears, but the group is no stranger to these types of conspiracy theories. The NRA spent 2011 suggesting the Obama administration intentionally orchestrated the failed ATF investigation Fast and Furious to enable a push for greater gun restrictions. Years earlier Wayne LaPierre similarly suggested Bill Clinton willfully allowed gun violence for the same reason.
3. Glenn Beck Portrays New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg As Nazi
Glenn Beck might have been too crazy for Fox News, but that didn’t stop the NRA from inviting him to again share his conspiratorial ramblings with the conference attendees. The NRA got their money’s worth as Beck smeared New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as he displayed an image likening Bloomberg to a Nazi.
Nazi smears are nothing new for the NRA. During the nineties Wayne LaPierre likened federal law enforcement agents to Nazis in the NRA's publications and fundraising materials. Former President George H.W. Bush famously resigned his lifetime NRA membership over LaPierre describing federal agents as “jack-booted thugs”, but in fact an earlier comment by LaPierre made the Nazi link explicitly.
4. Obama Look-Alike Zombie Removed For Convention.
Disturbing rhetoric is old hat for the NRA, but this year’s annual meeting also featured the visibly disturbing and indeed just plain disgusting. Convention vendor Zombie Industries was asked to take down their zombie themed shooting target after complaints that it resembled President Obama. While the life sized three-dimensional target was taken down, it was still available for sale at the booth.
Remember the concealed-carry hoodie they pushed after the Trayvon Martin shooting? The NRA aggressively markets branded accessories, such as the toaster that will burn their logo onto your bread, to their supporters. When unarmed African American teenager Trayvon Martin was killed by concealed carry permit holder George Zimmerman his hoodie gained wide symbolic importance after Geraldo Rivera suggested the hoodie had contributed to Martin’s death. As the case was receiving wide media attention the NRA’s online store generated controversy by selling a hoodie designed with a special pocket to hold a handgun.
5. NRA Embraces Fringe Gun Activist Jeff Knox’s Extremist Resolution.
During the opening session of the convention the attendees approved a resolution calling for opposition to any and all new gun restrictions put forward by Jeff Knox head of the hardline Firearms Coalition. The resolution’s blind and thoughtless embrace of absolutism perfectly encapsulates the modern NRA’s indifference to common sense gun policy.
Pushing the NRA to the fringe is a family business for Knox. Knox’s father Neal is credited with purging moderate voices from the NRA in the 70s and 80s. This year the NRA proved so compliant to their most extremist supporters’ agenda that even without a formal leadership role Jeff Knox was able to continue the family tradition of pushing the NRA even further as far from the mainstream.
If you’re interested in learning more about the NRA’s leadership please visit http://www.meetthenra.org/, which is maintained by the Education Fund To Stop Gun Violence.