The National Rifle Association (NRA) has abandoned its more-moderate face, and is once again “embracing—and, equally important, validating—the anti-government rhetoric” coming from the so-called tea party, and other anti-government activists on the Right, according to a new study released by a Washington-based anti-gun organization.
The 21-page report, which recalls the NRA membership of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, comes just ahead of a pro-gun march expected to take place next week in Washington, and right in the midst of a sharp rise in anti-government violence following last month’s enactment of comprehensive healthcare reform legislation.
The study, released by the Violence Policy Center (VPC), cites the need for the gun lobby to stay relevant at a time when ownership of firearms is in decline.
“Faced with a constant demand to engage, activate, and enroll a continually shrinking pool of gun owners as measured by household gun ownership, the National Rifle Association routinely presents the election of Barack Obama as a virtually apocalyptic threat to not just gun ownership, but to the future of the country itself—with much of its language echoing that of the Patriot movement,” the VPC report says.
The study cited a resurgence in Patriot and other militia activity in the last year or so, and says the NRA is actively seeking to link up with anti-government individuals and groups on the far Right. This reverses a trend in which the NRA sought to soften its image and rhetoric somewhat in the wake of McVeigh’s bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in 1995. The gun lobby’s hard line, the VPC notes, had caused”life member,” former president George H.W. Bush to quit the NRA.
The report cites remarks at the 2009 conservative CPAC convention by long-time NRA official Wayne LaPierre in which he told cheering attendees that “our Founding Fathers understood that the guys with the guns make the rules.”
The report notes that the NRA’s flagship magazine last year profiled key members of the Obama administration, including White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Attorney General Eric Holder, likening them to a “‘who’s who’ of gun-ban advocates.”
In fact, the Obama administration has not advanced any significant gun-control legislation since it took power in January 2009.
The NRA spent nearly $1.2 million in campaign contributions in the 2008 elections, 80 percent of which went to Republicans, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. That spending, however, is down significantly from a high-water mark of more than $3 million in the 2000 election cycle.
The VPC also says that the NRA organization now also markets clothing products emblazoned with the Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, which has become the symbol of the Tea Party movement. The VPC says that a description for the NRA Gadsden T-shirt reads: “What goes around comes around. In the late 18th century, oppressed American patriots voiced their defiance of tyranny by exclaiming, ‘Don’t Tread on Me!’ Perhaps it’s time once again for Freedom-loving citizens to rally ’round the legendary slogan of the famous Gadsden flag.”
Such incitement to violence comes as members of Congress — including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — have reported incidents of violence, harassment and intimidation.
Conservative protesters outside the Capitol last month used racial slurs and spat upon African-American lawmakers as they made their way to the House floor to vote on final approval to adopt healthcare reform legislation.
Activists on the Right angrily opposed the reform legislation, with the emergence last summer of a number of violent outbursts at lawmakers’ “town hall” meetings in their home districts.
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.