Wayne LaPierre, the controversial chief executive of the National Rifle Association (NRA), has driven the gun group off the rails deep into alt-right politics and must resign for the good of the organization, so it can return to its roots as an advocate for gun owners.
LaPierre has increasingly politicized the NRA during his 17-year tenure as chief executive and executive vice president. In the process he’s distorted its message, bullied Congress and turned the nation into a free fire zone, where almost anybody can buy a deadly assault rifle.
Since Donald Trump took office, the organization under LaPierre has increasingly adopted the rhetoric of the hard-right and white supremacists, attacking gun control advocates as “Socialists” and “Communists” or worse.
Contrary to the latest NRA public relations, LaPierre hasn’t always been a flag-waving American.
During the Clinton Administration, he wrote a fundraising letter calling federal agents “jack-booted government thugs” who wear “Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms to attack law-abiding citizens.”
Call it situational patriotism. But his drift into right-wing politics has been slow, steady and unyielding.
Last year, La Pierre added right-wing commentator Dana Loesch as a spokesperson. Her abrasive, confrontational commentaries have only taken the organization deeper into hard-right territory.
In an April 2017 commentary, which served as an NRA recruitment ad, she broadly attacked national institutions like the news media and public schools with inflammatory language.
“They use their media to assassinate real news,” she says scornfully. “They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler. They use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again.”
“The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth,” she added.
She never says who the “they” are, but she clearly talks in terms of us verses them.
Among some of the reactions, DeRay Mckesson, a leader in the “Black Lives Matter” movement, said her commentary was “an open call to violence to protect white supremacy.”
“I think the NRA is telling people to shoot us. Now might be the right time to cancel your membership,” Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy told Fox News.
“The video tries to create an ‘us-vs-them’ narrative and pit Americans against one another,” said a Facebook petition, trying to get the ad removed.
Instead of cooling the rhetoric, Loesch made another inflammatory video directly attacking The New York Times and other media outlets.
She called the paper an “old gray hag” and an “untrustworthy, dishonest rag that has subsisted on the welfare of mediocrity.”
“We’ve had it with your constant protection of your Democrat overlords, your refusal to acknowledge any truth that upsets the fragile construct that you believe is real life,” she exhorted. “We’re going to laser-focus on your so-called ‘honest pursuit of truth.’ In short, we’re coming for you.”
The videos are all part of the organization’s drift into polarization, divisiveness and right-wing hate-mongering under LaPierre.
The shift has also been evident on the NRA’s news outlet, NRA TV.
The station’s news and firearms coverage has has taken a back seat to “far-right conservative talking points that are often unrelated to gun policy,” according to a study by the non-profit group Media Matters.
In news broadcasts, NRA TV commentators have said they’re happy to see the “rat bastards” in the media get “curb-stomped,” according to The Huffington Post.
Commentators also made other outlandish, derogatory statements, like calling the head of the Women’s March, an advocate of Islamic “Sharia law.”
On Capitol Hill, the organization has long been known to thrown its weight around through its huge campaign war chest. It pours money into state and national elections.
In 2014, NRA contributions totaled $103 million and LaPierre was paid more than $5 million in salary, according to The New York Daily News. The money has been used to bully Congress, mostly Republicans, but some Democrats, as well, into opposing almost any firearms regulation,
In one move with devastating consequences, Congress, in 2004, let a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons expire.
Assault weapon sales soared afterward. The most common, the AR-15, has become the weapon of choice for mass shootings at schools, in the workplace, arenas and other venues where people gather.
As a result, Donald Trump is on track to become the “massacre president” because of the number of mass shooting deaths since he took office.
Every time the nation is confronted with a tragedy , NRA has tries to squelch any dialogue about ways to curb gun violence. But in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., the organization has gone too far.
It’s been particularly aggressive attacking the student survivors and the news media for “politicizing” the shootings.
At the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Loesch went off the rails in a speech. “Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it! I’m not saying you love the tragedy. But I am saying that you love the ratings,” she said, sparking near universal condemnation.
Another remark seemed tailored to inflame racial divisiveness. “Crying white mothers are ratings gold. And notice I said ‘crying white mothers’ because there are thousands of grieving black mothers in Chicago every weekend and you don’t see town halls for them do you?” said said.
In his own CPAC address, the first since the shooting, LaPierre blamed calls for more gun controls on “Socialists.”
“If they seize power … our American freedoms could be lost and our country will be changed forever,” he said. “Socialism is a movement that loves a smear.” ”
The organization also attacked the media, again. “No one on this planet benefits more from mass shootings and motivates more people to become mass shooters than our mainstream media,” said one commentator on NRA TV.
The NRA’s increasing politicization has been amplified by the sincerity of student shooting survivors who have passionately called for curbs on gun violence.
Long-time corporate partners are peeling away from the organization because of its extremism. Some 15 companies, so far, include First National Bank of Omaha, Enterprise, Alamo, Avis, Budget. Hertz, and National rental cars and MetLife insurance.
Efforts are also underway to block NRA TV on its primary outlets, Amazon, Apple, Roku and YouTube.
“The NRA has long ignored its role in promoting gun violence and betrayed the names of good and responsible gun owners,” according to a change.org petition started by Brad Chase, a friend of Daniel Reed, the father of a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High student.
Wayne LaPierre on Gun Control LaPierre support the following:
- Increasing funds for a stricter and more efficient mental health system, and return of state mental institutions
- Creating a computerized universal mental health registry to help limit gun sales to the mentally ill. (Note: The NRA supported President Trump’s rollback of an Obama administrative order that makes it easier for the mentally ill to buy guns)
- Increasing enforcement of federal laws against violent gang members or felons who use guns to commit crimes.
- Project Exile and similar programs that mandate severe sentences for all gun crimes.
- Regulating the sale of bump stocks.
- Supports existing bans on sale of fully automatic firearms.
LaPierre opposes the following:
- Universal background checks and a nationwid gun registry.
- Bans on Assault Weapons
- All limits on ownership of semi-automatic weapons.
- Any gun control laws which he views as a form of government tyranny.
“It’s time to hold them, and their partners, accountable,” he added.
At this point, LaPierre has backed the NRA into a corner. It has nowhere else to go under his leadership. It’s hard-right political messaging has clouded the organization’s original purpose. Now some long-time members are even questioning its direction.
It’s time for LaPierre, at 68, to step down.
Under new leadership, the NRA can get back on track and become an effective advocate for gun owners instead of fomenting divisiveness and driving a political wedge deeper and deeper into the heart of the nation.
Sensible gun controls and a ban on assault weapon sales are part of that equation. Most gun owners support that proposition. It’s time for the NRA to start representing them, again.